Vancouver, WA — With help from the Vancouver Rotary Foundation and a Swiss-funded school, Navraj Lamichhane, or “Raj,” of Nepal, is living his dream, and plans use his education to improve the quality of life in his native country.

After completing two years of college in Nepal, Raj arrived in Vancouver nearly three years ago to continue his studies at Washington State University (WSU) Vancouver where he recently earned a Business Administration Degree with a certificate in professional sales.

“I was the scholarship recipient from the Vancouver Rotary Foundation, and was paid through grants and other scholarships, and directly from WSU,” said Raj. “I got a sponsor from Switzerland, and she helped me through the first semester. Her name is Birgit Krneta, with Bright Horizons Children’s school in Nepal, which is a Swiss-funded school, and everyone has a sponsor. I had her as my sponsor and she paid for my education and she paid for my first semester at WSU Vancouver. After that, I was able to get the remaining funds.”

Raj also received support from Beverly Questad, who assisted with room and board. The two originally met in Nepal during a teaching abroad program. Questad, a Skyview High School teacher, traveled to Nepal to teach and train.

“I was planning to come to America at that time, and we started talking and she really liked my drive,” said Raj. “She offered free room and board, which is close to the WSU Vancouver campus. When I came here I got full scholarships, and that’s how I was able to get it all done.”

His interest is in renewable energy and improving the quality of life in developing countries — and is putting his focus on new, improved cooking stoves that are more efficient, and healthier. Back in Nepal they cook everything inside with antiquated cooking stoves that create toxins and smoke in the home.

“I learned about energy through Winrock International, which is based in Arkansas, and they promote renewable energies worldwide,” said Raj. “They teach, and do proposals, train people, work with local banks, and help local businesses secure financing. I worked with them as a paid research intern for two years, and I learned about solar home systems. During my internship with Winrock is when my interest in America emerged. It really fascinated me. America is a great country as they have diverse thinking. I wanted to study here and I was really in need of those kind of connections.”

Upon arrival in the United States, Raj heard about the Rotary scholarship, and applied. After several interviews, he received the $4,000 scholarship.

“I love that Rotary is doing international things,” he said.

Raj is making plans to earn his MBA, and is currently looking at several schools. He wants to start classes in 2019.

After that, he wants to become an energy expert, and plans to eventually return to Nepal, but still travel the world bringing energy solutions to the developing parts of the world. In Nepal, they often face 18 hours of energy blackouts each day, which is a huge struggle.

“I want to work in project management and bring good products to help people in these places,” Raj said. “I want to first gain work experience in the United States and stay here for 5-10 years and then set up my own company in Nepal. I want to help in different ways. I love my country but I want to get established here. I want to get all this experience and go back and help.”


Raj wants to market new, more efficient stoves in Nepal and other developing countries.

The 26 year-old has two older sisters and one younger brother, who only attended school through the 7th grade. He was raised in Kathmandu, but was born 2.5 hours away — in rural Nepal. There aren’t a lot of jobs there for people who don’t have an education, and the nation has a massive unemployment problem.

“Renewable energy is a way to a healthy life,” Raj said. “It’s a way to progress and sustainability. It’s a way to empower people. I think there are ways we can think critically — in different ways. Like using solar cars, and it’s just healthier.”

He said that solar home heating systems and modern cooking stoves are key to their progress.

He plans to bring newer stoves to market, because their current models are making women and children sick, given that most women stay at home in Nepal.

“With new cooking stoves, we can eliminate these health problems and provide for a better life,” he said. “In the cities, they use more gas stoves with ventilation. The traditional stoves are used more in the rural areas.”

He’d like to see Metallic Improved Cooking (MIC) stoves spread through his native country — and to other parts of the developing world.

Photo Gallery


Washington, D.C. — Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 2345, the “National Suicide Hotline Improvements Act of 2018,” which the White House says “requires the Federal Communications Commission, in coordination with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs, to study the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.”

