PCPF Awards Grant
PCPF is proud to support PCV Julianne with her rainwater collection project! This project addresses the need for increased access to potable water through building household rainwater catchment tanks, hand augered wells, and improved water storage containers. Community members currently rely on water from the river or from shallow, unprotected holes in the ground (pozos). The river is contaminated by human and animal waste, gasoline from boats, and from people washing clothes and dishes. The pozos are open to contamination by animals and river water during flooding events. SUERTE JULIANNE!
BUD KEITH FUND ASSISTS BUDDING JOURNALIST
PCPF’s Bud Keith Scholarship Fund for the Blind began financial aid to Estefania Cubillos in 2016 when she was a journalism student at the University of Panama. She graduated in April but had no job offer.
To improve her job prospects, we paid her a stipend while she took a three-month internship with Capital Financiero, a print, e-newsletter, and web news organization in Panama City. You can see 14 of her stories by typing “Cubillos” in the search box at https://elcapitalfinanciero.com/ . We also paid for the Patronato staff to support her, ensuring that she was able to get to work, installing assistive software on her computer, and labeling devices in Braille. The internship ended in early July.
As soon as the internship ended, Estefania was off to Eugene, Oregon, for the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), a program of Mobility International USA (MIUSA). MIUSA describes the three-week program as follows: “WILD women will move forward in their personal and professional roles as community, national and world leaders. Through a series of intensive seminars and site visits, delegates will focus on using the media, implementing policy and legislation, networking with international allies, and improving employment and educational opportunities. Delegates will also participate in team building activities such as an outdoor challenge course and river rafting, and learn about U.S. culture by staying with local families.” See https://www.miusa.org/event/2019/wild for more. The photo above shows Estefania in Eugene with her host family. Most of the expenses were paid by the organizers, but the Bud Keith Fund paid for a few incidental expenses, like getting her visa to go to the US.
In early August, Estefania will return to Panama, still with no job. She’s from Colombia, so she may not be able to remain in Panama (where her mother now lives) now that she no longer qualifies for student visa. Stay tuned to see how this story turns out.
To learn more about the work of the Bud Keith Fund, or to donate, click here.
News From Panama
Mariano in the Hall of Fame
Retired Panamanian major-league baseball player, Mariano Rivera, was inaugurated into the Baseball Hall of Fame this last month, after his famous career with the New York Yankees. Mariano is the last player to use the jersey number 42, the same number as baseball icon Jackie Robinson, which has now been retired from use. Read more about this historic moment for Panama
Immigration Law Passed in Panama
The immigration bill proposed by Vice-President of the National Assembly, Zulay Rodriguez, was passed unanimously by the Committee of the National Assembly. The bill seeks to regulate the influx of immigrants into Panama. Read more about the proposal here
Ranchers report illegal Hunting of Monkeys in Los Santos
Cattle Ranchers near the Canajagua mountain range in the province of Los Santos have called attention to what they believe to be the illegal hunting of monkeys, by reporting incidents to MiAmbiente, the environmental authority. Monkeys in the region have already faced threats due to development in the area. Read more at La Prensa
Y el Cartucho?
Panama’s plastic bag ban has gone into effect. Panama became the first Central American country to ban single-use plastic bags in 2018. As of July 20th, retailers, supermarkets, and pharmacies can no longer use polyethylene bags. Read all about it here
Peace Corps Panama Updates
Congratulations to G81 as they finalize their two years of Peace Corps Service!
Join the Peace Corps Panama family as they celebrate the swearing in of the latest SAS and WASH volunteers from G85 this coming August 14th at 9:30a.m. (Panama time). You can view the ceremony via Facebook Live. Stay tuned to the Peace Corps Panama Facebook page below and follow the link shared that day.
Keep up with the latest from Peace Corps Panama through their social media accounts:
RPCV Spotlight: Free Spirit Finds Perfect Green Place
by Cat Fabiano Ibarra
“I don’t think I’ll ever study again.” In December of 2008, I must have uttered these words to multiple individuals after having completed my undergraduate thesis, and narrowly managing to secure a passing grade in my statistics course, a dreaded requirement of my degree program. I had stood on the lawn of Sonoma State University’s campus in northern California that last May, as my long hippie hair got soaked by a downpour of rain. I was that kind of free spirit. As much pride as I felt in arriving at this stage of my academic career, I had no desire to attempt anything past that degree. Little did I know that a decade later, I would find myself on the lawn of the Griswold Library at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, accepting an MS degree in Environmental Studies, and overcome with bittersweet emotion as the institution closed its doors. Ironically, this was also the first time that I had ever set foot on the Green Mountain College Campus.
