Started Working in Panama
Direct Beneficiaries & Program Participants
(Women & Girls)
Indirect Beneficiaries & Program Participants
Since 2009, RET has directly supported more than 111K direct beneficiaries in Panama, 47% of them are vulnerable women, and indirectly benefited more than 1 million beneficiaries. RET also supported the opening of 20 facilities throughout 43 projects focused on Protection (including Child Protection and Gender-based Violence Prevention and Mitigation), Education (including Basic and Primary and Tertiary Education), Disaster Risk Reduction ( including Management of Disasters and Natural Hazards, and Safety in School Settings); Peace Stability & Transition (including Peace-building and Conflict Resolution) and Youth Development.
The Situation in Panama
According to UNHCR statistics ( 2019), there are 2,542 recognized refugees in Panama, of which 1,700 are refugees of Colombian nationality and a backlog of 13,500 pending applications ( 2019). This figure continues increasing due to several factors such as the high influx of refugees from the Colombian population impacted by the perpetual armed conflict in Colombia; the steady increase of Guatemalan, Salvadorian and Honduran asylum seekers in the country, and the significant increase in the number of Nicaraguan and Venezuelan applicants due to the political situation in both countries. Moreover, the Cuban migrants in transit who enter through Darién, on the border with Colombia, and apply for refugee status as an alternative for regular stay, while continuing their journey to the United States. Moreover, Panama faces a growing wave of discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes/actions from public officials and host communities due to the steady increase of foreigners.
The most vulnerable families arrive without resources or support networks; access to health, education, food, and housing is a real challenge. Emergency humanitarian assistance has proven to have a positive impact in closing the gaps that prevent families from accessing these rights and, in turn, reduce the effect of displacement.
Since 2009, and within a comprehensive response framework, RET provided humanitarian assistance to help people of interest ( Refugees, and Asylum Seekers) with basic needs, such as food & nutrition, health (medicines, medical exams), shelter, and provided technical assistance and capacity building programs to government officials and institutions to help them strengthen their services available to refugees and asylum seekers ( RAS). Government officials’ training was comprehensive of children’s rights and protection, migrant children and adolescents, unaccompanied or separated children.
RET’s interventions in Panama also prioritized “Child Protection.” It provided areas such as prevention of child labor, psychosocial support of children and adolescents in emergencies, disaster mitigation, and human mobility. RET established “Child-Friendly Spaces(CFS)” and offered psychosocial care for children and adolescents in Darien (Panama – Colombia Border). RET also provided institutional strengthening to state officials to improve services to migrant, unaccompanied or separated children and children in need of international protection; moreover, RET assisted them with the improvement of national policies on child protection. Furthermore, RET provided Psychosocial support for refugee women and established support groups for the participation and articulation of Sexual and Gender Violence(SGBV) with partners and agencies of the United Nations, and provide legal support to users regarding their asylum application process and SGBV.
Youth Development was amongst RET’s main focuses in Panama.
Since 2009, RET supported youth development through a process that involved life and soft skills training, livelihoods, violence, and bullying prevention, promoted youth participation, and networking, and advocated issues of concern to youth and their rights. RET has extensive experience in promoting and supporting youth development and meaningful participation at the community level to identify and address their needs. By providing youth with training, mentorship, and the space to be creative. The following years were a consolidation of a vision to strengthen young people’s participation and organization into groups, strengthening their capacities to meet their social change agents’ aspirations. During 2010-2015 a regional vision was consolidated in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela, where RET implemented a multi-sectoral service approach to target youth and their families. Within this framework, RET promoted youth participation and youth agency through local youth-led groups. Four countries actively designed, implemented, and led a regional campaign to end xenophobia and discrimination. These youth networks have organized their local campaigns under the slogan “What Unites Us!” Young people who are members of the socio-cultural networks have taken on leadership and to mobilize their communities. They have been innovative in using social media, street theatre, and artworks, alongside more traditional awareness-raising mechanisms. They have taken advantage of public spaces and coordination with humanitarian organizations, public entities, and youth networks. Working with youth has always been one of RET’s primary commitment in Panama. RET implemented a three-year regional program for and with displaced and refugee youth in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, and Costa Rica. RET organized recreational activities and celebrated thematic days to promote refugee youth’s successful social integration into the local communities.
RET has promoted inclusive and safe educational community environments for vulnerable children, adolescents, and youth in Panama, allowing them to face the effects of crises, violence, and disasters since 2009, with particular attention given to young people with disabilities.
In terms of education, RET facilitated access to formal and non-formal education programs, including assistance for the legalization of educational documents granted abroad. RET worked on a comprehensive toolbox to follow up in school, implemented dropout prevention strategies, and delivered school kits, uniforms, educational materials, and assisted RAS to cover enrollment and foreign fees to access tertiary education. RET implemented awareness-raising campaigns to prevent discrimination and provided teacher training covering inclusive approaches to teaching, bullying prevention, and psychosocial practice in school settings. RET also supported vocational education in association with the University of Panama and its adult education programs.
