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November 2018 El Bochinche

Queridos PCPF Members,

Feliz Mes de Patria!!! This is that special time in Panama when work slows down and celebrations pick up. Did you know that there are FIVE official holidays during the month of November? Chuleta!

  • November 3 - Separation Day from Colombia

  • November 4 - Patriotic Symbols' Day

  • November 5 - Colon Day

  • November 10 - "Primer Grito de Independencia de la Villa de los Santos"

  • November 28 - Independence Day from Spain

Here at PCPF we have a lot to celebrate this month as well! We have a new logo and a new website which will help strengthen communications among our members and create a hub for all things PCPF. Also, I think we were all ready for a fresh new look :)

CALENDARS ARE HERE! Every year I count the days until calendars are ready so I can get a glimpse of my Panama. This year's picture and stories do not disappoint as they cover different provinces and many aspects of the life of a volunteer and the communities they call home. Please consider purchasing calendars to support PCPF and volunteer projects. Calendars account for over 90% of our fundraising.

Lastly, I would like to take a moment to give a special THANK YOU to Steve Spangler and his wife Barbara for hosting a lovely dinner in honor of Bonnie Birker who visited Virginia in October. Very few things in life are better than sharing food and laughter with people who are dear to you. Can you spot all the RPCVs in the photo (Bonnie Barker, Ina Hysi, Pamela Larson, Jerry Lutes, Steve Spangler, and Valerie Whiting)?




2019 Calendars Are Here!

That special time of year is here! Please support PCPF by purchasing the 2019 calendar. They are sure to flood you with memories of the country that you, or someone you know, love. Calendars are also a great gift for friends and family.

Every picture is taken by a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Panama. Proceeds from sales go to support PC Panama volunteer projects and PCPF operations.

Money Back Guaranteed! PCPF has worked closely with VAC to ensure that the calendar is free of errors. We will refund your purchase if the calendar has mistakes.


PCPF Updates

New Logo and Website

THANK YOU to Andrew Parrucci, PCPF Communication Director, for working tirelessly for the past year to create a new logo and website for PCPF. We cannot thank you enough! Andrew worked closely with the Board and a graphic artists to capture the essence of Peace Corps and Panama in our new logo (a dove in a mola motif). What's more, he utilized his resources to identify an artist who was willing to create the logo free of charge.

The new website platform offers a sustainable platform that future Boards can use without having to know html code. It also decreases cost by 80% (more money for volunteer project!). Please take a few minutes to browse the new site and give us your feedback for how we can improve it.


PCPF is proud to support Olivia with her Eco-Stoves project which will not only provide environmentally friendly stoves to 10 rural Panamanian families, but will also promote team-building and empower women. Good luck Olivia and we look forward to following your progress!

2019 Elections

Peace Corps Panama Friends is looking for enthusiastic, creative, and passionate candidates to help us take our organization 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. Please submit you application using the Election Form.

Ever wonder what it is that we do? We'll be featuring "A Day In the Life Of" profiles for each position in the next two issues of El Bo to help you decide which position is best for you.

A Day In the Life of the President - Ina Hysi

Two reasons motivated me to become involved with PCPF: I wanted to give back to an organization that changed my life for the better and I was interested in a leadership role that could help me grow professionally. Being the PCPF President has given me that and so much more.

My main responsibilities include:

  • Developing a strategic plan and making sure that PCPF stays on track

  • Creating the monthly issue of El Bochinche

  • Working closely with the PCPF Communications Director to review and provide feedback on external communication products

  • Support members of the Executive Board as needed

  • Represent PCPF in meetings and networking event

The best part of my job? I work with an amazing team that go above and beyond every day as they balance work, family, life, and PCPF. I also get to "meet" (electronically) amazing RPCVs from all over the U.S. who share their inspirational stories with me. Lastly, this leadership role has presented me with, what I call, a safe place to fail. What I mean is that PCPF has allowed me to be more creative than ever and has empowered me to implement my vision without fears. Please feel free to email me at if you would like to chat more about the President position.

A Day In the Life of the Treasurer - Sara Taylor

As the current Treasurer, on a daily basis I'm satisfied with routine and motivated by action. In this instance routine refers to the satisfying feeling of consistent financial monitoring and contributing to incremental organizational growth. I know you know the feeling. The action portion of this role refers to approving and fulfilling PCPF grant funding for current Panama PCV projects. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road. I believe in the work PCVs do and am honored to actively contribute to their projects. Although the day-to-day of this position is primarily to keep PCPF financially solvent and contributing to PCV projects, just as PCPF once contributed to my own, it keeps my motivation alive. Want more info on this position? Send me an email at with any questions.

Mes de Patria Celebrations Around the Country

If you haven't marked your calendar yet, make sure you check out all the RPCV celebrations in the new two weeks to see if there is one near you. Better yet, organize one in your area and share your story and pictures with us!


Peace Corps Panama Updates

PC Panama Celebrates a Successful Leadership Seminar

The end of October, 14 Peace Corps Panama Volunteers and their counterparts participated in the post's 2nd Liderazgo en Accion (LEA) seminar. LEA is based off of the former Project Management and Leadership (PML) workshop which promotes leadership on and indivual and group level. Congrats to the Peace Corps facilitators and all of the participants! 

