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February 2019 El Bochinche

Queriods PCPF Members

Whether you believe that el amor es una magia or that el amor es como los buses de ruta, que pasa y pasa y pasa (I think Sandra was fresh from a break up when she wrote those words) love is in the air! Last month we asked you to share your Panama love story with us and we received some beautiful, and sometimes funny, ones (who knew leishmaniasis could bring people together?!). You can check them all out below.

Although I did not meet my partner in Panama, we had been friends for years, it was my time there that made me look at him in a different light. Panama caused a lot of (much needed) personal growth and made me into the woman I needed to be to appreciate a good man like Tim. I knew he was special when I shared a story that involved me, a latrine, and a rat and all he did was laugh, no judgement. Six years later we still like each other and I cannot wait to take him to San Andres so he can meet the people I can't stop talking about.

In this issue of el Bo we update you on the Pope's visit to Panama, celebrate love, and highlight the important immigration law work done at the U.S.- Mexico by one of our own.

Feliz día de San Valentín!


PCPF Updates

PCPF NEEDS YOU! 2019 Elections

We are looking for enthusiastic, creative, and passionate candidates to help take PCPF to the next level. Whether you have years of experience or are looking to gain experience, you can be an asset to our organization.

All Executive Board positions are open starting February 2019. Learn more about what being a Board member entails and please submit your application using the Election Form.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at We are happy to chat and give you more information about the positions.

Amazon Smile- Show PCPF Some Love

Will you be buying a special gift for your significant other on Amazon this Valentine's Day? Please consider doing so by shopping through PCPF's link! This does not cost anything extra to you nor does it impact the items that you can purchase. Amazon will donate 0.5% of your total purchase to PCPF.

News From Panama

World Youth Conference un éxito total

This biggest news by far this last month was the culmination of several years of waiting for Panama to host the World Youth Conference. On January 23rd, Pope Francis graced Panama with his presence, referring to the country as a "noble nation". For both Catholics and non-Catholics, the event brought national pride as over 200,000 people flocked to Panama to participate. View photos of this historic event here.

Feria de Boquete 

Many RPCVs have fond memories of the Feria de Boquete and this year's festivities were no exception to the fun. View photos from this year's Feria de las Flores y del Café de Boquete here

Peace Corps Panama Updates

Lessons from Site

Wondering what's on the minds of PCVs today? Group 83 SAS and WASH volunteers share what they've learned in site during their recent IST on the Peace Corps Panama Facebook page:

Also follow current volunteers and staff through their beautiful photography and stories on instagram:

Que Viva El Amor

Thank you to all of you who shared your love story with us! There is nothing more beautiful then to see how Panama has brought so much joy in your lives.

"I met my Panamanian wife right up the road from my community in Coclé. She snuck up on me with her English fluency and love for Latin American metal music, a rarity among Panameños. We now live stateside, but found love in nuestro Panamá. We've been together for 4 years and married for 1.5 years"

-- Adrian Gabriel Fontes Bessonart, G74

From left to right:

"Harold and I met at the Thanksgiving gathering in 2009, Lee Espey told him he had to meet a fellow Carolinian, but it took me getting lost with his host brother on the Kusapin peninsula 3 months later for me to give him a chance. We got engaged in front of the presidential palace a year later and have been married for seven years. I'll always be grateful to Panama for connecting me with mi media naranja."

-- Joanna Whitaker, G61

"Been married to my Embera husband for 11 years this month <3"

-- Kersten Appler Cunampio, G51

"Meet in Aug 2007 in Santa Fe Veraguas- (Santiago native) married now for almost 8 years and 3 kids later!!!"

-- Valerie Tripicchio Saturno, G61

"Married seven years last Friday, together for nine! I was the last person I thought would end up with a local— love always finds you when you’re not looking, right? "

-- Juliette Muracchioli, G61

"Met my wife Janeth in 2008 in Boquete just after finishing my service, married in 2009 and still living in Boquete. Three kids, three dogs, and three cats. Lovin life in Panama."

-- Uriah Reisman, G54

"Met my husband Octavio in Colon in 2002. About 6 months before COS we realized that we had to decide to either get married or break up (engagements are so romantic with the US State Dept involved). And here we are, 14 Minnesota winters and 2 kids later!"

