Panama is commonly referred to as puente del mundo, corazón del universo (bridge of the world, heart of the universe). It is also a land of mixed realities.
Its strategic geographic location influenced the construction of the canal, which accelerated immigration and contributed to Panama’s diverse population.
Panama is known as an international logistics, banking, and tourism hub. For this and other reasons, the isthmus holds distinct social and economic realities which impact structural inequalities.
We are seeking creative and energetic Volunteers to help support the next generation of Panamanian leaders. The Youth Health and Well-Being (YHWB) program engages Indigenous youth and focuses on sexual and reproductive health education with an emphasis on HIV prevention.
Volunteers will support community leaders, school staff, local NGOs, and state health professionals as they work to increase public knowledge, reduce teen pregnancy, and stop the spread of HIV.
Volunteers will collaborate with local counterparts to conduct health promotion activities. Although the technical component is paramount, these activities will need to do much more than just share the facts.
Successful activities are engaging, empowering, and fun. Together, Volunteers and counterparts will learn of opportunities and interests of their specific community.
Examples could include a summer soccer club, an after-school theater program, or a day-camp for art, music, or dance. Volunteers will join their counterparts in creating safe spaces to share information, foster peer networks, raise autonomy and encourage youth to make informed decisions about their bodies and their health.
Volunteers will support communities to strengthen the link between community leaders and local health professionals. In response to a growing number of cases of HIV, the Ministry of Health, along with a network of NGOs, are promoting prevention, testing, and treatment.
In 2018, the Ministry of Health formally asked Peace Corps Panama to assist in combating HIV specifically in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Panama’s largest semi-autonomous Indigenous region and home to over 200,000 Ngäbe people.
The 2,700 sq. mile region of the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé stretches along the Caribbean coast and spans over the mountains of the Cordillera, nearly reaching the Pacific coast.
Peace Corps Panama has had the privilege of working with communities in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé for over two decades. Our Volunteers recognize that it is an honor to have the Ngäbe-Buglé community share their unique language, culture, and traditions.
In order to support their community counterparts, Volunteers will need to learn all they can about the language and culture of their community.
The Peace Corps / Panama staff includes Ngäbe facilitators to help support Volunteers, but it will be incumbent on Volunteers to stay curious and continuously deepen their understanding of Ngäbe culture and language throughout their two years of service.
Over 90% of the population in this area lives in poverty. Apart from a few large communities, the majority of the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé is extremely rural.
Roughly 1 in 3 have access to running water and basic sanitation while just 4% have access to electricity. The lack of adequate water and sanitation leads to high incidences of infectious diseases, high infant and maternal mortality, and an overall life expectancy that is 10 years shorter than the average Panamanian.
High rates of adolescent pregnancy, low graduation rates, and limited participation in the formal labor market are both caused by, and the result of, the multidimensional nature of poverty.
Limited access to health care was an issue even before HIV cases started to rise.
The Ngäbe youth of today will be the Ngäbe leaders of tomorrow and they have the enormous potential, and responsibility, to carry their people forward to a healthier, more equitable future.
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19.
You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy.
Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.
Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and one or more of the following criteria :
Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following skills :
Required Language Skills
Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native / fluent speaker of Spanish
Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency.
Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).
Pre-Service Training (PST) will have an emphasis on language acquisition through structured and unstructured language-building learning experiences, while also focusing on strengthening intercultural competence.
These critical skills will help create a foundation for the ability to serve as a Volunteer in Panama. The technical knowledge and skills that you arrive with and / or gain during your training will not be effective if you do not have the necessary communication and intercultural skills.
You will be assigned to a Language and Culture Facilitator (LCF) who will facilitate the resources and opportunities you need to build your language competence.
You will receive three Language Proficiency Interviews (LPI) during PST. By the final LPI you will be required to achieve a Mid-Intermediate level of Spanish as outlined by ACTFL Guidelines to qualify for service.
Your LCF will do all they can to support you to achieve the required level. They will provide well-rounded support as you adapt to a new method of language-learning and will persistently challenge you to speak out loud, make mistakes, converse with and build relationships native speakers, such as members of your host training community.
Your LCF will also be an important cultural informant and guide as you adapt to the local culture.
stilted wood houses; adobe structures with mud floors; and / or furnished apartments. Communities generally have basic utilities and infrastructure, including cell phone signal, treatable water, and sometimes electricity.
The reliability of these services varies community to community; and may be impacted by seasonal changes. All Volunteers receive training on how to treat their water should they need to.
Volunteers may have to use solar panels and / or pay a small fee at stores with generators to charge or run electronics.
Solar panels and generators can be acquired in Panama. Peace Corps / Panama assesses each community before selection to ensure that basic health and safety criteria are met.
Volunteers will be required to live with a host family during their first three months of service. After three months, Volunteers may opt to live in pre-approved local housing that meets Peace Corps / Panama’s housing criteria.
Food and Diet
The Panamanian diet varies according to the region and the ethnic makeup of the population. Most often the diet consists of rice, beans, bananas or plantains, yucca (cassava), and corn.
Rice and beans (kidney beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas) is a staple dish. Corn is served in many stews but is usually ground, boiled, or fried.
Sancocho is a traditional soup prepared with root vegetables and chicken. Most rural areas have many fruits available; including mangos, papayas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, and guanábanas (soursops).
The availability of garden vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers, varies according to the region and the season.
The most common meats are chicken, pork, and beef, which are often deep-fried or stewed. Fish is available sporadically in coastal regions and riverside communities.
Panamanians frequently follow diets based on their region, culture, and seasonally available produce. Depending on the Volunteer’s diet, they may be inclined to start a garden, plan for trips to larger cities to acquire products at supermarkets, or adjust to locally available options.
Larger towns and cities have at least one chain restaurant that will be familiar.
Computer, Phone and Internet Access
All Volunteer communities must have reliable cell phone signal. The availability of internet access (Wi-Fi) will vary in speed and reliability depending on the geographic location of the community.
Volunteers may access Wi-Fi through the local public school, a community internet center, or a private internet cafe in a larger town.
In Panama City, Volunteers have access to Wi-Fi, desktop computers and printers at the Peace Corps / Panama office. Peace Corps / Panama does not provide Volunteers with a cell phone or data plan but many cheap data plans are available in Panama.
Many Volunteers bring an unlocked cell phone from the United States or buy one in country. Should you choose to bring electronics, it is your responsibility to maintain and insure them.
Serving in Panama
Learn more about the : Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety including health and crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Panama cannot accommodate couples across sectors. Therefore, your partner must qualify and apply for :
Youth Health Facilitator
During Pre-Service Training, couples would live in the same home and be requested to speak Spanish with each other and the host family to improve language learning.
During their service, they will live together first with a host family and then on their own. Couples will be placed in medium to large communities, to ensure sufficient work is available for both Volunteers.
The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized.
Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities.
For more information please visit : https : / / www.peacecorps.gov / faqs / lgbtq / .
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.