Platanilla

Overview

Platanilla is a Latino community located in East Panama, situated along the Pan-American Highway, the main stretch of road throughout Panama. Platanilla is primarily an agricultural community, cultivating privately owned land and raising livestock. Community members who own land and seek loans have access to credit through Platanilla’s savings and loan cooperative, called “Raices de Mi Tierra.” Working in collaboration with Business Brigades and IPACOOP (the Panamanian governmental organization that oversees cooperatives), the cooperative received legal status in May 2012. Platanilla has a health outpost and health committee. As one of Global Brigades Panama’s Holistic Communities, medical/dental brigades conduct mobile clinics, human rights brigades offer pro-bono legal services, and business brigades offer local business consulting. In their initial needs assessment, the community expressed the following needs: improvements to the road, garbage management, improved access to health, latrines, legal assistance, and improved education.

District: Chepigana
Province: Darién

Homes : 82
Population : 600
Water System : Yes
Community Bank : Yes
Electricity : Yes
Health Center : No, only health post
Community Health Workers : No
Homes with Latrines : 80%
Education in the Community : Up to 9th grade
Distance from Lodging Facility : 1 hour

Medical

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

HEALTH CARE ACCESS:

Even though Panama is a country with a lot of economic growth, this growth does not apply equally to all Panamanians, especially those in rural areas. This results in stark inequality when it comes to healthcare access. The Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA) provides two different types of health facilities throughout rural Panama: Centros de Salud and Puestos de Salud. Centros are the larger of the two, often found in municipalities, and typically have at least one physician on staff at all times with nurses and potentially a dentist. Puestos are found sporadically in rural communities and generally have a single nurse available. 

Even with this coverage, the Centros frequently lack a full pharmacy and the staff capacity to see every patient each day. After walking long distances or paying for a bus, rural visitors to the Centros can expect long wait times given the limited staff and resources to meet the demand from all neighboring communities. The physician density in Panama remains around 630 people for every one doctor. According to the World Health Organization, there should be a maximum of 435 people per physician to qualify a country as having adequate access to medical attention.

Platanilla has a Puesto de Salud. To see a doctor, community members must travel either to the Centro de Salud in Torti (30 minutes away) or the hospital in Chepo (2-3 hours away). The most common illnesses in Platanilla are: coughing, common cold, respiratory illnesses, diarrhea, and skin infections.

389

Volunteers

2,405

Patient Consultations

N/A

Vision Screenings Provided

16

Health Education Workshops (Approx.)

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS:

A group of CHWs from East Panama, trained in 2019

Platanilla has 1 Community Health Worker that was trained by Global Brigades. Community Health Workers, or Agentes Comunitarios en Salud (ACeS), work on a volunteer basis as advocates for healthcare within their communities. Their primary responsibilities include: educating community members to prevent common illnesses, providing emergency first aid, supporting pregnant mothers and newborns, and following up with chronic patients. The presence of these volunteers and their advocacy for health within their community contributes to the sustainability of healthcare supported by Global Brigades’ Medical Program and is one of the most impactful disease prevention strategies in rural communities.

BRIGADE INFORMATION

Brigaders present a charla to students at Platanilla’s school

Medical and Dental Brigade clinics are hosted in Platanilla’s school building. The various stations of the clinic are held in the classrooms. Volunteers assist with intake and triage, then shadow local doctors, dentists and pharmacists. Each day of the brigade, an average of 2 educational workshops or charlas are also facilitated with the clinic’s patients.

  • AVERAGE PATIENTS ATTENDED: 320

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN PLATANILLA:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Chapman University May 2012 56 Duke University December 2013 23
CUNY Macaulay Honors College August 2013 55 Texas A&M University January 2014 40
University of Puget Sound May 2014 24 Wellesley College January 2015 27
Louisiana State University May 2015 36 Montclair State University January 2016 31
Northeastern University March 2017 35 Michigan State University Medical March 2019 29

Dental

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

DENTAL CARE ACCESS

A dental charla in Ipeti Emberá, Panama

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.

475

Dental Patient Consultations

245

Fluoride Treatments

245

Extractions

37

Fillings Performed

BRIGADE INFORMATION

Brigaders present a charla to students at Platanilla’s school

Medical and Dental Brigade clinics are hosted in Platanilla’s school building. The various stations of the clinic are held in the classrooms. Volunteers assist with intake and triage, then shadow local doctors, dentists and pharmacists. Each day of the brigade, an average of 2 educational workshops or charlas are also facilitated with the clinic’s patients.

