Empowered Community

Congratulations Piriati Embera!


Brigade Volunteers


Medical Patient Consultations


Dental Patient Consultations


Total Capital in Community Bank


Loans Administered


Legal Cases Closed


Legal Consultations


Trained Committee Members

Piriati Embera



October 2016

Piriati Embera is located in the biodiverse province of East Panama, and celebrated its transition with Global Brigades in December of 2016. 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. People in Piriati Embera are primarily dedicated to agriculture and the sale of artisanal crafts. There are a number of local businesses within the community such as storefronts selling household goods and foods as well as a group of artisans that produce traditional Embera jewelry for sale. Through Global Brigades an environmental committee was established to cultivate a model farm and a Community Health Worker was trained to provide healthcare support and trainings for community members.

Corregimiento: Torti
District: Chepo

Homes : 87
Population : 497
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Yes
Health Center : Yes, Puesto de Salud (Health Post)
Community Health Workers : Yes
% of Homes with Latrines : 80
Education in the Community : Up to 8th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 30 minutes


On January 8th, 2017, Global Brigades and Piriati Embera celebrated all the hard work that has gone into the last five years and what community members have to look forward to as these programs perpetuate. The event was the conclusion of a series of three open meetings to reflect on all of the different projects have taken shape within the community and to provide information to the community as a whole about getting involved and supporting continued operations such as the Community Health Workers or joining the Community Bank. The event was attended by community committee leaders such as the Community Bank executive board, regional Embera government officials, and Global Brigades staff that have participated in the five-year process. Additionally, Columbia University Medical Brigades and Miami University of Ohio Business Brigades shared words with the community about what it meant to be welcomed into their community and participate in local projects.

This day marked the end of regular brigades of volunteers to the community, but work has not stopped. Since this celebration, Piriati Embera’s Community Bank finished construction of a new office building for its committee and members to meet and hold operations.

First Community Meeting, October 13th, 2016

Presentations included stories from Community Bank leaders from when the bank was first created.






Transition Plan Presentations, November 2016

Program Leads such as Jessica Nuñez of the Medical Program, hold situational presentations to depict ways to get involved with programs such as seeing Piriati Embera’s Community Health Worker.




Final Celebration, January 8th 2017

Young students from the community prepare for a traditional Embera dance as part of the celebration.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


The community of Piriati Embera currently has a health post (puesto de salud) attended by a nurse. When there is only a nurse available and a community member needs to see a doctor or dentist, they must travel the to Torti, the nearest town with a full health center where doctors and occasionally dentists are on staff.  The trip by bus can take 25 minutes, but visitors to the health center can expect long wait times given the limited staff and resources to meet the demand from all neighboring communities.


Brigade Volunteers


Patient Consultations


Adult Health Education Workshops


Child Health Education Workshops


GB Panama’s Medical Dental team started the Agentes Comunitarios en Salud or ACeS program in 2016. “Agentes” from 10 communities in East Panama and Darien were Panama’s first community health workers. Among these first ACeS workers is Militza Cunampio (pictured far right) who is on track to complete all trainings and start visiting community members with health needs.

Some of Militza’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.


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
University of Chicago – Loyola August 2012 22 Southern Illinois University School of Medicine April 2013 21
Northwestern University September 2013 17 University of Victoria February 2014 32
Drexel University June 2014 36 University of San Diego and Smith College January 2015 25
Regis University August 2015 25 Carnegie Mellon University August 2016 26
Columbia University January 2017 24  Northwestern University/ Waterloo University  August 2017  23


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


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.


Dental Patients Attended


Fluoride Treatments


Fillings Performed


Dental Education Workshops


With the cooperation of the Education Ministry and the local school director, Medical and Dental Brigades host clinics in the community school. The school consists of six classrooms and a comedor (cafeteria-type room) so we have the ability to set up each clinic station in its own classroom. Volunteers will see an average of 80-100 patients per day. Additionally, patients in Piriati Embera come from neighboring communities such as Piriati Arriba; some may travel up to several hours by horseback or foot to seek treatment.



Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
 Southern Illinois University April 2013  21  Northwestern University  September 2013  17
University of Victoria February 2014 32 Drexel University June 2014 36
University of San Diego and Smith College January 2015 25 Regis University August 2015 25
Carnegie Mellon University August 2016 26 Columbia University January 2017 24


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Community members in Piriati Embera do not have access to financial resources within the community. In order to gain access, members must travel to Tortí, a 30-minute bus ride, however not all community members can become members of the savings and loan cooperative. Cooperatives require monthly membership fees, and coupled with the cost of travel and the lack of land titles as an indigenous community, less than 5% of community members are part of the cooperative, and 100% of the community has never accessed a loan from Tortí. Larger financial institutions, which are inaccessible due to distance and cost, do not approve loans to community members without a fixed income, making it very difficult for local microenterprises to grow and thrive.


Brigade Volunteers


Loans Administered


Capital Investment


Saving Accounts Opened


The Global Brigades Business and Microfinance Team trained a new Community Bank in 2013. 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.

In 2017 Piriati Embera’s Community Bank finished construction of its own office to continue operations and have a safe place to store records.

The finished artwork for the Community Bank office with its artist, Elio Cunampio, a member of Piriati Embera and a field technician for Global Brigades




In addition to the community bank, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. There are currently 10 businesses that have received financial training and business recommendations through Global Brigades including agriculturalists. 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.




Business Name Client Name Type of Business


Malala Cunampio

Sale of perumas

Elmer’s Pig Farm

Alicia y Eurelis Ismith

Pig raising

Mi Bendicion

Guillermo Chango, Norris Ortega Storefront

Abarroteria Luis

Evelin Chaqui

Poapono Model Farm Environmental Committee Agriculture

Mi Tienda

Yulizta Ortega


Rosalina Garabato

Rosalina Garabato


Guillermo Ramirez

Guillermo Ramirez



Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Miami University of Ohio December 2011 23 Loyola University Duke University December 2012 15
Boston University December 2012 20 Penn State March 2012 20
University of Southern California /Emory University March 2012 44 Marquette University March 2012 19
UCLA / UC San Diego March 2012 23 Miami University May 2012 20
Calvin College May 2012 13 UIUC March 2013 40
Texas A&M May 2013 22 UC Davis / UC Riverside June 2013 6
University of Southern California January 2014 23 Carnegie Melon March 2014 14
Calvin College May 2012 13 UIUC March 2013 40
Vanderbilt University February 2014 15 Rutgers University March 2015 12
Boston University May 2015 22 Yale University March 2016 19
Boston University May 2016 13

Local Reference Points

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

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