Archive for the ‘Community Development’ Category

So, this past weekend the time that I hate came around again, the time when we have to say goodbye to volunteers as they return home or carry on with the next step of their journeys.  And what amazing volunteers these 3 ladies were. I can’t believe they were only here for a little over a week.  But it goes to show, it is not how long you stay or how much time you have to volunteer, it is the attitude you bring with you that will be truly appreciated and leave a lasting impression. And what an impression they made. Attitude? Work Ethic?  Astounding.

But first let me go back to their arrival and share with you just some of the things they got up to during their time here in Panama (well maybe not all of their tales, that is for them to share!). Charyn Pfeuffer, a food, travel and lifestyle journalist from Canada, swapped her Blackberry for a backpack and is aiming to volunteer with 12 community projects in 12 countries over 12 months. We are very proud to be just one step in her volunteer adventures and were very happy to know that for this part of her travels she would be accompanied by Julie and Jen, 2 friends from back home in Canada.

All the ladies arrived safe and well and eager to get started. Actually, that is not exactly true. Charyn arrived and had just recently had her laptop stolen. And there she was smiling brightly and with a simple shrug of the shoulders, “Oh these things happen, you know, it was partly my fault, I didn’t think…anyway I’m so happy and excited to be here, are we going to the orphanage right now?” Like I said.  Amazing. I would have been inconsolable. Or, at the very least, in a real bad mood and not exactly of the attitude to go and volunteer. But with Charyn. No. Positivity beams out of her and nothing was going to sway her mission.

First day at Casa Hogar Trisker with those (heavy) suitcases!

On arrival at “Casa Hogar Trisker”, the local orphanage here in Boquete, the ladies brought with them 3 large suitcases from home. Suitcases full of clothing, toiletries, toothbrushes and toothpaste, diapers and wipes…all those essential items that places like Casa Hogar Trisker have an immediate and constant need for. On their behalf, muchas gracias. Volunteering there myself I know how daunting that first day can be, surrounded by so many children who simply want your attention, to play, learn and have fun. I hope she won’t mind me saying but during the first few minutes there Julie seemed a little taken aback, unsure of exactly what to do with the children, perhaps not having been round young children in such numbers or situations before.  But, knowing the wonders of the children there I knew it wouldn’t take long, and sure enough, within the next few minutes there she was romping around and playing horses with several of the younger ones. Their laughter and delight was tangible for all to see, and Julie’s too! Further days were spent playing games, jig-saws, looking at books and then before you know it time’s up. For everyone who volunteers at Casa Hogar Trisker these children will touch your heart and soul and even after spending only a short time there it was difficult for our Canadian friends to say goodbye. In Julie’s own words, “It will be hard to leave them for sure.  Although I did have one pee on me so I won’t miss that, but I will miss being greeted with the hugs and smiles!”  But hopefully it wasn’t a final goodbye. The ladies have stated that they wish to continue their fundraising campaigns for the orphanage. To hear that people have been so touched and want to continue to support an organization even when they are thousands of miles away is always great news and we will be behind you all the way.

Further still, working at Casa Hogar Trisker in the mornings here wasn’t enough for these dedicated ladies. They spent afternoons volunteering with an organization committed to air, water, and food security for indigenous areas.  From Jen’s photograph below you can see they worked hard and got down and dirty in assisting with the construction of smokeless stoves.  This is hard, physical labor and again the ladies gave it their all. I’m sure they will have found muscles they never knew about. So, if ever you want a smokeless stove built, or simply desire to talk about cement mixes (who knows what lights your fire, so to speak), you now know who to call!

Some stove action from Jen and Charyn!

Muchas Gracias Charyn, Julie and Jen. We miss you already. Come back and see us soon.

Caroline Walker

TVR Volunteer Coordinator


With the start of the new year, has come the start of an incredible journey.

2011 has been an incredible year for us, our volunteers, our partnering organizations, & the communities in which we have been working.

Since the beginning of January, we have had the pleasure of working with@ 60 new volunteers!

To start the year, we hosted students from the College of Saint Rose, from Albany, NY.  They have since contacted us to add us as an accredited program for their students; I think that was a pretty successful week!  Their service project was a summer camp of sorts for the Casa Hogar Trisker Children’s Home.

