La Peñita

Overview

La Peñita is located along the Panamerican highway in the Darien province of Panama. La Peñita has a permanent population of approximately 120 people. However, the Chucunaque River runs along the east side of La Peñita, bringing refugees from all over the world to the community on their journey to a permanent new home. According to the Red Cross, there are currently (August 20, 2019) approximately 400 refugees in La Peñita.

Global Brigades began working in La Peñita in 2015. Before that, many community members would travel to the nearby community of Canglón for Global Brigade Medical Brigade clinics and visit the health post there. A typical house in La Peñita is made of concrete blocks, wood, or zinc. La Peñita has a primary school that offers from kindergarten to 6th grade. For secondary school, children must travel 45 minutes to Canglón. La Peñita is made up of a population of Afro-Latinos and indigenous Emberá. The most common form of income is through agriculture. Commonly grown products include ñame, a root vegetable, and rice which are produced for personal consumption and for sale outside of the community in larger markets. 

Before Global Brigades started their partnership with La Peñita, there was no water system; community members obtained their water in buckets from the river. There are approximately 40% of homes in La Peñita with adequate sanitation services (toilets or latrines). Community members have access to credit through an established and thriving Community Bank which will support continued investment in local businesses and home improvement projects for families within the community. The top three needs expressed by the community in their initial meetings with Global Brigades were: a water system, a health post, and a better road.

Corregimiento: Metetí
District: Pinogana

Homes : 35
Population : 120
Water System : In construction
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Most houses
Health Center : No, nearest in Canglón
Community Health Workers : Yes
Homes with Latrines : approx. 40%
Education in the Community : Up to 6th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 1 hour

Medical

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

HEALTH CARE ACCESS:

The neighboring community of Canglón is the closest town that has a small health post, though there is a doctor or nurse there only some of the time. The closest corresponding health care facility is in Metetí, about 1 hour away. For dental access, they have to travel to Metetí as well. Visitors to the health center can expect long wait times given the limited staff and resources to meet the demand from all neighboring communities.

The most prevalent illnesses in La Peñita are: diarrhea, vomit, body aches, fevers, and skin infections.

 

89

Volunteers

490

Medical Patient Consultations

25

Vision Screenings

29

Health Education Workshops (Approx.)

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS:

GB Panama’s Medical Dental team started the Agentes Comunitarios en Salud or ACeS program in 2016. The current “agente” for La Peñita is Luz Eneida Nieto.

Some of Luz’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Promoting healthy practices and maintaining contact with GB staff about their progress
  • Performing First Aid in the case of an emergency
  • Managing the Patient Referral cases of the community
  • Promoting involvement with other GB programs such as Human Rights, Public Health and Microfinance workshops
  • Recording and monitoring members of their respective communities who:
    • Are pregnant
    • Have a chronic disease
    • Are children under five
      years old.

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN THE COMMUNITY:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Texas Tech University Medical May 2016 32 University of Arizona, Pace University, & Yale University Medical March 2017 29
Western Kentucky University Medical August 2019 28

Dental

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

DENTAL CARE ACCESS

In working closely with the medical program, the dental program provides fillings, extractions, and fluoride treatments as a standard part of medical brigades. Most community members do not have regular access to dental care due to the lack of dentist within a reasonable distance.

254

Dental Patient Consultations

94

Fluoride Treatments

107

Extractions Performed

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN THE COMMUNITY:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Texas Tech University Medical May 2016 32 University of Arizona, Pace University, & Yale University Medical March 2017 29
Western Kentucky University Medical August 2019 28

Water

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

LA PEÑITA’S WATER CHALLENGE:

Prior to Global Brigades involvement, La Peñita had no water system. Community members collected rainwater for drinking and cooking and used the river for bathing. When the rain was insufficient to keep up with drinking water needs, community members purchased potable water. There were many possible sources of contamination for rainwater and the river, which put community members at risk for contracting water-borne illnesses.

