Archive for the ‘Health/Medical’ Category

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.”

The Casa Hogar Selma & Herbert Trisker Children’s Home of Boquete, Panama

Construction begins soon!

I first met Randy Robinson on a dock in Maui.  He had hired the boat I was crewing for a whale watching tour, he was wearing a pink shirt, a straw hat, and had @ 10 of his staff members with him.  This was  a company trip for Robinson Construction & the boys were definitely in vacation mode.  I remembering thinking, “oh no, not already…  it’s only 8:30 in the morning…”

However, I was rapidly recruited to join in the festivities & treated like family, literally.  When members of the company asked Randy who I was, he would reply “oh that’s my son, he just flew in from college”.  In true Robinson fashion, I was offered a job before the weekend even ended!

Fast forward a few months & I land at the Portland Intl. Airport courtesy of a ticket purchased by Randy.  A few days later, I traveled with Randy to one of his job sites, & on the way he said “what do you want to do?” (apparently this was my job interview).

Fast forward a few more months & I’m driving a H2 Hummer & managing Randy’s 800 acre ranch in Central Oregon… Not a bad gig!

Fast forward a few more months & I’m sitting at lunch with Randy & he says “I’ve been thinking… we have the ranch, we have boats, we have hunting, we have the equipment… why don’t you really run it as a Sportsman’s Lodge… I wouldn’t need to make anything off of it, just use my stuff & make a business for yourself…”

You see Randy has this uncanny habit of giving people opportunities & seeing what they will do with them.  He’ll open the door (or, in some cases just knock it down) & then see how you walk through it.

I had been wanting to tell Randy about my idea, but hadn’t had the right opportunity.  So, sitting at lunch with an incredible offer just sitting on the table, I began to define what I had been thinking & working on in my spare time, I told Randy about my Volunteer Revolution project.  I could see his wheels turning & after a few moments he responded, “that seems like a pretty cool idea Cpt. Ron (the nickname given to me that early morning in Maui), we’ll support you however we can.”

Family Robinson

From that day forward, Randy would ask how things were going (perhaps, watching to see how I would walk through the door).  Randy & his family not only opened doors for me, they opened their business, their lives & their homes.  They provided me with vehicles, a paycheck, & some of the most incredible weekend trips ever.  From road-trips in the RV to football games, to flying in the helicopter over Central Oregon, to taking a jet boat up the Snake River, to weekends at the lake house, enjoying their corporate box at the Trailblazers games, cruising in the company yacht during the holidays, setting up hunting camps, & listening to Johnny Cash’s “Burning Ring of Fire” on repeat… (listen for yourself) There was one weekend trip that I was fortunate enough NOT to go on… It ended with a voice-mail from Randy, “Cpt. Ron, I’m going to need you to go bail Bob out of jail… stop by office in the morning, I’ll have money for you & Carleen will have your plane ticket.”

Needless to say, my first impression of the guy in the pink shirt & straw hat was pretty much on track.  I just failed to realize how much he would impact my life.

I’ve had some amazing adventures with the Robinson Construction family, but what I value the most are the lessons I learned from watching Randy.

*Open doors for everyone, but let them choose whether or not to walk through them

*Play hard, but WORK harder

*There are no problems, only opportunities to excel

*Respect the intelligence & potential of youth

So, it is with great enthusiasm that we will be dedicating the medical clinic at the Casa Hogar Selma & Herbert Trisker Children’s Home of Boquete, Panama in HONOR of the Robinson Family & MEMORY of Randy’s father, E. Lee Robinson.  In the Robinson spirit, we will open the doors of the medical clinic & provide an opportunity for better health for the children of Casa Hogar Trisker.

E. Lee Robinson (pictured left) Randy Robinson (pictured right)


Randy, from myself, staff, volunteers, & donors THANK YOU for opening doors.  The opportunities you have provided are being & will continue to be realized by countless communities both here in Panama & around the world.


d. robert pickett

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

Building blocks for a healthier future!

Students were recently quoted after volunteering with GHA.  The Students without Borders Academy focused their time with GHA working with a smokeless stove project from Contextual Solutions, rain catchment systems for the indigenous community of Salt Creek in the Bocas del Toro Islands, and supporting a medical clinic being constructed for the Casa Hogar Trisker Children’s Home.

