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Oregon City resident Brian Shaw on $500 to help Zambian children to travel to a new school that is much closer to the village

Ryen Parno joins her middle school students in Zambia, Africa, for a group photo outside of their school. While having lunch one day with Wyatt Parno, finance director for the city of Oregon City, I learned of his trip to Zambia to visit his daughter Ryen, who is serving in the Peace Brian ShawCorps. It seems his favorite part was meeting up with Ryen and seeing the good work she is doing teaching English in a local community and designing programs to support youth, especially young women, on developing confidence and self-protection.

Zambia has many positive connections with the United States, and English is the national language under the constitution, so Ryen's work is important in her rural village. Ryan recently graduated from North Carolina State University with an occupational therapy degree and the goal of helping children that have disabilities, but she decided to serve her country in the Peace Corps first.

Wyatt Parno, finance director for the city of Oregon City, receives a check for his daughter's project in Africa from the Oregon City Optimist Club.While living in Ryen's village for a few days, they visited the "local" school. They walked, to see what it is like for the kids. There is one clay/gravel road that leads to the school, and many of the kids walk barefoot on the road more than 4 miles (each way), in very hot temperatures. A lot of the kids are brave and make the trip, but the conditions prevent younger children from attending school.

The community's goal is to allow the youngest children to travel to a new school that is much closer to the village, and they have asked for caring donors to help. The Oregon City Optimist Club started their local campaign with a contribution of $500.

Our normal giving is done on a local level with contributions to Angels in the Outfield, the Oregon City Public Library's Summer Reading program, JROTC, the school district's Family Focus Forum, the Robotics Club, the Let's Dine Together club at the high school and gathering clubs at Oregon City's middle schools, just to name a few. The Oregon City Optimist Club was started in 1957 by school administrators and teachers looking to provide more opportunities to our local youth. Today's club consists of not only administrators and teachers, but also retired police and local business associates.

"I am so thankful for the Oregon City Optimist Club and their donation. I think people sometimes struggle with giving to projects in other countries, even when children are in need," said Wyatt.

COURTESY PHOTO - Ryen Parno teaches middle school students in Zambia, Africa.With help from the Optimist Club and many other caring donors, more than $14,000 was raised. The project to construct a school will benefit hundreds of children for many years to come. One hundred percent of the donations went directly to the project, there was no administration component, and donations to the Peace Corps are tax deductible.

To donate to a similar Peace Corp project, visit 

and select the "View All Volunteer Projects" link on the main page. There is a search feature if someone is interested in a specific country, perhaps a location they visited in the past.

Oregon City resident Brian Shaw is a member of the Oregon City Optimist Club.

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