top of page

May 2019 El Bochinche

Queridos PCPF Members,

Two years ago we decided to make el Bochinche a monthly newsletter and I sat in front of my computer asking myself "What do our members want to know about?". Ever since, we have brought you the latest news from Panama, kept you up to date with all the groups that have served in PC Panama, and highlighted 24 amazing RPCVs and the wonderful work they do (one of my favorite parts). What a wonderful two years it has been! If you have any ideas of topics you would like to see featured in el Bo, please let us know.

In the next few months the PCPF board is focusing its efforts on organizing local RPCV reunions around the country, boosting fund raising efforts, and carrying out board elections. If you are interested in helping with any of these efforts let us know. We are always looking for creative and talented individuals to help PCPF grow.

In this issue of el Bo keep an eye out for neat events happening in the Washington D.C. area, celebrate the first PhD graduate from the Bud Keith Fund, and take a journey into your first day in site with RPCV Steve Spangler.



PCPF Updates

Giving Tuesday 2018

Remember last year when many of you gave generously to PCPF during Giving Tuesday?

Facebook has matched your $575 in donations for a total of $1,150 to support PCV projects in the field. Thank you so much to all of you! We are excited to continue supporting the important work volunteers carry out in the field and will continue to share their success stories with you. Mil Gracias!

Washington D.C. RPCV Event - Yoga on the Potomac

Mark your calendars DMV area RPCVs! Join us for a relaxing (and free) outdoor yoga event. Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility, enjoy the beautiful view of the Potomac, and spend time with friends. Friends and family are welcome to join! Learn more about the event here.

Location: The Plaza, National Harbor

Date: Saturday, May 18

Time: 10 AM - 11 AM (consider getting there a bit early to get a good spot)

Calling All Photographers

Do you have pictures from your service that are collecting dust and asking to be shared with the world? Help us help you :) We are looking for pictures to feature on PCPF's website and annual report. All photos will be credited to the owner. If you would like to help, please send your photos to

Board Elections

We are still 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 learn new skills, you can be an asset to our organization.

All Executive Board positions are open. 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.

News From Panama

Election Season is Underway

This coming Sunday, May 5th, Panama holds its elections for the upcoming administration. Follow the candidates and keep up to speed with the latest poll results here.

Metro Campeon!

This April, Panama Metro took home the trophy for Panama's Baseball final for the adult league, taking down Chiriqui in the final round. Read all about it here.

Peace Corps Panama Updates

Congratulations G84!

Peace Corps Panama recently celebrated the swearing in of G84's latest group of Teaching English, Leadership, and Life Skills (TELLS) and Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) volunteers. Want to catch footage of the event? Follow Peace Corps Panama via their social media sites:

RPCV Spotlight: My First Day in the Barriada

By Steve Spangler

I was a new Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama in 1964. I was assigned to the Barriada San José, a new community in Chiriquí Province at the western end of Panama, near Costa Rica. I flew in to the Chiriquí airport. It was directly across the road from the barriada where I was to live for the next two years.

When Peace Corps contacted the Panamanian government about stationing a volunteer in the Barriada, Diego Álvarez and his wife Camila offered to host me until I could find my own housing. Diego was one of the community leaders. He had been a star athlete in his youth and was well known and liked. He worked as a carpenter and general all-around construction hand. The Barriada was a new housing area and there was plenty of construction work for him. He provided a nice middle class living for his family.

Diego, like most people in the barriada, built his house in installments. When he had money, he would buy construction materials, such as concrete blocks, sand and cement, and then build the walls of an additional room on his house. Later, when he had more money, he would buy wood and tin roofing sheets, and then build a roof over the new room.

René and Juanito at the well.

On my first day in the Barriada, I met Diego, his wife Camila, and their four children. They had two boys, Juanito age 14, René age 6, and two girls, Maritza age 8 and Gracia age 4. When I met them, little René proudly told me that he was in the first grade and was learning to read. I worked hard in my new Spanish to converse with the family. I felt I was doing well.

Camila showed me around the house. They had three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a family room. There was a large covered veranda at the back of the house. I was given one of the bedrooms. The walls went up about eight feet and stopped. The rooms were open to the rafters and the tin roof. I learned that I heard the sounds of everyone in the house, and they heard everything of me.

