Renée Ramirez
Renée Ramirez
Panama, 2022-2023
My name is Renée and I’m spending a year in Panamá working with Fundación Calicanto. Calicanto is a Panamanian organization combatting gender-based violence through social and economic empowerment programs. I’m a Nashville girl and graduated from Belmont in 2021 with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Economics. This is such a privilege, thanks for following along! Read More About Renée →

Getting Settled

Hola chicos! Quickly approaching one month in Panamá and feeling at home! For my sanity and yours, I’ll be updating this blog by answering the same couple of questions every few weeks. See below 🙂

Highlights recently have been:
– A beach trip to Mamey Island!
– Hosting Tiff’s birthday party
– Working alongside the Calicanto team
– Nightly volleyball at Cinta Costera
– Team dinners/lunches/hangs

Current Projects 
Work-wise, I am focusing on gaining more context and scope of the program I’ll be restructuring. My days have looked like informational interviews with team members, sorting and reading through data they have collected from alumni, sitting in on workshops for participants, and defining my objectives + timeline for the next couple of months. One word that keeps coming to mind and summarizes my work with Calicanto well is “cultivating”. There is so much potential within the program and need within the community they serve. Right now I feel as if I am working in a garden; pulling weeds, removing overgrown branches, clearing brush, tilling the soil, all to get to the point when it is time to sow seeds of a new program structure! Development is hard. It is very much a process of unfolding and working with ‘unformed’ potential for months can be tiring. I’ve learned over the last couple of years that there is a discipline of assessing needs, asking questions, doing research, and consistently prototyping until the best format for the program/business/whathaveyou becomes clear. Though it is challenging, I really enjoy this type of discovery process and I am so grateful for the trust the Calicanto team has shown me!

Something New
I listened to an interview with two of my favorite economists, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, the other day, and a quote from their book “Good Economics for Hard Times” struck a chord in me. It reads,
“What is common among a drought-affected farmer in India, a youth on the Southside of Chicago, and a 50-something white man who was just laid off – what is common is that while they have problems, they are not the problem. They are entitled to be seen for who they are and not to be defined by the difficulties besieging them. Time again, we have seen in our travels in developing countries that hope is the fuel that makes people go. Defining people by their problems is turning circumstances into essence; it denies hope. A natural response is then to wrap oneself into this identity with treacherous consequences for society at large.”
So good, right? Listening to the above helped me to understand and connect deeper with Calicanto’s work. One thing I deeply admire about this foundation is that their work is first and foremost one of inspiring hope. Their main objective is to equip women with psychological tools and support to inspire hope and empower them to seek out the best opportunities for themselves and their families. Entrepreneurship workshops, community advocacy tools, and all other resources they share are done second to teaching emotional health and self-respect/love.

Something Difficult
Grocery shopping has been overwhelming for me. Even back in the States, I’d tend to get stressed grocery shopping and shopping in Panama has been even harder. Produce and prices are surprisingly comparable to Nashville so I often find myself comparing prices not only to other products in the store but also prices at home all in Spanish. I then bag the food in reusable bags while speaking with the clerk in Spanish, make sure I have the cash to tip, call and wait for an Uber in the heat, and then load and unload the car up to the 18th floor of my apartment. I did a big shopping trip last week and ended the day stress-eating Cheetos and taking a nap at 6 pm haha. Hoping it becomes easier with practice!

Something I’ve Learned
I’ve learned that when communicating impact there is a need for both quantitative data AND personal stories. A frequent conversation my boss, Gabriela, and I have is how success stories without data and data without real stories are at best an incomplete depiction and at worst completely ineffective in communicating impact. Filing this away and planning to develop this thought into some key practices to make sure we prioritize both in future program initiatives.

Something I’m Grateful for
I am grateful for the church team here literally every day – they feel like family! We all live within a 10-minute walk of each other so cycle through different apartments for dinners, meetings, movie nights, lunches, etc. We’re actually living our lives together and I am so grateful to be surrounded by such fun, mature, and kind people. This community has been such a clear display of God’s kindness to me. Whether it is a quick meeting with nothing to eat but ginger snap cookies or a day spent on an island in the Caribbean it has been so filling and fun to spend time with them!

In summary! I am feeling a little more settled, getting a little tanner, and speaking Spanish a little better every day. Until next time, friends.



My First Week in Panamá

**para leer en español, ir al final del pagina**

I’ve been in Panamá for 72 hours! It feels like home! It’s warm! I can speak in Spanish all the time! The mangoes are huge!

One of my best friends from Nashville, Tiff, also moved to Panamá to participate in a church plant with the global movement, Every Nation. There’s a team of 20 that has already been in Panamá for a couple of months so we’ve had built-in community and support as we get adjusted. I feel immeasurably grateful for them and to have one of my closest friends here!

