Who we are

About Us

Established in 2006 by John Keffer, Forum Foundation  is a non profit organization dedicated to supporting community development in the mountainous region of rural Cocle, Republic of Panama.


Mission & Vision

To expand and increase access to learning opportunities in the mountains of rural Cocle, by providing the support and tools communities can use to build a more prosperous future.

Work together with communities to make change meaningful and sustainable.

Our Core Values

John Keffer, President

In 2006 John established Forum Foundation which, in local collaboration with Panama’s Ministry of Education, is wholly dedicated to educational projects in the central country. The idea for the foundation originated in 1966, when John was a Peace Corps volunteer. Today’s efforts build on the same spirit of contribution and determination to achieve community improvement that grew during those Peace Corps years.

Janet Robinson, Vice President

Janet began working with John in 2008 to help grow the Forum Foundation from ideas to a reality.  She served in the Peace Corps in Coclé, Panama from 1966-1968 after graduating from Kansas State University.  Janet holds a masters degree from the University of Arizona and has worked extensively in the fields of education administration and women’s issues.

Jair Guevara, Executive Director

Jair is the latest addition to the Forum Foundation team, joining the team in January 2020 as Executive Director. Combining his experience in the humanitarian and education sectors, Jair helps guide the Foundation’s strategic planning and implementation. Inspired by the impactful work the Foundation has accomplished over the years, he is passionate about using his skills and knowledge to contribute to the fulfilment of the Foundation’s mission.

Elvia Martinez, HEAD OF PROGRAMS

Elvia’s deep rooted ties to her home community in Cocle, Panama, have helped guide the Foundation’s community outreach programs for many years. She is passionate about exacting change through community development and dedicated to creating educational opportunities for generations to come.

Sandra Rodriguez, Community Center Coordinator

Sandra joined the Forum Foundation Family in 2015. After starting out helping with cleaning and supervising students at the Forum Academy, she received a promotion in 2017.  Supported by her degree in Social Work from the University of Panama in Penonome and her connections to the surrounding communities. Sandra is fundamental in helping recruit students who receive support from Forum Foundation. As part of the team, she aspires to continue contributing to making the world a better place. Helping students with the resources they need to be successful.

Berta Rivera, Program Officer

Berta first joined Forum Foundation in 2018 helping distribute scholarship funds to students enrolled in University. She then went on to complete her studies at the Universidad Technologica in Multimodal Logistics and Transportation. Berta returned in 2022, as Program Officer. She helps students with personalized learning support, as well as apply to university scholarships.  Having been a scholarship beneficiary herself, Berta’s love of learning is contagious. She is an inspiring example for the young people we support.


Iris joined Forum Foundation in 2015 as part of the Forum Academy administrative team. She is an essential part of the team, helping manage the Foundation’s documentation and financial reports, to ensure students receive the support they need to be successful. Beyond her initial duties as an administrative assistant, Iris continues to grow as a professional, helping provide students with the support and guidance for a brighter future.


Forum Foundation was established in 2006 by John Keffer.  Since its inception, Forum Foundation has had a significant impact through its dedication to educational projects and community development in the central province of Coclé, in the Republic of Panama.

The idea of the Foundation originated in 1966 when John was a Peace Corps volunteer in Caimito. There he developed, in collaboration with Prof. Ruben Dario Carles, then the Minister of Agriculture, Trade, and Industry, the first agricultural cooperative owned completely by farmers. With return trips to the area, John became convinced that the work had helped breathe new life into the community, as well as instilled a spirit of self-confidence and determination to carry out further improvement.

The Foundation began by working with community leaders in the mountains of Coclé to define the core needs of rural areas and to develop the most practical means of meeting those needs. Paramount among these are the expansion and improvement of secondary schools and public health centers in the region.

Working with Panama’s Ministry of Education (MEDUCA), additional teachers have been hired, new school buses purchased, and computers installed. The Foundation also started adult education courses in every community that computers were installed, helping spread computer literacy skills in the communities.

Dormitories were also built for students who might otherwise not attend because of distant journeys. As the work continued, the Foundation reached out to families and students in need of support to attend school. Granting scholarships and financial support for students to complete their secondary education. 

In 2012,  the Foundation began a study abroad scholarship program with the Hun School of Princeton New Jersey. The program gave students the opportunity to improve their English, experience world cultures, and prepare for the academic rigor of university. 

Three years later the Foundation created the Forum Academy. The first privately funded, non-profit International Baccalaureate school, the Academy gave students from the mountainous region of Cocle, the unique opportunity to receive a world-class education for the final three years of high school.

Committed to sustainable change, the Foundation started offering financial assistance, housing, and guidance for graduates from the Academy as well as local schools to continue their education by attending university.

Unfortunately, the Forum Academy closed after the 2020 school year was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still hope remained as  Forum Foundation moved operations to Caimito, where Foundation support continues to help maximize the number of students finishing high school and university.