College of Saint Rose


Our 2nd group of the year came from the Students without Borders Academy out of Canada.  They were our largest group to date with 31!  Add in our staff, and it took a 46’ cargo canoe to get us all to our service location.  We focused on smokeless stoves from Contextual Solutions & 3 new rainwater catchment systems for the indigenous community of Salt Creek.  When the students were asked by their coordinating professor about their experience, the response was humbling.  “They changed our lives, we want to come back & help them.”  In a closing discussion their leader said they’d like to spend a month with us next year instead of just a week!

Students Without Borders Academy


Our 3rd group we welcomed from the Shasta Valley Rotary Club & the Rotary Club of Boquete, Panama.  Rotary was the source of an $11,700 grant, which funded 21 rainwater catchment systems!

Rotary Club Representatives from Boquete, Panama & Shasta Valley, CA.

Our 4th group, came from “The Global Citizen Project”.  Focused on childcare, fund-raising,  & smokeless stoves; this group of women came with a mission!  Follow the rest of Charyn’s mission here.

The Global Citizen Project


We’ve also been blessed by some incredible individuals volunteering with us this year.  One just left, and he’s already coming back in April… see you soon Dave!

Volunteer, Dave Bandes, helping deliver 7 new tanks for clean water!

Now, a little snapshot of some projects…

E. Lee Robinson Medical Clinic:

Many of you are aware that we are building a medical clinic for the Casa Hogar Trisker Children’s Home in Boquete, Panama.  We have had a few delays due to requests for additional permits.  However, our staff is on it & will have every detail in order quickly.  We have chosen to dedicate this facility to the Robinson family of Hillsboro, OR.  In Memory of E. Lee Robinson  (see why here).

21 New Rainwater Catchment Systems:

How do you change the lives of more than 600 people for the next 10-15 years at an average cost of just over $1/person/year?  We thought of one way… deliver & install rainwater catchment systems for indigenous families throughout the Bocas del Toro Region of Panama…  got your interest perked & your toes wet?  then dive in for more (here).

Smokeless Stoves:

Volunteers & supporting organizations have been working hard.  With new commercial stoves made for the Salt Creek School on Isla Bastimentos, & a demonstration for Peace Corps Volunteers in the Bocas del Toro Islands has led to many new request for residential molds & commercial stoves for more schools.  Looks like its going to be a busy year for stove volunteers.  A few benefits of using the smokeless stove: stoves consume smoke before it is released in secondary combustion, burning smokeless reduces respiratory issues for women & children, concentrated heat cooks faster, the thickness of the stove walls reduces the risk of burns, efficiency of fire uses less wood, less wood = reduction in de-forestation, the list could go on.

Smokeless Stove from Contextual Solutions, (Africa Prototype)

Books from Ben:

How do you get a child excited about reading?  In the Bocas del Toro region, you just give them a book.  This project distributes & establishes small libraries throughout indigenous villages in the Bocas del Toro islands.  Want to know more… then you’ll have to read more  (here)!


Building & Strengthening Relationships:

We have focused on & will continue to, “Prove ourselves, not to sell ourselves.” With new partnerships with the College of Saint Rose, Students without Borders Academy, multiple Rotary clubs, numerous Peace Corps volunteers, a new high school in Panama City, with others currently being cultivated… I’d say we are building a very strong foundation for the days ahead. Want to join “The Volunteer Revolution”?  We welcome all individuals, companies, organizations, & donors who share our fundamentals.

In the news:

Featured cover story for another local paper, The Bocas Breeze  (read more).

The Bocas Breeze Cover Photo


A recent email in response to the water project in coordination with Rotary, Contextual Solutions, & the Peace Corps that we just had to share with the world… “I have been involved with a lot of NGO’s
over the years and one of my great sadnesses is the competition and
ego that I often see, that would make any level of collaboration an
impossibility.  This collaborative effort, however, has brought hope
and joy to my heart.  It took all parts of the puzzle of course, but
TVR’s involvement was central and critical.  TVR’s willingness to do
whatever it took to see this project through has been tireless.  The
attention to the details and behind the scene work has made this
project seamless. .. The commitment and dedication has been
exemplary.  Without the attention to detail, and dedication
to all aspects of this project, this would not have been the success
that we all are sharing in.  A job very well done indeed.”

