I’m shocked 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.


Panama City, Panama | Founded 2015 | 70+ Youth Served

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.

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.

“We want to recover all things from our grandparents so it’s not lost & so, their time was not wasted.”
- Jose Hayans
LEAF Panama Culture Keeper


From music instruments to child sponsorship, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to supporting Global Arts education & preservation!

LEAF is a 501(C)3 charitable organization. Your generous gifts in support of cultural arts education go directly to these programs.

Program Highlights

  • Guna Yala convening and festival Sept 2023
  • Jose honored with an award acknowledging him as the cultural teacher of the year 
  • Group honored as one of the number dance groups practicing tradition in the country
  • Panama crew celebrates Guna Yala culture with 3 island performances dedicated to their independence
  • Afro-Latin festival in May dedicated to the influence of Africa culture in Latin America
  • Jose turned 70 this year – the elder of culture keepers
  • Several members have started to perform and share their vibrant Guna Yala traditions after a hard 2020 year of covid loss. 
  • Participated virtually in the VLEAF LatinX Heritage appreciation festival. This was the first festival featuring all LEAF International Latin America programs.

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 the program to David, Panama
Doing “test” programs to identify the 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

The 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

Meet The Culture Keeper

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 longevity of future generations. He is LEAF’s oldest culture keeper at 73 years.





The Guna Yala ancestors did not have musical notes, so they imitated the sounds of the animals. They did not have clothes, so they took leaves & feathers from everywhere to cover their bodies. When the Spanish came, they brought textiles which became the fabrics Guna’s wear today. They also did not have geometrical shapes, so when they saw animal trails (like snails) in the sand, Guna people started to draw the designs which are now seen in all of their clothing.




Mayani is a Maasai boy from longido Arusha. He went to boarding school at 6 years old and lost his Maasai language and tradition. Since joining the LEAF program, he has learned to sing Maasai songs, practiced the ‘jump’ tradition and wear Maasai shukas (traditional clothing). Mayani is extremely happy and is currently teaching other youth the culture.