  • AVERAGE PATIENTS ATTENDED: 320

MEDICAL/DENTAL VOLUNTEERS IN PLATANILLA:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Chapman University May 2012 56 Duke University December 2013 23
CUNY Macaulay Honors College August 2013 55 Texas A&M University January 2014 40
University of Puget Sound May 2014 24 Wellesley College January 2015 27
Louisiana State University May 2015 36 Montclair State University January 2016 31
Northeastern University March 2017 35 Michigan State University Medical March 2019 29

Water

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

Global Brigades is working on the implementation of the Holistic Model in Platanilla but has not yet begun with the Water Program. If there is a need, the Water Program will begin implementing a new water system or any necessary repairs to existing infrastructure as soon as feasible.

Water System : Yes
System Type : Gravity aqueduct
Homes connected to water : 100%
Water Council : Yes

Business

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

PLATANILLA’S ECONOMIC CHALLENGE

A farmer in Platanilla

Outside of the community’s cooperative, access to financial resources in Platanilla is not available to every community member. According to a community survey, only 50% of community members have access to financial resources through cooperatives or the national bank. The nearest formal financial institutions are in the nearby town of Tortí, but even there not all community members can become members of the savings and loan cooperatives.

The majority of the community members have agriculturally based businesses and small farms, cultivating crops and raising livestock. This type of seasonal work means community members do not have a fixed income. Larger financial institutions do not approve loans to community members without a fixed income, which makes it very difficult for local microenterprises to grow and thrive.

184

Volunteers

33

Saving Accounts Opened

96

Loans Administered

$20,415

Capital Invested

PLATANILLA’S MICROFINANCE SOLUTION

Through Global Brigades Business and Microfinance initiatives, Platanilla established a community cooperative in early 2014. With its opening, community members have access to credit and savings accounts for the first time. Investments are approved through loans granted to community projects; interest is then paid back on the loans—both large and small—and 100% of profits stay in the community, enabling the funding of more loans for more projects in the community. Capitalization of the cooperative is directly linked to the development of Platanilla; the growth and success of their cooperative means growth and success for the community.

PLATANILLA’S BUSINESS SOLUTION

Brigaders consult with a small business owner in Platanilla

In addition to supporting the cooperative, Global Brigades supports established and start-up micro-enterprises. In Platanilla, there are currently 12 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 cooperative 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 VOLUNTEERS IN PLATANILLA:

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
DePaul University March 2012 11 University of Washington March 2012 7
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign May 2012 29 University of California Berkeley & Johns Hopkins University May 2012 14
UCLA March 2013 18 DePaul University March 2013 11
University of Calgary May 2013 21 UT Austin May 2013 12
Columbia University January 2014 14 DePaul University March 2014 10
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Business March 2014 16 University of Southern California May 2017 21

 

Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

PLATANILLA’S PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGE

Many community members in Platanilla lacked the resources needed to improve their homes and prevent diseases caused by unsafe living conditions. Several homes in Platanilla did not have adequate sanitation services prior to the arrival of Global Brigades. This lack of improved sanitation led to high rates of diarrhea and water-borne disease. Although community members recognized the problems inherent to their living environments, they did not have the economic resources nor the technical knowledge needed to address them.

281

Volunteers

27

Latrines Constructed

100+

People Benefitted with PH Infrastructure

N/A

Hours of Public Health Education

PLATANILLA’S PUBLIC HEALTH SOLUTION

Brigaders pose with a family in Platanilla in front of their new compost latrine

With the cooperation the Comite de Salud (Health Committee), and the support of local families, Public Health Brigades constructed composting latrines for families throughout Platanilla. One particularly valuable aspect of Platanilla is the nearby river. From this river, families can gather sand and gravel to use in the cement and concrete mixes for their latrines. This ensures the support and partnership of the families but allows them to contribute in a low-cost manner.

These projects allow community members to avoid preventable disease and foster improved hygiene and sanitation practices. During their time in Platanilla, Public Health volunteers also conduct educational workshops, or charlas, with community members on project maintenance and various public health topics.

PUBLIC HEALTH VOLUNTEERS IN PLATANILLA

Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Vanderbilt University Medical March 2014 40 University of Maryland Baltimore County Medical March 2014 40
University of Illinois at Chicago Medical March 2014  33 Santa Clara University, Carleton College, Brown University Medical March 2014 41
State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook Public Health June 2014 27 Manchester University Public Health June 2014 20
University of California San Diego Medical June 2014 51 Dalhousie University Public Health August 2013 20
University of California Los Angeles Public Health June 2013 15 City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College Medical August 2014 N/A

 

Local Reference Points

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

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