Celebrating Halloween

Want to see how staff and Volunteers celebrated Halloween? Check out photos of the festivities on the Peace Corps Panama facebook page

Follow Peace Corps Panama activities and events at:

News From Panama

Siembra de la Bandera para el Mes de La Patria

As is tradition every year, this October 31st Panamanians prepared for the Mes de la Patria through the Siembra de la Bandera, placing the Panamanian flag across the country. One of the most well-known and impressive displays is in Ciudad del Saber, where the Peace Corps Panama Office calls home. View photos and read more about it here

Panama Reconsiders its Immigration Policies

In an attempt to support immigrant families in remaining united in Panama, the government has passed a policy that promotes "reagrupación familiar" for Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants. Read ore about it at La Prensa

Anniversary of La Via de Los Santos

La Via de Los Santos celebrates 449 years since its founding, and it wouldn't be a true Azuero event without a celebration! Get filled in on the celebrations and festivities here

Miss Panama will be the Flag-bearer on November 10th

Rosa Montezuma, from Alto Caballero in the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, has been chosen to be a flag-bearer on November 10th. This year marks 197 years since the first cry of independence in La Villa de los Santos. Lear more...

RPCV Spotlight

Kimberly (Raguso) Howard here from Teaching English and Advising Group 65. Wow, what a wild and uncharted ride life has been since 2010. I currently live in Texas with my husband, Devon and our little girl, Aurelia. We have another kiddo on the way and I am doing my best learning to juggle quality time spent, doing fulfilling work and keeping a house full of people fed, clothed and clean. Remember your host mom washing everyone's clothing in that giant cement basin? Cooking over an open fire in the rain? Mad respect for those women doing life without modern conveniences.

My time in Peace Corps Panama prepared me for and led me down a pathway filled with a variety of careers, but always caring for people. I have worked as a bilingual interviewer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, a bilingual clinic assistant for a women’s health center, a Certified Nurse Aide for home health agencies, a chef cooking food for the homeless, a food pantry manager, and currently find myself a medical interpreter at the Community Eye Clinic in downtown Fort Worth. I’m volunteering and practicing medical language skills while I wait to take the CCHI national medical interpreters oral exam! Send me your good vibes in January!

During my time in Peace Corps Panama I was lucky enough to meet a group of surgeons, doctors and nurses who have inspired me to continually ask “What am I doing with my life that can be a service to others?” Dr. Russ Burcham and his wife Vicki formed their own independent medical mission team out of Denver almost 20 years ago. In 2011 they came to Sona, the closest “big town” to the village of Madre Vieja, Veraguas (where I was stationed) and put on a week long clinic; curing the blind by removing cataracts and pterygium growths and healing other medical maladies in a general clinic.

After serving with them in 2011, Dr. Burcham performed laser surgery on my eyes back in the states after my COS and I knew I would be connected to these people for life. They generously invited me to return with them as an interpreter on the team and I have been back to beautiful Panama every year since. Ina was there the first year I came back with the team in 2012 and set up shop in a mountain town outside of Volcan. I have never been so cold in Panama.

Do you ever worry or wonder who is there helping our villages and host families after we leave? This team loves Panamanians like Peace Corps does. Did you know this Mission Team has been traveling to Panama for 18 years? The head surgeon and his team raise over $10,000 just to be spent on medicine alone that is distributed for free to the people served in the clinic. When there was a contaminated shipment of diabetes medication in Panama last year we were instructed to give up to a year’s supply of a patients medication if possible. Give it all away!! These people save their vacation time all year and pay an additional $2000 out of pocket for flights, food, bus travel and rooms on the trip…and you all know the quality of accommodations to be found someplace like Yavisa; they stay wherever they are put and they don’t complain. I have fallen in love with the dedication, commitment and huge heart this group have for our Panamanians.

I wish I could describe for you the moment someone’s eye patches have been removed, and they see their spouse or their children for the first time in 10 years…or their grandchild for the very first time. The joy in getting back their independence, to walk unassisted and be able to be a contributing member of the family again after being helped with every task for so long. I’ve seen them stand up and dance in amazement! “Gracias a Dios!”

This last year the team treated 1400 patients in the general clinic, the eye surgery team screened 1000 patients; they then performed 132 cataract surgeries and 62 pterygium surgeries. We dispensed one thousand pairs of reading glasses. This next year the team will be in Chepo, February 1-10, 2019. If you have any desire to donate to the medical mission I would be happy to put you in contact with the Burcham Team and you can continue making a difference in the daily lives of the people we love.



Celebrating the Life of Kevin Webb

PCPF has learned that Panama RPCV Kevin Webb passed away while serving as a Foreign Service Officer in Madagascar.  Our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

The American Embassy in Madagascar will host a memorial for Kevin next week and Vanessa Dickey, Madagascar Peace Corps Country Director, is trying to find someone who served with him who can share pictures and stories of his service.  If you can help, please reach out to Vanessa at


Help School the World Open a Branch in Panama

School the World is an education NGO currently working in Guatemala and Honduras.  It is looking at expanding into a third country in early 2019, potentially Panama.  Kate Curran, Founder and CEO, would like to talk with recent Peace Corps volunteers, particularly any who worked with the indigenous populations and/or in rural schools, to learn more about their experiences and Panama. Please contact Kate at if you are available to connect with her.

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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