LEAF International | Panama

 Located in Panama City, Panama | Founded 2015 | 70+ Youth

Why Panama? Since 2007, LEAF International has worked with unwavering commitment in Panama. From 2007-2014, LEAF International partnered with a government-funded orphanage in Boquete to provide an engaging music program for these underserved children. In 2014, our Costa Rican program with the Ngäbe-Bugle First Nation planned the first-ever “Tribal Reunion” at their homeland in Panama to celebrate the 18th Anniversary of the indigenous region of the Ngäbe-Bugle. In 2020, the program relocated to Panama City supporting the Guna Yala communities & their archipelago comarca. 

“I’m inspired by children losing their identity due to living in the (Panama) city. They are disconnected, but it’s not their fault. As soon as they have contact with their traditions, something within them click & they become intrigued by the truth.”  

Yoba Barrantes

LEAF Panama Culture Keeper

See The Program in Action
Program Overview

This program is dedicated to preserving the traditional Guna Yala folk dance styles & instruments. Culture keepers share the history of their ancient mythology through song, dance, & ceremonial practices to be passed down to the next generation. This program supports the paradisiacal Guna Yala comarca, an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. The importance of this work cannot be understated. In a world where indigenous communities are struggling to keep their traditions alive and maintain access to their native lands, providing these communities with solidarity to keep their work thriving is necessary.

Meet Our Culture Keepers

Jose Hayans has been teaching Guna Yala traditions for more than 30 years. He specializes in traditional dance & flute making. He has been the Director of the cultural group “Si GGui Gun Galun” (Paradise of Birds) since 1990. Jose embodies the importance of preserving cultures for the longevityof future generations.

Yoba Barrantes is a cultural manager who creates experiences that focus on Guna Yala preservation. Yoba coordinates the historic Festival de Arte Dule which gathers indigenous Panamanian artists (writers, painters, poets, musicians, culture keepers). Yoba is in a Guna rock band called La Tribu – a powerful generational band that infuses the root of Guna Yala culture throughout their music. As a native Guna person, Yoba is dedicating his life to preserving the paradisaical Guna Yala comarca – an archipelago national treasure in the Caribbean Sea.


Through the project, students gain:

  • Awareness of cultural traditions, including ceremonies, song, dance, and indigenous mythology
  • Pride in their cultural heritage
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Leadership skills


From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.

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Project Highlights

This program relocated to Panama City to support the cultural traditions of Guna Yala communities. The paradisaical Guna Yala comarca is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea consisting of more than 300 islands. 
November: LEAF International Panama with the Ngäbe-Bugle First Nation is officially launched in Lajero!
March: LEAF International Costa Rica | Ngäbe-Bugle members travel to Panama to visit their homelands for the first time and reconnect with their fellow Ngäbe-Bugle communities that still live there. A celebration and several performances were featured during the trip, and Teaching Artists learned from elders in the Lajero community about ancient instrument making techniques that have been lost in Costa Rica, but still thrive in Panama communities. LEAF International identified a community to partner with to launch a program with later in the year
LEAF International Panama Coordinators moving program to David, Panama
Doing “test” programs to identify best partner
Casa Hogar Trisker program finale!
LEAF International Music Camp October w/ 20 Youth 
Kids Performed at Boquete’s 15th Anniversary for Casa Hogar Trisker
LEAF International Music Saturdays
Music Fieldtrips to David
LEAF International Youth perform at Boquete Jazz Festival for 1st time
LEAF International Summer Music Camp 
[1 month-5 days week-8 classes a day]
Journey of a lifetime!
LEAF Festival October 2009
A group of Casa Hogar Trisker children, the teaching artists, and the Director of the Orphanage came to LEAF. it was the whole group’s first journey outside of Panama! They experienced cultural exchange with LEAF Schools & Streets kids for several days, and performed throughout the festival on multiple stages to hundreds of LEAFers. They were excellent and so proud! 
LEAF International 1st Summer Music Camp
LEAF International moves to Casa Hogar Trisker Orphanage
LEAF Cultural Exchange Team Visits
LEAF International Panama begins at Casa Esperanza led by Gordon Brown
Local musicians trained as teaching artists