HB 2345, sponsored by Congressman Chris Stewart in the US House of Representatives, and its companion bill, sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch in the US Senate is the first step toward getting a nationwide three-digit code, like 911, designated to helping those with suicide thoughts and other mental health issues.

Utah Senator Daniel Thatcher has been championing this issue since 2013.

“It has consumed my life, and this is a giant leap in the right direction,” said Thatcher. “We’re all familiar with 911, which is used for emergencies, and I’m sure none of us under 50 remember life before 911. This legislation directs the FCC to look at the efficacy of the other 3-digit numbers and will set one up for mental health. This legislation is a huge deal! It is to mental health what 911 is to physical health. We lose more Utahns under 25 to mental health than to physical health. When it fully materializes, people who are contemplating suicide will have a 3-digit dial code to call, like 611, and there will be professionals answering calls to help people get through a crisis.”

The FCC will examine all 3-digit numbers, from 211-811, and decide which number is best. Thatcher is betting on 611.

So, what are all the 3-digit numbers currently used for? Let’s take a look:

  • 211: Set up for government services. People can call and get help for unemployment, for example.
  • 311: This is a vanity phone number for local governments. For example, if you have a briefcase in a New York City taxi, they will help you track it down. Thatcher says “311 does the same thing as 211.”
  • 411: Not officially designated, but the FCC gave conditional approval for temporary use in 1993, but is widely known and used for information services.
  • 511: Nationwide traffic and weather hotline. Used in some places to call and make sure roads are safe.
  • 611: Not officially designated, the FCC gave conditional permission for telecom to use 611 for customer service. Thatcher says this is the least critical of these numbers, and the most likely to be chosen.
  • 711: This is for the hearing impaired, for tele text.
  • 811: This is the call before you dig a hole in your background hotline. It gets the utility companies to mark out your property before digging a hole — to avoid cutting a electrical or gas line.
  • 911: Easily the best-known number in the world.



Senator Dan Thatcher, with his wife, Summer.

The History

Thatcher has been working on this legislation in his home state of Utah since 2013.

”We discussed what to do with tip reporting on phone lines, and we learned that if a kid calls a suicide line it could take hours to get back with him. It just wasn’t staffed properly,” said Thatcher. “I knew we needed 24/7 coverage with mental health professionals. We needed texting capability, and we needed a phone number that people could remember. A 10-digit number isn’t something people could easily remember.”

So, Thatcher said he tried to get a 3-digit code passed in Utah.

“I wanted 311 to go to Utah for counseling services,” he said. “I worked with local leaders, and it just didn’t happen. We tried really hard to get it done. So, right now we’re using a national life line number. Most people don’t remember 10-digit numbers.”

After failing to get support in Utah, Thatcher approached Senator Hatch and Representative Stewart and they immediately saw the need. They called in experts and they conducted a round table to see how to best approach this. The group saw the value of designating a 3-digit number on a national scale.

Their bill, called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act was passed in the US Congress several weeks ago, and was just signed Tuesday by President Trump.

Senator Hatch’s office released this statement:

“With this topic, my heart is both heavy and hopeful—heavy because suicide has already taken so many lives; hopeful because this legislation can turn the tide in the campaign against this epidemic,” said Hatch. “With this bill, we can prevent countless tragedies and help thousands of men and women get the help they so desperately need. I’m grateful this lifesaving proposal has been signed into law.”

Representative Stewart’s office released this statement:

“This is a great day for Utah and a great day for the Nation. We now have the opportunity to make the National Suicide Prevention Hotline more accessible and easier to remember. By creating a hotline dialing code that is short and easy to remember, we are taking an important step towards potentially averting tragedy.  This new law truly has the ability to save lives. I’m grateful that the President signed this into law in a timely manner.”

It was a fantastic day for Thatcher, as well.

”I don’t think people understand what just happened,” said Thatcher. “I think we’ll look back and wonder how we ever lived without this. I may be crying all day.”

