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An Amazing Weekend

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 One of the many beautiful places we were able to explore in Boquete! When we work hard all week, we reward ourselves with this!


Here is the photographic journey of a past volunteer expedition to the Indigenous Community of Salt Creek, Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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

Samantha Kolb, Karen Pontious, and Megan VanderZwaag from Students Without Borders Academy arrived in Panama with over an incredible $2,500 in fundraising!!! We are very gracious and humbled by their time and energy spent raising money for a community they had never met.

“Sam, Karen and I organized a couple lunches at school and sold it to the students and teachers. But the majority of the funds came from donations from members of our community.

Volunteering at the orphanage was a very interesting experience. I really enjoyed it, but it was also quite sad to see the conditions that these children were living in. I’m so happy that we chose to support the orphanage!

Volunteering and spending time with the Dead Wheat Foundation was absolutely amazing!! I know my whole class felt quite inspired by them and what they are doing to serve the world. One of my highlights of the trip was volunteering with them at Salt Creek. I think the experience I had at Salt Creek really opened my eyes to the realities that so many people live in.

My experience in Panama was way better then what I could’ve ever imagined! Some things were expected, but everyday there was something new to experience.

In the beginning of September, when our class first came together, we embraced the motto “it’s not about you”. At that time, I think a lot of us thought we understood what this meant, but to actually live it out is a completely different story. Throughout the semester of school, our understanding of this concept began to grow, but it wasn’t until we came to Panama that it became so much more relevant.  We are so spoiled here in Canada. Without realizing it, our whole lives usually tend to resolve around ourselves and our needs. Being in a different culture, where a complete stranger will stop what they are doing and help you out, really set an example of how we all should be living our lives. By living a humble life you are able to care so much more for the people around you and the rest of the world.” – Megan VanderZwaag

“Volunteering is one of my favorite things to do and being a part of this experience meant a lot to me. I never thought I would feel so connected to the people and the environment. This opportunity has motivated me to continue to volunteer in greater aspects of my life.  I learned to not get caught up in my own world. Being a part of something more than just your own surroundings is really the key to living a fulfilling life. I LOVED PANAMA and I loved working with you guys. Thank you SOO much for the opportunity!” – Karen Pontious


This month we would like to give special recognition to Tyler Young for his passion, efforts, and dedication. Tyler was part of the Students Without Borders Academy from Canada that traveled to Panama to install 3 water catchment systems in the indigenous region at Salt Creek on Bastimentos Island in Bocas del Toro, work with Dead Wheat Foundation, and run a day camp at the local orphanage.  He was always ready to get his feet wet and hands dirty with whatever task was given to him.  He also helped keep the group motivated and in good spirits with his revitalizing guitar playing.
“I came to panama with a student group called students without boarders Academy based out of my home town Vernon British Colombia Canada. I applied to go on this trip because it was better than having school and having the experience of traveling is something that I would like to have. As part of our trip, Dave Fehr our teacher was recommended to Robb Pickett who runs Global Humanitarian Adventures, and who created our schedule and ultimately brought us to volunteer island.
Also as part of our course we were told to create a project to somehow better our community either locally or globally. It took me a lot of searching to find what I was going to base my project on. I knew I wanted to blend my passion for music with this project but did not know how. I realized that in our house we had many instruments, and a few that were never played and more of ornamental pieces than functional instruments. I got our two classical guitars and fixed them up to be well playing instruments, then I went down to a local music shop and asked if they would be willing to support me in this, they provided me with 2 hard shell cases to protect the guitars and also with a good discount when buying noise makers to give as well. The other problem I had was shipping the guitars down because many airlines want extra money to ship over sized luggage, I went to our local curling club and asked for bottles to pay for the shipping and raised enough to ship them down.
This achievement is one that I would like to see happen again and again to support musicians who may not have access to quality instruments to perform their art. My time in panama brought me to meet some excellent musicians and also people thrilled to hear a guitar played. It affected how I play and gave me a lesson that has recently been reinforced by some world class musicians, to listen more than you play with others so that you build off each other. This lesson is really a way of living in harmony with your surroundings that if you listen and build off those around you, you start to be less of a consumer and become a participant in something larger than yourself without trying to steal the spotlight.
My time is Panama will always stick with me, and God willing will return some day.” – Tyler Young
Many thanks to you, Tyler, for taking the lead and serving the community.
For information on how you too can become involved in a Global Humanitarian Adventure, visit us online at