Diego showed me the large yard out back, maybe a quarter acre, with an open well with a bucket on a rope on the left side of the lot, an outhouse on the other side, and a garden at the back of the lot. As Diego was showing me the yard, he said that their dog had just had puppies. He led me over to the side of the house where there was an open wooden box with the mother dog and four puppies. The puppies were squirming for milk and making a murmuring sound. They were cute. I smiled.

Then I saw that one of the puppies had an open sore on his back with maggots swarming in it. I gasped. Diego then saw what I saw and picked up the infected puppy. I asked what treatment he could give the puppy. Diego said there was no treatment, so he would drown the puppy to put it out of his misery. I was shaken and Diego could see it. He said, perdóname, and took the puppy toward the back of the lot. I didn't watch to see what he did. I turned and went back in to the house to unpack.

Alvarez kids, 1964

After a short while, I went back outside to use the outhouse. I went in, checked to make sure there was toilet paper -- I had learned that much in Peace Corps training -- and checked to make sure the door was locked. There was no lock. This was a family place, they knew when somebody was using the bathroom. So, I entered and closed the door. But, after a bit, the door blew open. I grabbed the handle and pull the door closed. From then on, I kept a hand on the door handle when I used the outhouse -- not really a bother in the small space.

Camila had fixed dinner. It was a typical Panamanian comida corriente, boiled meat, potatoes, and vegetables in a tomato broth, served over rice. Delicious and a nice end to my first day.

After dinner, we all sat down in their family room to watch their 24-inch black and white television set. I later learned that the Navarro's were one of the few families in the barriada that had a TV. On weekends, Diego moved the TV set outside under the covered veranda and charged people to watch TV. He made extra income that way.

For that first evening of TV watching, I was given the nicest chair, Diego and Camila sat on the couch, and the four kids sat on the floor. We watched the Dick Van Dyke Show. It was in English with Spanish subtitles. It was a calm, peaceful evening. I felt comfortable and a part of this family.

Shortly after the program began, little six-year old René got up off the floor and came and sat in my lap. He explained to me what was going on in the show. He knew that I struggled in Spanish, so I probably had trouble reading the Spanish subtitles. Since he was just learning to read, he and I were on the same level. He wanted to help me understand as much as he could. I thought I'd explain to him that I understood the spoken English, but then I let that go, and said, "Gracias por ayudarme".

-- Steve Spangler

Bud Keith Fund Supports Its First PhD Candidate

With help from our Bud Keith Scholarship Fund for the Blind, Panamanian Mauro Avila has earn a PhD from the University of Stuttgart in Germany. Mauro’s studies and research related to human-computer interaction and accessibility. His research was conducted primarily with blind people in Panama. Said Mauro, “ For me as a blind person, this work represents blind people working to support other blind people.” Besides his PhD, his efforts led to a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Ilmenau Technical University in Germany.

Most of Mauro’s support came from the Panamanian government and long-time Bud Keith Fund collaborator Ted Henter. The government funding ended in December, three months before the start of Mauro’s fellowship. Ted asked PCPF to help him fill the funding gap, which we did.

Born in the Canal Zone, Ted is a blind software entrepreneur who developed the JAWS screen reader that made Windows computers accessible by the blind. Over the years, he has given the Bud Keith Fund advice, spoke at a career seminar we sponsored, and met with some of our Bud Keith scholars.

Mauro says that when his fellowship ends, he plans to return to Panama. “I hope to be able to support ... Bud Keith Scholarships program in its work to assist people with visual impairments in Panama.” So you may not have heard the last of Mauro.

To learn more about the work of the Bud Keith Fund, or to donate, click here.


Panama Embassy Tour

The Panamanian embassy in Washington D.C. is opening its doors during the Around the World Embassy Tour event on Saturday, May 4 at 10 am. They will have Panamanian gastronomy, cultural artifacts, dancers, and even a traditional Diablo Rojo outside the Embassy for guests to take pictures with. Learn more about the event here

Amazon Smile

Please support PCPF by shopping through Amazon Smile using the PCPF 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.

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 .


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page