Editor’s Note: We know Senator Thatcher because he helped co-sponsor a bill in Utah that built on our #MarchKindness campaign. In Utah, the bill became known as #MSDKindness and encouraged citizens across Utah to conducts acts of kindness to honor those students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL.


Senator Dan Thatcher, with his wife, Summer.

Parkland, FL — The tragic and senseless shootings on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School forever changed not just the lives of the victim’s families and friends, but it sent shock waves throughout this picturesque town. It’ll never be the same.

Professional artist and Parkland resident, Nava Lundy, a wife and mother of three, remembers the day with clarity.

“My twin daughters were in preschool less than a mile from MSD, and I got the alert that their school went on lockdown,” recalls Lundy. “After that there was no more communication. I was at a park near MSD with my 15-month old, and I didn’t really understand the gravity of it yet. So, I went home with the baby and quickly learned there was a shooter at large. I’ll never be the same after what happened.”

Lundy said she felt gratitude she wasn’t in harm’s way, but at the same time felt grief-stricken and pain for all the victims and their families. Like so many did, she asked herself what could she do to help?

“I communicate with paintings, and I want the families to know how much we care about them,” said Lundy, who volunteered her time creating each painting. “I worked quickly and did two paintings a week, sometimes three — I just felt this sense of urgency.”

She felt connected to each person, and worked hard to capture their personalities in her work.


Alyssa Alhadeff.

She started with Alyssa Alhadeff’s portrait, which she delivered to her parents.

“We all broke down together,” she said. “They were so grateful, and they put it up immediately.”

She worked on Jaime Guttenberg’s portrait next. Jaime’s mother, Jennifer, was teaching preschool at the same school Lundy’s daughters attend — and was protecting those children while her own daughter was murdered at MSD.

”She was in lockdown at the preschool, in a closet,” said Lundy. “I got her picture through someone at school and then I realized I needed to do one for every family. I posted paintings on Next Door and asked people to help me get pictures.”

While doing her research on each victim, Lundy saw people connecting through the portraits, and started to realize the positive impact this project would have. She learned a great deal about each person.

”As an artist, you have a feeling in your head and you try to get it across in the painting,” she said. “We also didn’t want MSD to just become another statistic. I know all the parents feel the same way. Plus, it’s so important to have people realize this could happen to you. We have to continually ask ourselves can we create positive change?”

Lundy completed the final portrait on March 28, just 6 weeks after that tragic day. Accompanied by her baby, Harry, she delivered most of the paintings directly to the victim’s families, and each visit was unique. She said some families weren’t ready to talk, but Joaquin Oliver’s father brought them both into his son’s bedroom so they could get a peek into his personality.

”Then, Joaquin’s dad looked at Harry and said ‘well make sure the schools are safe before he goes to school.”

About Nava Lundy

Nava has been a professional artist since 1998, and has been painting for more than 20 years. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, including The Palm Beach Post, The Sun Sentinel, The Chicago Tribune, The Tampa Tribune and The St. Petersburg Times. Her art work has been featured on NBC’s nationally syndicated program Daytime, as well as locally on CBS’s Studio 10. Nava has also been a guest on several radio programs, and regularly conducts lectures on art and art history around Florida through Brandeis University.


Professional artist, Nava Lundy.

Her work has also been used in set designs in several films. To learn more about Lundy’s work, visit or visit her Facebook page, Nava Lundy Artist.


by Nava Lundy

Salt Lake City, Utah — Less than two weeks after launching, the Camas-Washougal-based #MarchKindness campaign, which was Lacamas Magazine’s response to the horrific Florida school shootings, was adopted by the State of Utah and became HCR 22 #MSDKindness Month. The bill unanimously passed the Utah Senate and House Thursday morning, and was signed by Governor Herbert.

HCR 22 was written by Dr. Mirella Petersen, a Florida-based advocate for mental health and autism issues, who was in Utah to finish legislative business. Petersen lives close to Ryan and Kelly Petty, whose daughter, Alaina, was murdered at Douglas High School, along with 16 other innocent people.