The team picked Tiff and me up from the airport on Tuesday with flowers and helped us settle into our place. We later met up with everyone at a rooftop restaurant overlooking Casco Viejo to celebrate one of our team member’s birthdays. The city is so interesting, there are mountains to the west, oceans, high rises, and barrios all visible in one 360 view. The temp averages between 85 and 90 degrees with a breeze because of the close proximity to the ocean. I love the weather! Panama City is super international. Because of the trade opportunities the canal provides, there is a lot of foreign direct investment, western influence, and infrastructure. It is one of the most developed cities in Central America. Geographically, it connects Central and South America so there are a lot of immigrants from neighboring countries along with international ex-pats who have moved and settled here. For example, my first two local friends are Venezuelan, not Panamanian!

Unfortunately, our apartment fell through the day before we left Nashville, so we rented an Airbnb for a week in the center of the city while we search for a new one. We spent Wednesday with a couple of realtors looking at available apartments and found a perfect one! It’s super close to coffee shops, parks, and markets and has plenty of space to host new friends. It’s also safe but approachable which was an important combo for me.

As I’ve gotten settled, I have been very aware of the importance of maintaining my routines and practices. I’m a 9 wing 8 on the Enneagram and can have a baseline of pretty low energy. I love people and new things but can struggle to get started and stay engaged with myself and what’s going on around me. I’ve recognized that taking time in the morning to myself is a great way to ground, fuel, and engage myself before zipping off to do things. One of my intentions this year is to practice being before doing and keeping morning and evening routines have been a great way to practice that along with keeping a sense of normalcy in such a new environment.

A poem I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is:

“I have a need
of such clearance
as the Savior affected in the temple of Jerusalem
a riddance of clutter
of what is secondary
that blocks the way
to the all-important central emptiness
which is filled with the presence of God alone.”
-Jean Danielou

As I’ve moved away from Nashville the clutter, baggage, and secondary things that need to be temporarily set aside, reprioritized, and let go of have become more apparent. It feels really good to have distance but also support from people I love, and space to experience new things and grow! Additionally, it’s becoming clear that some of the less healthy habits I’ve been leaning on won’t cut it here. I could get by being on Instagram all the time (one example of many) and recover faster from the resulting negative effects on my mental health because I had such a strong support system in Nashville. If I am to care for myself and others with maturity and love in this new environment, I need depth in my habits and practices. Depth for me looks like acknowledging and respecting my physical and emotional limits, setting boundaries with myself and others, learning more about my faith, prioritizing time to be quiet and still, and taking steps to pursue my personal learning and growth goals.

I haven’t even been in Panamá a full week and could share so much more. Planning a rest day tomorrow to recharge before I officially start work on Monday!

Hablaremos más pronto!


He estado en Panamá  hace 72 horas. ¡Hace calor! ¡Puedo hablar en español todos los días! ¡Los mangos son muy grandes!

Unas de mis mejores amigas en Nashville, Tiff, también se mudó a Panamá para participar en una nueva iglesia con el movimiento global, Cada Nación. La mayoría de el equipo ya han estado en Panamá desde hace cinco meses así que ya tenemos una comunidad y apoyo. Siento tan agradecida por ellos. Son muy agradables, maduros y divertidos. Ya hemos pasado mucho tiempo juntos y estoy animada para conocerlos mejor.

El equipo nos recogió del aeropuerto el martes con flores y nos ayudó a encontrar nuestro hotel. En la tarde, nos reunimos en un restaurante del techo con una vista del mar y Casco Viejo para celebrar el cumpleaños de unas de las miembras del equipo.
La Ciudad de Panamá es muy interesante, hay montañas al oeste, océanos, edificios altos, y barrios – todos visibles en una vista 360. La temperatura es de 85 a 90 grados con brisas regulares del mar.La ciudad también es super internacional. A causa de las oportunidades de comercio que provienen del canal, hay mucha inversión extranjera y influencias modernas. Geográficamente, conecta las américas y hay muchos inmigrantes de otros países. Por ejemplo, mis primeras amigas locales eran de Venezuela, no de Panamá.

Desafortunadamente, nuestro apartamento dejó de estar disponible un día antes de nuestro vuelo a Panamá. Alquilamos un airbnb en el centro de la ciudad por una semana para darnos tiempo de buscar un apartamento nuevo. Pasemos el miércoles con dos brókeres buscando apartamentos disponibles y los encontremos! Es muy bonita, cerca de dos cafeterías, un parque, y muchas bodegas. También hay mucho espacio para tener invitados y amigos que son muy importantes para mi en un hogar.

