Help us build a water system in an indigenous community of the Emberá to provide clean water for 80 people living in the Panamanian jungle.

Project: Installation of upgrades to the water system in an Emberá village

The Emberá tribe is one of the biggest indigenous group in Panama. In the province of Colon, Panama, we work with a village called El Progreso, which consists of approximately 80 members from 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.

A few years ago, the members of the Emberá community installed a gravity-fed water system to bring water from a river directly to the village (a distance of 5 km), avoiding exhausting daily trips for them to collect water. Due to the fact that the river being in the middle of the jungle, the pipes often get clogged with each storm. Also, since this system does not treat the water for bacteria and parasites, the village members must boil it before each use, which often does not happen, so many villagers are sick often.

This project of installing a new system that is better suited for their environment will not only get rid of the issue of having to unclog the pipes after every storm, it will bring clean water to the people of the village.

The water system will be realized in four phases:

1.      The installation of a filtration system on the feeding side, covered and storm resistant.

For this first phase, we will go right to the source, in the jungle, for a duration of three days. We will be accompanied by a local guide and we’ll camp in nature, 5 km away from the village.

2.      After that, we will return to El Progreso to install several water tanks at the water’s point of arrival, which is located next to the school of the community, at the entrance of the village.

3.      Once the water tanks are constructed, we will work on the installation of an efficient water filter for the village. For many years, technologies in terms of water filters haven’t stop improving and we opted for a three stages filtration system. The first one holds the dirt and the sand, the second one the smallest particles, and the third eliminates bacteria and viruses.

4.      The fourth and last phase will be to install improved sanitation facilities.

For a two weeks, you will help our association in the development and installation of upgrades to the current water system, under the supervision of the tribe members and our engineer team. The daily program consists of complementary basic Spanish lessons from our volunteer coordinators, assisting in the installation of the upgrades to the water system, 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 specific skills and/or experience is needed for this project, but a good physical condition is required, as well as open-mindedness and the willingness to discover and learn. Volunteers in fields like engineering, construction, or environment are welcome!

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 day, the program comprises of 10 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 first week, we will meet for one night in Ceiba Leaf so that everyone can share their impressions and talk about their needs.

  • The last night, we will stay at Ceiba Leaf campus so that everyone can share their experience with others and be ready to leave. Next day 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 a 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 water system project costs 600 USD per participant, all included.

The sum will be spent as follow:

  • 200 USD to help fund the upgrades

  • 200 USD to the host families to cover accommodation, food and snacks.

  • 200 USD to cover operational costs of the project

Practical details

Dates: All year around, with an option to extend your 15 day stay for fixed weekly rate 300 USD

Price: 600 USD

Participants: 8 to 16 persons

What is included:

  • Transport from Panama City to El Progreso community

  • 14 nights 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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