”I saw the #MarchKindness video that Lacamas Magazine produced, and I thought Utah can adopt this,” said Petersen. “So last Thursday, I wrote the bill in four hours and presented it to Attorney General, Sean Reyes, Representative Paul Ray, and Senator Dan Thatcher.”

Both Ray and Thatcher co-sponsored the bill and managed to get it through the legislative process at lightning speed. The Utah Legislative session ended on March 8, the same day HCR 22 was passed.

”The stars aligned very quickly,” said Petersen. “It’s really a miracle.”

Ray agreed.

”Bills usually take nine weeks to get through — sometimes up to a year,” said Ray. “We felt this continuing resolution was a good idea to help promote kindness in an official capacity and to tie it into our SafeUT app. You guys in Washington started a national movement.”

Ryan Petty was honored by HCR 22, and was in attendance with daughter, Meghan, son Ian, and daughter-in-law, Sophia. Petty had spent the previous few days working with the Florida Legislature to pass a school safety bill, which gives schools additional protections against shootings.

”I was honored to represent all 17 victim families as the Utah Legislature recognized our loved ones by declaring April a month of kindness,” said Petty. “We are all honored by what the Utah Legislature has done. We came together as families to make sure we are the last ones that ever lose a family member to senseless school violence.”

Petty said “what our friends in Washington did with #MarchKindness is the perfect response to what is happening in today’s society. The campaign personifies our daughter, and helps lift the dialogue. We have to do better. Fortifying our schools is the last line of defense, so we have to start earlier and help people by being kind to them, to fund our mental health programs, and respect each other. We will continue these efforts.”

The Petty family, with their guests, the Jenkins family, and a Washington delegation, which was represented by Ernie Geigenmiller and Jordan Geigenmiller, and their guests Tracie Goettig, Charles Hall, and Blaine Cutler, received a warm reception by Utah State Attorney General, Sean Reyes.

”We thank all of you for coming here today,” said AG Reyes. “To the Petty family, we express our love to you today, and as you now, you have many here who are your family — and here on the Hill, too, we are your family, whether you wanted us or not, you’re stuck with us.”

During the meeting, Thatcher said “The Legislature has suspended some of the rules to make this vote happen today. It’s that important we do this.”

Following the private reception, AG Reyes escorted the parties to witness HCR 22’s vote in the House, which was introduced by Representative Ray.


From left: Dr. Mirella Parker; Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes; Ryan Petty; and Meghan Petty. They were presented a cherished painting.

“The Petty’s are with us because their daughter, Alaina, was one of the victims in the Parkland, Florida shooting, and so they’ve been very involved across the nation getting the word out. And, the two things they are doing is trying to honor the memory of their daughter and the service she gave, and also to help stop these senseless acts of violence … The state of Washington, which is where they lived prior, made March a month of kindness in their honor … to spread the message of kindness and working together … what we’re doing here in Utah is we’re adopting April as our month of kindness, and we’re putting together a website that people can go to and report acts of service they are doing. We’re also challenging other states to adopt a month throughout the rest of the year …”

Highlighted provisions are:

  • Honors the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School tragedy for the exemplary lives and acts of service by designating the month of April 2018 as #MSDKindness month.
  • Encourages the citizens of Utah to participate in random acts of kindness during the month of April 2018 and report their acts on the SafeUT mobile application. The app promotes school safety and access to critical services for school-aged children in the state of Utah. The app itself has thwarted 86 attacks, according the Utah AG’s office. We will provide a detailed article on how the SafeUT app works.
  • Challenges other states to claim a remaining month of 2018 as their state’s month of kindness.
  • The resolution will be sent to State Legislatures of the other 49 states and each member of Utah’s Congressional delegation.

The Utah House Floor.

