Participation of Guna youth Toniel Edman and his cousin in Earth Train’s youth leadership camp at Earth Train’s the 1,000-acre upland rainforest next to the El Yunque National Park in Puerto Rico.

Invitation to consider Panama as the location for Earth Train’s planned international base.

December 2000

Earth Train founder and executive director Nathan Gray travels to Panama accompanied by his wife, Zita Dias and his then 20-year-old son, Nate Gray, to visit possible locations for an Earth Train field campus. First visit to the upper watershed of the upper Río Mamoní and brief hike with Toniel Edman to the security outpost of the Guna General Congress in Gunayala.


Assisted the family of Gil Toribio in getting their land, 168 acres, out bank repossession and auction.  Earth Train bought the land to establish what was then called Centro Madroño, now Centro Mamoní.  Hired members of the Toribio family and other neighbors to help develop facilities. 

Started tree planting at Centro Mamoní with volunteers -Guna youth recruited by Toniel, youth from the US and Gray-Dias family members.


Completed the first structures for staff and volunteers.  Completed the Comedor by December of 2002 under the direction of California builder Bay Ingleheart and local people.  

Earth Train ran its Pioneering Building Camp, June through August, in team with a group of students from Tufts University and Guna youth volunteers led by Toniel Edman and friends.  Formed an Earth Train team of eight youth interns living year-round in Panama.

Purchased and started the restoration of Casa Arias, the residence of the first president and co-founder of the Republic of Panama Tomás Arias.  Located in Panama City’s historic quarter -a World Heritage Site- Casa Arias served as Earth Train’s international office and home to the Gray-Dias family and interns.  

2003 – 2004

Earth Train ran its first field study and work program in Panama with students from Brandeis University, under the direction of Dan Perlman, Ph.D. Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies under the field supervision of Glenn Adelson, Ph.D., Instructor of Biology, Harvard University. 

Interns, local volunteers mounted major tree planting effort at Centro Mamoní and at other locations in the Valley.

Mounted an emergency campaign and purchased 800 acres of adjoining properties contiguous with Centro Mamoní, protecting the entire watershed of the upper Río Madroño, a major Río Mamoní tributary.  With the equity participation of the Wescott-Stephens family, acquired additional properties aimed at protecting important stream and forest for a total of 6,000 acres under Earth Train management.

2005 -2007

Under the leadership of Colin Wiel, the Wiel-Cohn family took over Wescott-Stephens land ownership and joined Earth Train in expanding what would soon be called The Mamoní Valley Preserve.

Under the leadership of Guna chief Gilberto Arias and then Secretary General of the Guna General Congress, Enrique “Kike” Arias, signed our first formal cooperation agreement with the Guna General Congress.  Helped to finance their security outpost in Guna Yala, Las Guavitas.

Guna leader and cartologist Kike Arias, Nathan Gray, Leandro Toribio and film maker Nick Kahlbach surveyed the Río Cartí Grande from its headwaters in the protected wildlands of Gunayala near the Mamoní Valley Preserve to its mouth on the Atantic coast.  In 2005, with Kike Arias guiding, Colin and his father, Steve were joined by Nathan Gray, paramedic Dan McGuirk and Leandro Toribio on the first trans Guna Yala river passage from near the continental divide to the island of Cartí Sugtupu.  

Kike Arias, Nathan Gray and Leandro Toribio led a team of youth volunteers in surveying the Río Cangandi, the second largest river in Gunayala that originates on the eastern slope of the sacred peak ______(Cerro Brewster) near the northwestern corner of the MVP.  The first trans Gunayala kayak expedition, led by Kike Arias, Leandro Toribio and Nathan Gray was accomplished in 2005 by eight teenage volunteers from the US and Gunayala.

With mostly volunteer labor, Earth Train planted 7,000 trees around Centro Mamoní, Junglewood Falls and at other river and stream bed locations.  

Completed the building of three open-air Casas and the large shop space, the only concrete and steel structure on the property.

Operated numerous outdoor programs for local communities and schools and US universities.  

2008 – 2009

Established the Mamoní Valley Preserve Native Species Tree Plantation under the direction of Panamanian forestry engineer Emilio Mariscal, starting with 220 acres and the planting of 80,000 trees, all with local labor.  Verne Harnish and his son, Cole, planted the first tree during the inauguration of the plantation. The MVP became the largest employer in the valley of the upper Río Mamoní.  Later, in 2011, the plantation was transferred to the environmentally positive German forestry company Forest Finance, a member of the MVP.

The MVP/Earth Train received the first of four visits from Dr. Jane Goodall thus beginning Earth Train’s years of collaboration with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

2010 – 2012

The formal gala inauguration of Junglewood, MVP/Earth Train’s place and program for “the arts and nature”,  took place in January of 2010 at the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, then under construction, four years before the facility was inaugurated. Shortly thereafter, Lider Sucre came on board as the Co-Executive Director of Earth Train.  Jane Goodall, again in Panama for an Earth Train program, would lead the first group of children through the Biomuseo, two years before the formal opening.

Earth Train hosted at the MVP and at the City of Knowledge, a five-day conference of Roots & Shoots leaders of the Americas with Jane Goodall.

Earth Train produced Mother Nature, CEO, our first adventure learning program for CEOs, promoted by Verne Harnish and co-led by social media marketing expert David Meerman Scott and Nathan Gray.

2013 to 2015


Earth Train Campaign

Earth Train was founded in 1990 by teen leaders from North America and was formally launched in June 1991 by Sweden’s Claes Nobel during his Earth Prize ceremony at the UN General Assembly Hall before 2,000 diplomatic, business, civic and youth leaders. For its youth-calling-youth-to-action 10-year campaign, Earth Train operated actual trains for high-visibility educational events, television, radio and Internet broadcasts. Earth Train provided unforgettable learning experiences —youth-led and international workshops, expeditions and conferences for over 14,000 young people and popular outreach to hundreds of thousands of young people worldwide. Our emphasis on experiential learning, a coaching relationship between experienced and emerging leaders, and peer-to-peer teaching proved effective in stimulating a multiplier effect as youth helped youth realize their leadership potential.

The first seed funding for the start up of Earth Train came from the Rex Foundation of the Grateful Dead and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Grateful Dead lead singer, Bob Weir, spoke at the Earth Train announcement event in San Francisco. The iconic Earth Train steam locomotive SP 2472 pulled the last train to roll on the San Francisco waterfront.

During our campaign decade, Earth Train served numerous youth organizations around the U.S. and in 23 countries and native nations. Rather than build up a bricks-and-mortar organization, we focused on helping young leaders, many still in their teens, launch ambitious environmental and social justice initiatives and organizations. One of these,The Global Youth Action Network (GYAN) is one of the most expansive youth networks in the world, with more than 1,000 member organizations in over 150 countries.Read the Earth Train Youth Organizing Team Statement.