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 →


Hi everyone! Breaking my normal blog structure to share some reflections on my time so far. May 18th just marked four months of being in Panama; it is wild to me how quickly life can change.

Every day I am filled with gratitude to be able to live my life here in Panama. I have a safe place to live, meaningful and inspiring work to do, growing friendships, activities and sports to participate in, a mature spiritual community, and margin to rest and learn. This experience has been such a gift to me and I am filled with anticipation for the next 8 months of my Lumos experience. Because some of my long-term goals involve working within Latin America, I have never viewed this move as just a trip, but rather as the start of a new season in my life.

Personally, I’ve been learning a lot too. Simply being in a new city has pushed me to be more engaged and outgoing. Rebuilding a community in a new place means I need to be actively engaged as I relate to people, be friendly, initiate conversations, and let go of my default mode of being quiet. I’ve noticed my reflex of saying less out of fear of talking too much has changed. I’m learning how to let other people get to know who I am and openly communicate what type of person I am without feeling bad about talking about myself. Speaking in Spanish and being the new person in almost every environment has helped with this a lot. I am stronger, more mature, and more confident which I think comes with the territory of moving to a new country.

I’m learning a lot about my surroundings as well. I gain new Spanish vocabulary every week which is fun and very useful. Recently I’ve learned about the production of Geisha coffee in Panama, the circular food industry, the history of protests and government participation, spatial injustice through the development of urban areas, international influences on the culture in Panama, and the history of Colón. I am grateful for this margin in my life to learn and further develop skills. Right now I am reading a historical account on the Panama Canal (which is fascinating) and finally tackling my 14-year rhythm struggle on the guitar.

I am learning how to work well, taking note of the times of day I am most productive, incorporating walks and breaks into my days, and letting go of what I’m guessing is American guilt that I am not being productive enough. And what can I say about my work except that it is such a privilege to be able to design processes and programs to serve women more effectively. I am honing design thinking skills, learning about the importance of psychological support in empowerment, the best ways to include beneficiaries in our work,  and understanding how professional relationships are conducted in Latin America.

The other day I remembered an article I read at 14 about nonprofits offering vocational training for women working as prostitutes in developing countries. I was so touched and inspired that I tore the pages out of the magazine, wrote on a sticky note, “God will you use me to change this?” and put it in a drawer to read and reread often. A lot of time and hard life experiences have passed since those days, but I have been reminded recently why I was so passionate about working in the nonprofit and community development world. It is becoming clear again that vocationally, I want my work to center on supporting women and young adults experiencing economic vulnerability in Latin America. That could look like a variety of things in the future, but taking my background and strengths into account will likely involve developing small business training resources, creating educational curriculums and programs, along with advocacy, economic research, and policy writing. Anything could happen!

In summary, I am seeing renewal in my life. Something I am so grateful for and something I have very much needed. Navigating my  20s is still hard, living with grief is still hard, and being far from some of my favorite people is hard. But my cup is very much overflowing. Thanks for following along and thanks for cheering me on.

I hope you’re doing well!


P.S. We just started implementing the follow-up process I designed for Calicanto and have gotten REALLY excellent feedback from the cohort! I’m writing a blog post for the foundation that I’ll link in my next Lumos post so you can understand what I’ve been working on recently.

P.P.S. Maybe the biggest highlight of my life thus far is that I scored a goal with a header playing soccer with friends last week. What a thrill!


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