Recientemente, me di cuenta de la importancia de mantener mis rutinas en este ambiente nuevo. Yo soy un 9 con la ala 8 en el Enneagram y muchas vezes tengo energía muy limitada. Ama a las personas y situaciones nuevas pero es difícil a estar en el momento para mi. Cuando yo tomo tiempo en la mañana para cuidar de mí mismo, tengo más energía, empatía, y atención para dar a otras personas durante el dia. Unas de mis intenciones este año es practicar a estar antes de hacer. Estableciendo y priorizando una rutina en la manaña es una manera de practicar eso y me ayuda mucho también.

Una poema que he leído mucho esta semana es.
“ Yo tengo una necesidad
Del despojo
Que el salvador lo hizo
En el templo de jerusalén
Una libramiento de desorden
De lo que es secondaria
Que bloquea el camino
Del más importante y central abundancia de vacío
Que solo está lleno con la presencia de dios.”
-Jean Danielou

Este cambio tan grande me ayudó a ver todas las cosas que necesito dejar y repriorizar. Estoy muy agradecida por tener el amor y apoyo de mi familia y amigos pero también el espacio para crecer personalmente y profesionalmente. Además, puedo ver con más claridad los hábitos que he tenido en el pasado, que ya no me sirven. En Nashville yo podría estar en Instragram por mucho tiempo y sentir los efectos negativos menos en mi salud mental porque tenía mucho ayuda de mi sistema de apoyo. Pero aquí, si yo quiero cuidar de mi mismo y las otras personas en mi vida con amor y madureza, necesito tener más profundidad en la manera en que yo vivo. Para mi, profundidad es prestar atención a mi capacidad emocional y física, estableciendo límites con mi mismo y otras personas, aprendiendo mas de mi fé, priorizando tiempo para estar quieto y tranquilo, y tomando pasos pequeños para lograr mis metas personales.

Solo he estado en Panamá desde hace tres días y podría compartir MUCHO mas de lo que ya lo escribi. Estoy planeando un día de descanso mañana antes de empezar mi trabajo el lunes.

Hablaremos más pronto!


Preparing for the Big Move

Hi all — Sharing my first blog post as I prepare for my Lumos move in T-11 days!

Professionally, preparation these days looks like wrapping up my work. I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing, onboarding, and communication to pass off my projects/responsibilities to our new and current team members. This season has been a pretty consistent reminder that I am not indispensable and that is a really good thing. Feeling so grateful for the 2 1/2 years working with Placemat + Feeding Nashville and really hopeful for the growth and future of our team. I am sad to miss it; it’s hard to leave a good thing.

Personally, preparation looks like listening to grammar and story podcasts to refine my Spanish (my favorite currently is El Hilo), getting rid of things, spending time with my family and core friends, and a lot of personal admin things like immunizations appointments and selling my car. I just got back from a solo ski trip to North Carolina which was so refreshing and fun. It was helpful to have time to be quiet, explore, collect myself, rest, and plan for this big move. I took some time to map out my goals, budget, priorities, etc., and am feeling much more pulled together and prepared than I was previously. This upcoming week is going to be full of lots of goodbye parties (Omicron might say otherwise) and knocking things off my long to-do list! We’re getting so close, this is crazy!

The three most frequent questions I’ve been getting recently are:
“Are you ready?”
“Are you scared?”
“How are you feeling?”

I’m guessing you might be curious about those things if you’re reading this, so am writing out my responses here:
1. Truthfully, I’m ready.
2. I’m not scared about this move/project/experience at all. BUT it is easy to feel scared about what my future might look like post-Lumos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that things can change in my life and in the world so quickly. I’m anxious to see who I’ll be and what I want when this is over.
3. I feel sad to leave my family + community here in Nashville. I have such wonderful friends, pastors, and support here and really love them. At the same time, I’m so excited to explore, grow, and experience living and working in Panama. Every time I think about the fact that I am getting to move to Latin America and help people practically, tears of joy well up in my eyes. This opportunity touches a deep dream in my heart and I really am so grateful for this next step.

I’ve been thinking recently about what it’s going to be like when I land in Panama on the 18th. I am so looking forward to the flood of “This is really happening! I’m living here! I’m speaking in Spanish every day! People look like me!”. It’s happening so soon. Until then, I’m going to enjoy this time with my favorite people, wear my mask and get some things done.

That’s all I’ve got right now, chicos. Cuidense!

– Renée

See some photos from my trip to Banner Elk, NC below.


A Couple of Notes:
I have Spanish-speaking family who will be reading this so will be posting in both Spanish + English as time allows!

Writing a blog is going to be a great way to process this experience but is also kind of nerve-wracking because I’m scared of becoming a babbler. This is not going to be the type of blog where you read through someone’s entire life story just to see the cookie recipe they posted 🙂 With this in mind, I’m setting some boundaries below for both of our sakes!

My general format is going to follow:
– Current projects + work check-in
– Something new
– Something difficult
– Something I’ve learned
– Something I’m grateful for