In January of 2009, I received my invitation to serve in Panama as a member of G63’s Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) cohort. Like most, I found my service transformative, and finished it with the common sentiment of, “I’m certain if I can do that, I can do anything”. Although unlike most RPCVs, my readjustment to life in the US never happened. After a month off to reassure my family that I was not crazy, I came back to Panama to complete a third year as a Peace Corps Response volunteer. A third year turned into a fourth, as I transitioned to a position at the Peace Corps Office.
After 7 years in country, that initial burnout from my undergraduate studies cooled, and then a new fire ignited. I would dare to continue with higher education in pursuit of a master’s degree. I had started to warm up to the idea after my initial Peace Corps Service, when the feeling of infinite possibilities surged through my RPCV confidence bubble. Yet there were always doubts standing in my way. What would I study if I’m not 100% sure of my future career path? Would I need to take a GRE? Would an online program be possible for me residing in Panama? And (perhaps the most important) how would I pay for this on a Panamanian local salary?
In 2016, I reached out to Green Mountain College (GMC), one of the country’s leading environmental schools, to consult their admissions office on their MS in Environmental Studies online program. It seemed to unite two potential career paths that I might take, Environmental Education and Community Conservation, and thus seemed to line up with my “free spirited” future plans, which involved not having concrete plans. Upon mentioning that I had experience volunteering and working with Peace Corps, their response was “Oh, then stay tuned to our University news page. You’ll like the announcement that’s coming out soon.” I would later read that GMC had signed an agreement with Peace Corps to adopt the Coverdell Fellowship as a financial aid option for RPCV masters students. This offered me half-off the course tuition, which made studying possible for me earning a Panamanian salary. To add to my excitement, the program prided itself on allowing students to focus their studies on their particular bio-region, thus making their coursework relevant to their professions and local environments. I was sold.
The coursework was illuminating and challenging. In spite of the online format, professors fostered a closeness within our cohorts, and I formed online friendships with classmates that I still cherish post-graduation. Additionally, the focus on our local bio-regional issues kept the material close to home, and gave me new insights into Panama as my bio-region. I conducted my final capstone research on Panama's land tenure regimes and their connection with legal mechanisms for conservation. There were many personal hurdles to overcome while completing my program, including negotiating my thesis proposal the morning of my wedding, managing late-night readings while in my first (exhausting) trimester of pregnancy, and finding the will to finish my last courses and thesis writing with a demanding newborn at home. All while working full time. Nevertheless, my Peace Corps Service reminded me that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and while the level of work well-surpassed the proverbial beating I underwent during my final year of undergraduate studies, the pride in the outcome was so much greater.
In January of 2019, with only my thesis-writing remaining, I received the news that GMC would close its doors due to low enrollment following May’s commencement ceremony. It then became my mission to finish my degree and attend the final graduation, as a way to bring this stage of life to a close. With my family beside me, my cohort and I processed through town led by bagpipes, sang songs of gratitude to mother earth, braided dandelions into our hair, and shared gratitude over our connections made through 'This Green Place', the affectionate nickname given to the region.
I am forever honored to have been a small part of GMC's history, and grateful to the Coverdell program for allowing me to do so.
Cat Fabiano Ibarra
Peace Corps 40 Under 40
The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is excited to celebrate some of the younger members within the Peace Corps community!
Peace Corps 40 Under 40 is an opportunity to highlight the achievements of future leaders who exemplify the values of the Peace Corps mission. Honorees will be selected based on their professional accomplishments, commitment to Peace Corps values, and community contributions.
To nominate someone from the Peace Corps community who has made outstanding contributions to their field and community visit the NPCA 40 Under 40 page.
Third Goal Activities
Do you continue to be involved in projects in Panama? Are you sharing your Peace Corps experience with other? We would love to feature you in the RPCV spotlight! Please fill out this this Google Form and let us know about the wonderful work you are doing.
Looking for RPCV Career Support?
Check out the PC Headquarters Career Center online or in person to help support you in finding your perfect career path post-service. Check out their web resources here .
Considering Grad School?
As RPCVs we are eligible for life to apply for grad school financial support through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship. Find out more about participating universities and their respective programs here .