Discover Panama off the beaten track and share the Emberá indigenous population’s daily life in the remote Panamanian jungle.

Project: Creation of a community center for the Emberá tribe

The Emberá tribe is one of the biggest indigenous groups in Panama. In the province of Colon, Panama, we work with a village called El Progreso, which consists of approximately 80 families of the Emberá tribe and is located on Panama’s Caribbean coast.  For the last year, we have been working hand in hand with the community in order to help them improve their living conditions, while working to preserve their cultural identity, all while respecting the environment.

The village is remote and hard to reach, therefore it makes it hard for supplies, food, and even work to reach the village. The community is looking to create a communal place in order to facilitate their activities, such as celebrations, meetings, and traditional teachings. This project aims to help them to create a community center, where people can share their knowledge, learn, and create, in a communal atmosphere.

The center will have three main roles:

  • To be a place of organization of workshops, talks, and teachings of different topics and traditions
  • To be a place for a community kitchen to for the villagers to share meals and re-learn traditional cooking and basic food conservation techniques
  • To be a place for celebration of rituals and ceremonies of traditional dance and music

For the first month or so, volunteers will help to launch the project by taking part in the center’s birth. The daily program consists of, complementary basic Spanish lessons from our volunteer coordinators, assisting in the building construction, collective cooking, and involvement in workshops and childcare. A big part of the project is learning about and immersing yourself in the daily life of an indigenous tribe.

No skills or experience is required for this project, only open-mindedness and the willingness to discover and learn. If you have a particular knowledge or skillset, a passion to pass on, or a talent to share, you will be able to share it with the community’s children and adults. Creativity and ideas are welcome, as long as they respect the community, its values, and its lifestyle.


  • At your arrival in Panama City, you will be welcomed by our local team. They will lead you to the community which is 4 hours’ drive away.
  • The first night will be spent on the Ceiba Leaf campus. There will be a thorough briefing on the Emera’s way of life, on your work on the project, on the nature surrounding us and on the safety measures to respect during your stay.
  • The next day we will leave for the village, where you will get to know the members of the tribe and the host family with whom you will stay throughout the program.
  • The next 5 days, the program comprise 40 hours of necessary basic wilderness/jungle survival training
  • The rest of the program comprises of 25 hours of work per week for the community center, your weekends will be free.
  • The program offers optional 10 hours of complementary basic Spanish lessons from our volunteer coordinators per week
  • In the middle of the program, after two weeks, we will meet for one night in Ceiba Leaf so that everyone can share their impressions and talk about their needs.
  • The last night, from the 13th to the 14th of August, we will stay at Ceiba Leaf so that everyone can share their experience with others and be ready to leave. The 14th of August, our team will drive you back to Panama City/Airport.

Note that you will live in a primitive environment, exactly the same way as the tribe’s members. There will be no running water during your stay, nor electricity and obviously, no Wi-Fi. You will sleep in a private room, in a hammock or on the mattress that we will provide. The family lives on hunting, fishing and basic food: rice, beans, vegetables and fruits of the season. The village is located in the middle of the tropical jungle: expect to meet all kinds of animals and insects. The primary language is Spanish, so basic knowledge will be useful.

You will have plenty of time to explore the surroundings, the national park, the rainforest, the rivers and the beaches. Additional activities are available like fishing, snorkeling, archery, horse riding, surfing, kayaking, kitesurfing. Equipment rental fee may apply.

Where does the money go

The involvement in the community center project costs 1,500 USD per participant, all included.

The sum will be spent as follow:

-          600 USD to help fund the center

-          300 USD to the host families to cover accommodation, food and snacks.

-          600 USD to cover operational costs of the project

Practical details

Dates: July 13th – August 14, 2018 with an option to extend your 30 day stay for fixed weekly rate 300 USD

Price: 1,500 USD

Participants: 8 to 16 persons

What is included:

  • Transport from Panama City to El Progresso community
  • 30 days of accommodation, 3 meals and one snack per day
  • Basic wilderness/jungle survival training, course completion certification
  • Tutorials and instructions how to use power/hand tools and other equipment by our skilled instructors and volunteer coordinators, course completion certification
  • All tools and materials
  • English-Spanish lessons, course completion certification
  • All taxes and fees
  • Transport to Panama City from El Progreso community

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