-- Mary Chung, PCV 2002-2204

"I met my husband Jorge when I was translating in Santa Fe, Darien for some doctors down from the US doing cataract surgeries, and he'd just started that day as director of the Centro de Salud. I ended up having to ET a year in for a bunch of reasons, but stayed in Panama City itself two more years to live with, and eventually marry, him. We've been married for almost 9 years, and have moved from Rio Abajo, PTY to Chicago to LA to now Amsterdam! No kids, but a bomb golden retriever named Rufio. "

-- Melissa Jaen, G60

"In 2007, half way through my service in Bocas, I got leishmaniasis and got treatment in Panama City. My nurse at the time became my wife 3 years later. Now we live in WI with our two girls. My wife says that leishmaniasis was the best thing to ever happen to me!"

-- Brandon Braithwaite, G58

"Met Jossmar in 2009 at a community matanza my second day in site (Río de Jesús, Veraguas). Married since 2013. Now we wear matching messy buns! "

-- Anna McMurray, G63

"I met my husband in 2005 at a Panama vs Costa Rica soccer game in the capital. I lived 16 hours from there and seriously didn’t think we’d ever see each other again. Now we have been married for 10 years and have two Pana-gringo kiddos and 1 Dominican 🐈."

-- Tess de los Rios

"I met Isaias in 2009 as a SAS volunteer. Nine years together, 6 years married, 11 countries explored, and one adorable furbaby later - we wouldn't change a thing!"

-- Kalli Bermingham, G61

"Derek and I met during staging and started dating during training. Almost hitting 5 years ❤" -- Chelsea Segal, G74

"Twenty years ago I met the love of my life at the feria de Ocu. It was love at first sight we have been married for 15 years with two beautiful boys."

-- Jason Cochran, PCV 1997-2000

RPCV Spotlight: With Perseverance for Justice

by: Natalie Petrucci

I served in Peace Corps Panama in the CEC sector in El Cedro, Herrera from 2011-2013 with Group 68. I am currently a Children’s Program Staff Attorney at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network in the Denver, Colorado metro area.

With the support of many friends and colleagues, several of whom are RPCVs, I recently embarked on a legal services volunteering trip to the US-Mexico border in order to support the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (“ProBAR”) Children’s Team in their efforts to find legal representation for detained unaccompanied children. Due to their location near the border, many of the people detained in southeast Texas are Central American asylum seekers, including many children who arrived at the border alone (aka “unaccompanied children”).

In this area of Texas alone there are approximately 4000 immigrant youth in detention. Youth, like adults in deportation proceedings, have no right to court-appointed legal counsel. Thus, they are expected to navigate the legal system on their own. The purpose of our trip was to support the ProBAR Children’s team in conducting legal intakes for as many detained children as possible to both assess the strength of their legal cases against deportation and assist them in finding a pro bono lawyer in their intended destination.

Even though I do similar work at my organization, the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, I don’t work with any children in detention. This is because there are no child detention facilities in Colorado. It dawned on me that I was the first non-government actor each child had spoken to since arriving to the United States over a month ago. With each young person, I needed to establish trust right away and explain my role as an attorney. I needed to ask about highly sensitive topics, all the while translating what I heard back to English and typing those words into an electronic form as unobtrusively as possible.

The rapid-fire training and flexibility required of volunteers was truly Peace Corps-esque.

Here are a few non-legal highlights from my intakes:

  • Many children traveled from their home country through several countries, always including Mexico, completely alone. These children relied on strangers and tried to stay out of danger along a very treacherous route. Many saw or heard things that frightened them on their journey, like attempted robberies or gunshots close by.  The fact that they arrived safely is, to me, a miracle.

  • A great number of children were hoping to reunite with a parent in the U.S. sometimes the only available caretaker after a grandparent or other parent had died.

  • Some of the scariest stories I heard from the group I interviewed occurred once the child had arrived in the U.S. Two children provided violent accounts of abuses by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. One incident involved brutal mistreatment, including verbal abuse, withholding of water, food and sanitation, and putting a child in physical restraints that made him “feel like [his] bones were breaking.” These kids agreed to tell their stories under penalty of perjury and I assisted them to write affidavits that will hopefully be used to hold CBP accountable. This ruthless brutality made my blood boil, but reminded me that these kids are incredibly strong.

It is hard not to feel deeply for these kids. I commonly heard children express their eagerness to study, work, and become someone important, “to move forward in life” (or, in Panamanian Spanish, “echar pa’ lante”). Sadly, many have an uphill battle ahead.

If you want to learn more about the ProBar Children's Project or are interested in how you can help please visit ProBar Children's Project, La Posada Providencia, and the Dilley Pro Bono Project.

It is with a feeling of gratitude and inspiration that I close this update.

With perseverance for justice,

Natalie Petrucci


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 .


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