Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Isla Popa II, June 27, 2011

Boquete Rotary Club


Dear Boquete Rotary Club,

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer on Popa II Island in the province of Bocas del Toro.  This letter is in regards to the rainwater catchment system that was installed in the community-with much thanks to the Rotary Club’s support.

There are around 300 people living in the community of Isla Popa, some of which have rainwater catchment systems and some without.  Many of the homes suffer from lack of clean water, and so, when I was put in touch with D. Robert Pickett and The Volunteer Revolution, I was excited to find out they could put in a catchment system.

The rainwater catchment system is used, without a doubt, every day.  Your generosity has provided many homes with clean water.  I, along with the community, are truly grateful.

Thank you so much for supporting organizations such as The Volunteer Revolution and Peace Corps.  It is amazing what we can do together.


Kate Douglass, Peace Corps Panama


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.”

“Thanks, I was proud to be a part of what we accomplished.  Great teamwork and coordination, due in no small part because of the excellent detailed preparations GHA made.  Hope we can continue this partnership.

Jerry Hedrick

Member, Boquete Rotary Club

(following 17 recent water projects between the Shasta Valley Rotary Club, the Boquete Rotary Club, Contextual Solutions, Peace Corps Volunteers, and GHA)

Jerry's apprentice

TVR has reignited my passion for giving back to the community. To watch D. Robert inspire people to do good things is amazing and I am proud to be a small part of this great organization.”

-Chester Kroeger

Donor (& friend)

Nothing but smiles!