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 →

A Tropical Thanksgiving

Hi everyone! I hope November has been treating you well. I spent Thanksgiving eating spaghetti at the beach with friends (chaotic I know) which was so fun.  Have been spending early mornings longboarding at Cinta Costera and am enjoying how peaceful it is to cruise along the water. My Lumos project is coming to an end in January so I have started preparing my final reports and presentations. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that I have lived here in Panama for close to a year. What a gift of growth this experience has been. I am so grateful for the way it has helped me test out and reimagine my path.

– A friend gifted me her old surfboard!!
– Starting my days with chocolate protein shakes
– Biking along Causeway with friends
– Starting to swim laps again!

Work Projects
November has been pretty light work-wise. There are 5 national holidays spread out throughout the month so we’ve had a lot of days off. Most recently I shared a practice pitch with my team in preparation for an upcoming presentation with our board of directors. I’ll be sharing the developed business concept for Academia Calicanto and a general project update next week. It felt good to be back in my slide deck designing/pitching element. In addition to preparing for the pitch, I’ve designed a couple of extra resources for my team as they implement the impact tracking process and helped revise our end-of-year reports. I have surprised myself with my ability to communicate professionally in Spanish recently. I still have room to grow, but have been able to communicate my thoughts in Spanish in the moment with relative ease which is such a win!

We recently launched a campaign highlighting our Agentes de Cambio (Agents of Change) program. Agentes de Cambio is a community outreach program training small groups of CAPTA graduates to teach violence prevention and gender equality workshops in their communities. This year’s cohort is currently on its way to equip 750 individuals in Panama via in-person and digital workshops.
Check out some of our participant stories here if you’re interested!

Something I’ve Learned
Fundación Calicanto recently received a grant from UN Women to conduct team training on gender-based violence. Our team participated in two workshops over the last couple of weeks hosted by a variety of professionals working in the field of gender equality in Latin America. The training included an overview of the history of human rights and gender-based violence in Panama, workshops on LGBTQIA+ experiences with violence, and a deconstruction of the male experience in a patriarchal Latin America. The sessions were informative but difficult at times because the subject matter is such a heavy reality. The majority of the workshops were group activities and discussions which meant that we were talking about our lived experiences with various expressions of gender-based violence. Regardless of how much you’ve healed or grown, it’s hard to talk about and listen to personal experiences of physical, psychological, or financial violence. I left that first session feeling physically drained and emotionally triggered and needed a long boxing session that night to work through my anger.

My biggest takeaway from these trainings is that while the majority of our social structures were designed to serve men, the patriarchal system is harmful to them as well. Undoubtedly in different ways and to different degrees, but men too, experience negative effects from our social structures. The same unhealthy system that says women are weak, emotional, and incapable of leadership + logical decision-making also dictates that men shouldn’t be vulnerable or express their emotions, must be strong, and can’t ask for support. These incorrect perspectives that have shaped our societies hurt us all, denying the power of women and the humanity of men.
This has helped me be a little more compassionate and understanding as I live in Latin America where gender roles and gender discrimination are much more apparent. It doesn’t cause me to back down or tolerate disrespectful behavior, but it does help me practice seeing a person’s humanity in spite of it.

Something New
I have made the big but easy decision to continue living in Panama once my Lumos project is complete. I’ll be working part-time with Fundación Calicanto and part-time as a personal chef while I explore a couple of different work options in the food and nonprofit industry here. I have planned to live in Latin America since I was a kid so never saw my Lumos project as a one-time cultural immersion but rather a stepping stone into the next stage of my life. My family and friends have been prepared for this for years at this point haha. I’ll be in Nashville for the holidays and then will move back to Panama in mid-January. Can’t wait! We’re not done yet, but I’d like to say thank you for following along, encouraging me, and letting me lean on you these last 11 months. As I reflect, I can see the ways I have grown both stronger and softer, learned and unlearned, and really healed this last year. Thank you for cheering me along through it all.


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