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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


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

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
David Kwizera – LEAF International Culture Keeper David Kwizera was named Chief of the LEAF Intore Troupe at the young age of 17. His leadership skills, confidence, and ability to stay positive during intense situations have made him the ultimate Teaching Artist and Culture Keeper. For over 14 years, David has been learning, practicing, and teaching traditional Rwandan dance and drum. In 2017, he officially became a Culture Keeper. It has been an extraordinary journey, and now it is time for him to shine beyond his borders.

David’s story starts out as a child of the Rwandan genocide. With no parents to care for him as of 7 years old, he bonded with a group of boys and they became his brothers. In 2006, a Rwandan world musician Jean-Paul Samputu connected LEAF to David & his group of boys; however, it was a surprise to LEAF to discover they were living on the streets in an uncovered parking lot. LEAF created a program hiring a Ballet of Rwanda performer as a teacher, having local drums made, and engaging a local man to serve as a mentor and coordinator.

David’s mission is to help bring other street kids off the streets and into the classroom. Over the past years, David led the creation of a Cultural Arts Center in Rwanda where he teaches more than 200  kids every day. Through his work, David Kwizera embodies his mission while gracefully defining resilience, artistic leadership, and hope for new pathways in life through music and art.


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.