RET supported government institutions in developing and implementing inclusive programs and promoted people with disabilities’ participation within their disaster risk management frameworks. RET provided young learners with disabilities with the skills needed to mitigate and overcome disaster risks within the school environment. The paradigm drove RET to seek the inclusion and active participation and engagement of persons with disabilities and acknowledged their specific capabilities and not only their special needs.
In collaboration with the Panamanian Institute for Special Training (IPHE), RET developed different approaches to mainstreaming inclusive practices in DRR within the education sector. Consequently, RET experienced running a successful, inclusive school safety project in Panama to teach students with disabilities how to manage the risks associated with natural disasters. It was one of the first projects in Panama to integrate disaster risk reduction and management practices into public schools to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities. This accomplishment led to the winning of the Zero project award for Innovative Practice 2020.
RET aimed to contribute towards the institutionalization of an inclusive, multi-sectoral, and community-based community disaster risk management (CDRM) and first response approach at a local level. Projects within DRR also focused on raising awareness on the effects of the El Niño phenomenon and integrated disaster risk management (IDRM) and information campaigns on how to mitigate and prepare for natural disasters at grassroots associations, youth, family members, and community leaders. Leaders, parents, and caregivers were trained to understand how to prevent, mitigate, and address the effects of natural disasters. RET aimed to strengthen comprehensive disaster risk management capabilities, involving public officials’ training, development of guides and manuals for the implementation of disaster risk reduction measures, and teacher training exercises. Moreover, RET developed educational strategies to incorporate risk management in the Ministry of Education’s planning and budget, following INEE’s Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies. RET also worked to ensure the right to an inclusive and safe education during emergencies for adolescents and youth living with disabilities by strengthening the Panamanian Institute for Special Adaptation (IPHE) capacities.
Promotion of local integration of refugee, migrant and refugee, migrant and host community children, adolescents and youth. (2022)
The objective of this project is to contribute to the local integration of children, adolescents, and youth seeking asylum, refugees, migrants or in need of international protection under a differential, gender and community approach; through the implementation of socio-cultural activities and the generation of spaces for participation that enhance their local integration and lasting solutions in safe and inclusive communities. On the other hand, the project seeks to strengthen community development in three districts in Darien that have historically received populations in need of international protection and have been impacted by the mixed migratory flow.
RETArte strategy will be implemented with a community approach to new young people (who are not currently in RET or UNHCR programs) to strengthen the leadership and capacity for action of the group as agents of social change in their host communities.
In close coordination with government authorities, youth movements, and civil society organizations, the project will propose integration initiatives and socio-cultural interventions that develop the soft skills of young people. The initiatives will be held through workshops on multiple topics, including Teamwork, argumentation, and debate, leadership, Panamanian culture, art and theater, awareness of gender roles and masculinity, and prevention of gender-based violence, among other recreational activities, artistic exploration, and activities to strengthen young people’s self-sufficiency.
The process promotes youth empowerment in refugee, migrant, and host communities. Active young people with more experience and who have completed the RETArte process will co-facilitate each training process for new young people in communities and educational centers.
Moreover, RET will be providing youth with entrepreneurship training, which will benefit participants (who have completed high school) with online courses of 4 to 6 weeks on platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, Edx, and Crehana. This training will allow young people to acquire alternative training and generate income independently for their families.
Young people will develop 3 youth initiatives of which (1) one initiative will be a follow-up to the theatrical play called “Fabery’s Journeys,” aimed to raise awareness and respect for the experiences of adolescents and/or young people who have been forced to leave their home country.
In relation to the approach for the recovery of community spaces, The project proposes:
1. A follow-up to the first stage of recovery of spaces carried out during the year 2021 in the communities of La Peñita, Lajas Blancas and Alto Playona;
2. Strengthening of community capacities carried out and the guidelines provided for the proper care and maintenance of the infrastructure delivered.
The plan for 2022 is to continue the work in the communities of Lajas Blancas and Alto Playona through activities that promote community development and where actions will be initiated in a new community that has been home to a population in need of international protection for more than 15 years.
A field study will be carried out in the three communities to determine the most critical needs of the local population in communities and assess the impact that the migratory flow is creating. This exercise will identify the areas of capacity building and broaden the understanding of the context for implementing the new axis. The project will provide host communities in Darien (that have been receiving people in need of international protection) support in rescuing, strengthening basic infrastructure, and/or rehabilitating spaces that have deteriorated over time.
This project, completed between April 2022 and December 2022, is implemented in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Panama.
