Archive for the ‘Volunteer Island’ Category

Isla Popa II, June 27, 2011

Boquete Rotary Club

Panama

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.

Sincerely,

Kate Douglass, Peace Corps 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

Gratitude:

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 (www.DeadWheat.com)

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

Solidarity:

n. A union of interests, purposes, or sympathies among members of a group; fellowship of responsibilities and interests.  (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_in_solidarity_mean)

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)

 

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