Since I moved to Panama full-time over a year & half ago, I’ve had many goals, many dreams, & many focus’.  It is without a doubt that I recently experienced ALL of these in one collaborative project between TVR, the Rotary Club of Boquete, the Shasta Valley Rotary Club, Contextual Solutions,the Students Without Borders Academy, & the Peace Corps.  That’s 5+ organizations working together on 1 project in solidarity!

Project wise, we have supported many initiatives; childcare, education, conservation, disaster response, construction, medical, logistics, etc.  But, this recent project has really forced me to appreciate life’s most basic necessity… H2O.  Water, clean drinkable water.   Personally, I have always enjoyed water… in the form of long, hot showers.  But I have not enjoyed it with the respect & appreciation that it truly deserves.

Splish, Splash!

Very few times in my life have I been out of reach of clean drinking water.  There have been even fewer times in my life that have I turned on a faucet & not had a free-flowing nearly endless supply of water, clean water. The focus of this particular project was to provide access to clean drinking water for those without in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago.  These Caribbean Islands are home to many indigenous communities, communities caught in time.  Around them they see the effects of tourism… the main island of Colon is home to many hotels, restaurants & businesses.  Yet, even here the water isn’t safe to drink.  Bottled water is a must for tourist visiting, but a luxury for the indigenous communities who still call these islands home.  Many of whom earn @ $20/week. Equipped with an $11,700 grant from Rotary, we began purchasing water tanks.  You see, in this particular region fresh, clean water falls from the sky in abundance.  So, why not harvest it!

Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.*

*Number estimated from statistics in the 2006 United Nations Human Development Report.

Harvesting an abundance of rainwater, turns out to be quite simple.  We worked with Contextual Solutions to design simple catchment systems.  A very basic gutter (in our case, 4″ pvc pipe split down one side & slid onto an existing metal roof), this is then connected to a downspout equipped with a simple gravity filter.   Take a look!

Rain Catchment desing by Contextual Solutions (

Since January, we have delivered 18 water tanks!  We have 3 more getting ready for delivery & another 2 sponsored just yesterday!  This grant from Rotary allowed for 21 new water systems, benefiting more than 600 people in indigenous communities.  That’s just $20/per person total for a project estimated for 10-15 years!  That’s an average of the cost of a bottle of water a year for most of us…

One of the things I have enjoyed most about this project is the sound of the rain… before when I listened to the rain, it meant to stay in bed a little longer.  Now it means that children are getting clean water & living healthier lives.   In the words/lip singing lyrics of Milli Vanilli, we can all  “blame it on the rain”! (watch the video)

I will let the pictures tell the rest…

The mission is to provide safe water for children & their families

46′ dugout canoe for tank transport

Tanks being delivered to the community of Buena Esperanza

Tank foundations being distributed to individual sites…

600 gallon tank on its way into the jungle…

Lots of materials & lots of community help in Rio Oeste Arriba!

Lesson of the day, work smarter, not harder…

Those who will benefit the most, were the most eager to help on Popa II

Let the good times & construction begin…

Jerry from the Boquete Rotary Club preparing a new gutter with a little help.

Who is holding the ladder?!

Rotary Clubs of Boquete & Shasta Valley, CA working together to finish the 5th system of the day!

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

GHA volunteer, David Arias, enjoying the benefits of a recent rain shower!

Peace Corps Volunteer, Michelle providing education on the importance & the maintenance of these water systems.

Unsafe water is a thing of the past for the communities we have reached thus far! Help us reach more…

These girls have something to really smile about! (25 persons share the home of the most recent water system installation.)

This project was started by the late Ron Nystrom.  A very special thanks to him for the vision to provide clean water for the most vulnerable.

