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 →

Bad Bunny is a Bug in my Brain

Hola queridos amigos! Sharing an update on my life and work in Panama. Most notably, attended a paella festival at the park by my house this past weekend. It was such a happy day. I may or may not have shirked all responsibilities for the morning and dragged my friends to walk around it with me. It was super tasty, but nowhere near Dr. Gonzalez’s infamous Nashville paella (if you’ve tried his, you know that the standard is verryyyy high).


– Went to Marca Panama, an outdoor market where local farmers and vendors sell their produce. There were truck fulls of bananas which  I found so comforting (latina over here in case you had any doubts). There were also stalls of individual vendors selling produce. It made me so happy to take it all in. Planning on purchasing all my produce from there in the future and getting to know some of the owners. This is the world I want to get more connected with here in Panama.
– Got my new passport! (I lost mine running errands back in May oops).
– Finding some new Spanish artists (really liking Caloncho and Vicente Garcia these days)
– Getting to know the owners of a coffee shop on my street.

Work Projects

My team and I have been quite busy the last couple of weeks. Between preparing for this huge new contract with OIM, planning projects for the final quarter of the year, and participating in leadership trainings with our core management team, I’ve been stretched a little thin. I’ve been learning a lot from the leadership seminars and am applying new project management tools to lead myself first and then others within our team. I am becoming more and more organized in the way I approach, structure, and schedule my work which is bringing great clarity in my projects. I have found these sessions helpful but it’s been hard to focus for 3-4 hours at a time in Spanish. My pobrecita brain has been pretty drained recently.

My boss is moving to England starting in early September to participate in a fellowship with the London School of Economics. She will continue to work as Calicanto’s Executive Director but with a more strategic workload. While I am confident that our team is well equipped to manage these upcoming changes (we’ve been mostly remote for the last few years anyway) there are big changes occurring in the next couple of months. We’re culminating a 3-week leadership seminar with an all-team training meeting this upcoming week which will help us align for this next season.

On a more practical level, I am continuing with the market research for Escuela Calicanto. This week I have been working on a competitive analysis within Panama and Central America and designing questions for our client surveys. Sometimes I wish I was a machine and could generate perfect work really quickly. The reality is however that I need breaks, redirecting, coffee, encouragement, sleep, and a team to be able to work well. I am learning to embrace my silly humanness and lean into being an open and engaged team member above all else.

Something I’ve Learned

I’ve been in a ‘what am I going to do with the rest of my life!!!!’ head space the last couple of weeks. I’ve found myself absorbed in researching grad schools, looking at different cities, and trying to figure out what combination of degree programs suits my skill set and career path. For my sanity, I have accepted that I just don’t know right now. After hearing some trusted mentors (including my mom who knows me better than I often realize) tell me to chill out and enjoy my life, I’ve decided to let all those future plans go for the time being and focus on building deeper friendships here in Panama, lean into the activities that bring me joy, and take small steps to build a plan for when my Lumos project is done in January.

A couple of things I do know right now are:
– I want to live in Panama post-Lumos (thinking 3-5 years)
– I have great capacity for development and strategic planning, but truly thrive in people-facing environments.
– I love to cook, host, and teach.
– I love helping food-based small businesses develop strategies and operational processes.
– I want to work with food, migrant women, and small businesses.

Something Hard

My roommate and friend Tiff has been back in the States for a couple of months for a work training. I had visitors all throughout July and was enjoying living by myself but have reached a point where I really need to be around people more consistently. This has made me miss my friends even more! Wish I could meet up with my Tuesday crew for drinks, or hang out at Sevier Park with a coffee from Portland Brew. I’ll be visiting Nashville in a couple of months which I am looking forward to so much. Can’t wait to see my family and my people.
I have been walking at Cinta Costera, playing volleyball, and working with a couple of friends regularly here in Panama which I am grateful for. Building community all over again is not an easy or fast process pero, vale la pena.

Something I’m Grateful for

This is silly, but I am grateful for the gym in my building, Bad Bunny’s ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’ album, and the older Chinese lady who watches me while I work out haha. Being physically healthy and able is a gift that is not lost on me. Have been walking in my neighborhood playing sports, boxing, etc., etc.,  and am grateful to be able to move and care for my body. Keeps me grounded 🙂

Esto es todo por el momento, gracias por leer, amigos.




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