Protective environments for Venezuelan children and their migrant/refugee families in Panama Oeste during the COVID19 and Post COVID pandemic. (2021- 2022)
Panama is the Central American country with the largest Venezuelan migrant population, with a registry of 121,600 people (residents and asylum seekers), of which at least 16,000 are children and adolescents. Most of the population is concentrated in the provinces of Panama and Panama Oeste.
Since the start of the migration in 2015, the migrant population has been transitionally included in the educational, social, and economic spheres. However, COVID19 have had a negative impact on inclusion by slowing and deepening inequalities in the country; in many cases, migrants lost their essential services and, more importantly, their livelihood.
The project aims to strengthen protective environments for children and adolescents by implementing meeting activities (such as group games, workshops, and work sessions) for migrant and host communities’ children in their neighborhoods.
The program will include cultural actions (promotion of important places of La Chorrera and musical initiation), recreation (recovery of public spaces), and sport (initiation in sports activities), promotion of self-care and family strengthening through focus group discussions on childcare, affection, and non-violent parenting guidelines. The program will also promote the inauguration of protective spaces (the mayor’s office, house of culture, government, hospitals, police stations, parks, and museums) where children and their families can feel protected. The program will reach 600 refugee/migrant children and adolescents, 2000 community members, and 25 public officers in La Chorrera District.
This project, completed between September 2021 and January 2022, is implemented by RET in partnership with UNICEF and the Asociacion sin Fronteras, and in articulation with the program Inclusive Cities led by UNCHR, IOM, and UN-Habitat in Panama.
Protection services for children and adolescents and their migrant/refugee families in Panama during the COVID pandemic and Post COVID. (2021)
In response to human mobility in the Americas and the lack of a comprehensive and effective response tailored to the needs of children and adolescents, RET is proposing a project to create cross-border “Friendly Spaces” for migrant children on the Darien border. The project will support the families entering the Panamanian territory through the Darien jungle at the border with Colombia, particularly children and adolescents. The safe spaces will act as a “Temporary Humanitarian assistance station (ETAH)”. They will provide children and adolescents with psychosocial support and recreational activities to ensure their well-being while on the route and in the context of the COVID pandemic.
Even though activities are focused on children and adolescents, psychosocial training and activities are carried out with parents and caregivers to improve a protective environment for children.
This project will reach more than 500 asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees children in the Darien Province in Panama.
The project, implemented between April 2021 and December 2021, is implemented by RET in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Panama.
Promotion of access to rights and local integration of refugee children, adolescents, and youth (2021)
This project aims to contribute to the protection and local integration of asylum seekers and refugee children, adolescents, and young people, through their access to protection mechanisms, education, socio-cultural programs, and the development of spaces for their participation that enhance their local integration and the generation of lasting solutions in safe and inclusive communities.
RET seeks to guarantee access and permanence in the educational system of children, adolescents, and young applicants for refugee status and refugees in Panama through the support for the registration procedures and academic validation in response to identified needs.
Considering that the 2020 school year was interrupted and many students started late or missed classes due to technical and economic difficulties, RET will support children and adolescents with individual and group reinforcement classes to achieve a progressive recovery and improve their academic performance.
Children and adolescents with disabilities and/or learning difficulties will be referred to the Panamanian Institute of Special Habilitation (IPHE) for evaluation, attention, and inclusion in inclusive education programs in their facilities or centers of inclusive education.
At the same time, to optimize virtual classes, RET will accompany and guide parents and caregivers about virtual study tools, managing emotions and conflicts within the family nucleus, and techniques for study at home through group workshops and individual attention.
Finally, a package of early childhood care activities will be implemented for children between 0 and 4 years of age, including sessions to stimulate the psychomotor areas, affective and cognitive partners for better child development, and kit distribution.
Also, as part of the project, The RETArte strategy will be implemented with a community approach to new young people (who are not currently in RET or UNHCR programs) to strengthen the leadership and capacity for action of the group as agents of social change in their host communities.
In close coordination with government authorities, youth movements, and civil society organizations, the project will propose integration initiatives and socio-cultural interventions that develop the soft skills of young people. The initiatives will be held through workshops on multiple topics, including: Teamwork, argumentation, and debate, leadership, Panamanian culture, art and theater, awareness of gender roles and masculinity, and prevention of gender-based violence, among other recreational activities, artistic exploration, and activities to strengthen young people’s self-sufficiency.
Active young people with more experience and having completed the RETArte process will co-facilitate each training process for new young people. The development of youth integration initiatives will be promoted through campaigns against cyberbullying #NOMÁSMIEDO aimed at the local community, seeking to promote peaceful coexistence, enhance the capacities of young people in virtual environments and minimize risks present on the internet. The project reached more than 300 children and adolescents in the province of Darien and Panama City.
This project, completed between July 2021 and December 2021, is implemented in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Panama.