I think it’s safe to say that they are already planning their return GHA Experience!

smokeless stove from Contextual Solutions

“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

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

Check out our lastest adventures in Bocas del Toro

It’s been an incredible few weeks… from unveiling our donation of a medical clinic to Casa Hogar Selma & Herbert Trisker to meeting with global organizations ready to help with all the other needs; staffing, nutrition, activities, mentoring, etc.  I begin to be overwhelmed with the progress & support coming in from around the globe.

But, that’s not what this entry is about.  This is about GRATITUDE!  You see, I met a young man last night on the way to dinner with friends/volunteers.  He approached us asking for food.  He could not actually say the words, he’s mute.  However, when someone is telling you they are hungry it doesn’t take much imagination to figure it out.  So,  I motioned for him to come with us.

We grabbed a table with one of our donors (Jim, Boquete Outdoor Adventures), an extra seat & placed our orders.

He enjoyed our antics, regardless of the fact that he couldn’t understand our English (later we realized he doesn’t even understand his native language, Spanish).  He sat with us, smiling & grinning ear to ear.  He’d burst into laughter at times, showing off his dimples.  He scarfed down a plate of chicken & fries, then a milkshake, then the rest of my sandwich & then the rest of the girls leftovers.  Men (of all ages) are pretty easy to please, just feed ’em!

After dinner I didn’t want to just leave him in the street, so we opted  try to figure out where he lived… if anywhere.  We made a brief stop at my house to gather a few things for him.

Communication as rudimentary as it was, had told  us 2 things.  He had been hungry & cold.  So, I gave him one of my most prized possessions – my snuggie.  If you don’t know what a snuggie is, sit back & pay attention.  It’s genius & a must for every home.  It’s a blanket with sleeves!  Some even have pockets on the chest for the television remote…  It was THE gift this year with my family.  I believe we counted nearly 47 that had purchased & given out between my grandma & 3 of my aunts.

In addition to the snuggie, we rounded up some clean clothes too.  I gave him a couple of shirts, a pair of pants, socks & a pair of tennis shoes that I never wear & barely did when I bought them.  MC & Allie pitched in more food & a couple of baseball caps (what every boy needs).

Soon we headed out to try to find his home & amazingly enough we found a dark, dilapidated place behind our office that he motioned to pull over at.  He then hugged us & squeezed his way through an old iron gate to disappear into the darkness.

He had been so gracious & had given us all a warm heart for the day.  Hard to tell whose lives were impacted more…

Now, just 24hrs. later we see him again.  This time he’s proudly wearing one of our GHA t-shirts, my old tennis shoes, a Durham Bulls baseball cap & a grin from ear to ear.  He can’t tell us Thank You, but his smile & hugs tell us all we need to know.

Why can’t we all be this grateful to those who make our lives better?  Our families, our friends, our girlfriends or boyfriends, our kids, or even our barista at Starbucks… We at least have the ability to vocalize our gratitude, yet often enough we don’t.  We let opportunities pass that could be feeding our souls.

Well, I won’t forget his grin or the way I felt seeing our gifts appreciated so greatly.

Tonight I took him to the store for sandwich stuff & a bar of soap.  Tomorrow, he has asked for a haircut.  All simple things that are making his life easier & enriching mine.

I’ve decided to do some homework & see if anyone knows him & to see if there is family around.  We’re going to take him to the doctor to see if anything can be done to help him speak.  If not, we will BOTH be learning sign language!

I’m going to take a buddy of mine, Luchini, over to the dark & overgrown property that I dropped him off at just an hour ago to see how we can improve his living conditions as well.  Luchini owns a couple of bars & hotels, & loves to HELP!

Our new friend’s “gratitude grin” is a reminder that it is so simple to change the world… for someone at some point.  Keep it simple & see the impact.  I may not be able to give him the ability to speak, but I can give him the ability to smile.  Tell someone how grateful you are for their impact on your life & see how they smile too.

See how many “gratitude grins” you can cause today & everyday.

I love you all, Thank You!


robb pickett