The original intake in the Chuqunaque River.
A rainwater storage container at a home in La Peñita

85

Volunteers

3

Km of pipeline

LA PEÑITA’S WATER SOLUTION:

An engineer from the municipality of Chepigana designed a plan for a water system that would pump water from the river. This design had only been partially constructed in July 2019, when a partnership between La Peñita and Global Brigades’ Water Program began. Representatives from Footprints Possibilities and students from Michigan Technological University acted as consultants to design the distribution network for the water system.

It was determined that the best fit for La Peñita would be use the existing pump and water tank, and install household connections with water meters. Brigades began working on this water system in December 2019. This system will supply water to 120 inhabitants and immigrants that stayed in La Peñita as refugees.

In the interest of sustainability, after the project is complete, the members of the Water Council will be trained on water treatment and system maintenance, administration, and operation, so they can continue adequately managing the water system. La Peñita will also establish a monthly water fee determined by usage in order to pay the Water Council for water treatment, maintenance costs, and system sustainability.

WATER VOLUNTEERS IN THE COMMUNITY:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of Miami Medical December 2019 11 University of Arkansas Medical January 2020 54
Virginia Commonwealth University Medical January 2020 20

Business

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

LA PEÑITA’S ECONOMIC CHALLENGE

Community members in La Peñita lack access to financial resources within the community. The majority of community members do not have bank accounts and there are is only limited informal forms of credit available.  For example, a person could obtain ‘credit’ at a local store by buying something now and paying later, simply adding it to their ‘tab,’ but there would be no formalized credit transaction.  Larger financial institutions do not approve loans to community members without a fixed income, making it difficult for local micro-enterprises to grow and thrive. Most community members cite the distance to the nearest bank as the main discouragement to having a personal savings account. Even if individuals wish to travel the distance, not all community members can become members of these financial institutions–cooperatives require monthly membership fees, savings accounts often require a fixed income, and the cost of travel provides an additional barrier.

28

Volunteers

4

Business Consultations

13

Saving Accounts Opened

53

Loans Administered

LA PEÑITA’S MICROFINANCE SOLUTION

The Global Brigades Business and Microfinance Team trained a new community bank in 2016.They also brought Microfinance and Business brigades in order to strengthen both the knowledge and trust in the community bank. This encouraged the opening of more savings accounts, growth of seed capital, and upon the completion of six months of executive board training, the community bank began giving out loans to bank members to spur economic growth and home improvement projects.

LA PEÑITA’S BUSINESS SOLUTION

In addition to the community bank, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. In La Peñita there are currently four businesses that have received financial training and business recommendations. Agro-businesses are prominent forms of commerce within this community and adequate book-keeping and maintaining relationships with customers, as well as proper agriculture cultivation can lead to increased revenues for business owners and employees.

 

 

As members of the Community Bank these micro-enterprises, led almost entirely by women or families, contribute to savings accounts and budget for loans to expand their businesses in the future. Through the help of Business Brigades, clients get advice on their most concerning business challenges and can also receive assistance in developing sustainable agriculture practices.

 

 

BUSINESSES IN LA PEÑITA:

Business Name Client Name Type of Business

Kiosko Jessica

Ms. Eida Teucama

Storefront

Restaurante Bella

Ms. Bellanira

Restaurant

Werara Do Association

Mariela Lino, Jazmina deGaiza, Daicel DeGaiza, Berta Bugama, Norberta deGaiza, Erik Degaiza, Omar.

Farmer’s Association

Cristalina’s pollo venture

Cristalina Berrugate

Raising chickens

BUSINESS VOLUNTEERS IN LA PEÑITA:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of Maryland Baltimore County March 2017 22 DePaul University Business November 2018 8

 

Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

Global Brigades is working on the implementation of the Holistic Model in La Peñita but has not yet begun with the Public Health Program because there was no water system. Now in the planning phase, the financing, delivery, and installation of sanitation units will start as soon as feasible.

PUBLIC HEALTH VOLUNTEERS IN THE COMMUNITY

Chapter Date Number of Volunteers Chapter Date Number of Volunteers

Local Reference Points

View the map to see the closest volunteer lodging facilities, hospitals, and other relevant points of reference.

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