Special Thanks:

Cynde Nystrom

Rotary Club of Boquete

Shasta Valley Rotary Club

Contextual Solutions

Students without Borders Academy

TVR Volunteers

Peace Corps Volunteers


n. A union of interests, purposes, or sympathies among members of a group; fellowship of responsibilities and interests.  (

I met Sebastián Zulueta about a year ago, the Executive Director for America Solidaria, an organization based out of Santiago, Chile.  It was he who truly helped me understand the meaning of the word.
GHA has had the incredible experience of realizing the benefits of working in solidarity the past few months.  We joined forces on a water project that exemplified it’s meaning.  This project was the combined efforts of;  the Boquete Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Shasta Valley, Contextual Solutions, GHA, & the Peace Corps.  It was supported by the Students without Borders Academy & local volunteers.
You see, no fewer than 5 organizations worked together to achieve incredible results in record time.
Rotary Club of Boquete – Host club
Shasta Valley Rotary – Funding
Contextual Solutions – Site Evaluation & System Design
Peace Corps – Community Presence, Education, & ongoing support
Global Humanitarian Adventures – Purchasing, Logistics, Follow up, & Volunteers
Student Without Borders Academy – Volunteers
Each organization joined into a union of purpose; a fellowship of responsibilities.  Sound familiar, it should.  It’s the definition of solidarity!

One of my greatest frustrations has been groups or organizations that view their work as some sort of competition.  For those individuals/organizations, I say “join a softball league.”  Remove your egos from the job you’ve been blessed with & the responsibility you’ve been given to serve your neighbor.  There is no room for you in the field that we’re working in.

To say that this project was seamless may be a slight exaggeration, and to say that it was extremely efficient & effective would be an understatement.  5 organizations joined forces & focused on each org’s strengths & responsibilities.   While one organization focused on the finances, another was able to focus on design, while another focused on staging, & yet another focused on the sustainability of the project.  Being able to focus on our individual strengths, strengthened the group.

21 rainwater catchment systems providing access to clean water for more than 600 indigenous in 6 different communities!


SOLIDARITY: ... a union of purpose; a fellowship of responsibilities...

Books from Ben

“Books from Ben”, is a project dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Seth Pickett.  Ben was the kind of person who took time for kids, time for adventure, and time for those that most of us avoid.  He had a gift that made other’s lives better.  We hope to perpetuate this spirit with our “Books for Ben” project.  This project currently supports small libraries in indigenous communities throughout the Bocas del Toro Islands, in coordination with the “One Library at a Time” organization.

Library for the Community of Salt Creek

Each library kit is made up of roughly 100 books, a locking book case, & training provided by “One library at a Time”.

There are 2 ways to support these projects, you can purchase books from a “Wish List” which are then shipped to “One Library at a Time” & brought to Panama, or you can contribute financially to help cover the expenses of the bookcases, transport, etc.

For the Wish List – (click here)


Setting off to our water catchment project in Salt Creek on a cayuka

Check out our lastest adventures in Bocas del Toro

What do these all have in common?  Well, they are pieces of one of Global Humanitarian Adventures‘ projects, “Tread 4 Knowledge”.

A little background is needed, I know.  There is an indigenous village on Isla Colon in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago of Panama.  The island is highly developed as a whole, but a visit to this village will take you back in time.

There are actually 3 villages here, right in a row.  They are pinned in between the airport’s only runway & the sea.  There houses are on stilts to avoid the wet conditions & a trip to the store includes watching for planes landing as they run across the runway…

How did we end up here?  There are some local residents who have been spending time with the children of the village, teaching them English & basic conservation.  We took a group to assist with teaching, but when we asked how we could help the only grandmother in the entire village spoke up.  She asked for a walkway, a way to get in & out of the village without sinking in the muck & mud of this tropical environment.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how much easier life would be with a simple way for children to get to school, for the adults to get to work or to market.  So, we took on the challenge.

Our group when on a scavenger hunt for materials & quickly found a pile of old lumber.  They found a truck, loaded it up & dropped it off near the airport.  Then, the fun part!  Carrying all this material across an active runway… the joke/reality was to look both ways & up…

After delivering what we had, it was time for lunch.  We walked over to the beach, rinsed off & sat down for a typical lunch – rice, beans & chicken.

Afterwards, a few headed back to the beach to play soccer with the local kids & others headed back to the village.  That’s when we witnessed the most amazing sight.  The pile of materials we had left, had already been put to use by some of the village men.  While we were at lunch, they had utilized everything & built a 75′ section in the time that we had lunch!

We took advantage of the new section, entered the village & continued with our original plan of teaching English.  Our group of UNCW student volunteers were AMAZING!  They dove in, took on the challenge head on.  The rest of the afternoon, we worked with the children, shared pictures with them, donated school supplies & even played with some of the baby chickens that were running around.

DONATE $20 Today to HELP us finish the walkway!