The names of all the victims were then read:

  • Alaina Petty, 14;
  • Alex Schaffer, 14;
  • Alyssa Alhadeff, 14;
  • Cara Loughran, 14;
  • Gina Montalto, 14;
  • Jaime Gutenberg, 14;
  • Martin Duque Anguiano, 14;
  • Luke Hoyer, 15;
  • Peter Wang, 15;
  • Carmen Schentrup, 16;
  • Helena Ramsay, 17;
  • Joaquin Oliver, 17;
  • Nicholas Dworet, 17;
  • Meadow Pollack, 18;
  • Scott Beigel, 35;
  • Aaron Feis, 37;
  • Chris Hixon, 49

Utah Senator Daniel Thatcher introduces HCR 22 to the Senate Floor.

Once the House passed HCR 22, it moved onto the Senate, and we had the opportunity to witness the event on the Senate Floor.

Thatcher introduced the bill and said, speaking of Alaina, “Above all, her dad wanted you to know of her incredible kindness, and her desire to be friends with everyone.”

Thatcher then showed his fellow senators the 60-second #MarchKindness video.

“So, when Representative Ray and I first learned about #MarchKindness, our first thought was CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, “said Thatcher. “What better place to take an idea like this and carry it forward than Utah.”

HCR 22 unanimously passed the Senate.

A national website was created to honor the victims and report acts of kindness. The website is

Representative Ray is working with Indiana to see if they accept the challenge.


Kindness Gallery

Hollywood, CA — Artist Mario AC Della Casa has been hard at work designing a special “I Dream of Jeannie” bottle for the Roger Neal Oscar Suite tonight, which will be sold for $50,000 — with the proceeds to benefit the Life and Hope Relief charity.

As the Official Artist for the Roger Neal Oscar Suite, Della Casa, who is the only artist that was ever licensed to create the official “I Dream of Jeannie” bottle, will unveil his special bottle tonight.

The bottle is signed by past Oscar winners and present nominees. He isn’t allowed to tell us what is special about this year’s design. It’s under wraps.

”I’m so thrilled to be part of such a fun event,” said Della Casa. “And, we’re giving back to an organization that shows great care and kindness to those in troubled parts of the world. On Oscar night, they will raise $50,000.”

The Roger Neal Oscar Suite is an annual event at the Academy Awards and features quite the list of Hollywood celebrities.

Life and Hope Relief is an organization dedicated to showing kindness and assisting those who can’t help themselves in the aftermath of massive disasters.

The mission of the charity is two-fold:

1. To organize as many people and supplies as possible, and to deliver them directly to those in dire need.

2. To assist existing charitable organizations such as the Red Cross, etc. and fill any gaps that may exist in their services.

Della Casa takes pride in his work on the Jeannie bottles, which are replicas from the TV show. Each bottle is custom painted and designed by Della Casa himself. He also is the Official Artist for Southfork Ranch, home of the hit TV show, “Dallas.”

”My business is about making dreams come true,” said Della Casa. “We’re about nostalgia, and bringing people to a happy place.”


From left: Actor Bill Daley, Mario AC Della Casa, Barbara Eden, and Larry Hagman.

To learn more, visit

Roger Neal, Dinner Chairman, who for the past 22 years has produced the RNSH Oscar Gift Suite said, “We are beyond thrilled to produce our 3rd Annual Oscar Party at the Hollywood Museum which houses the largest collection of entertainment memorabilia on display in the world; I cannot think of a more perfect place to host 80 stars many who are past Oscar nominees, winners and presenters. Young and classic stars from TV and Film will have the opportunity to tour this incredible museum prior to a sit down gourmet dinner with wine & champagne (Lorimar Winery) to see a special Academy Awards exhibit and the brand new just opened Batman 66 Exhibit.”

Jeannie Images

I’ve spent half of Thursday sobbing at my desk upon learning that one of the Florida shooting victims is the daughter of a longtime friend, Ryan Petty. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection at first until my former editor brought it to my attention. Then, the emotions all came crashing down.

I had done my best to avoid listening to the details of the mass murders — even with my love of journalism I just didn’t want to hear anymore about it. When I was at Camas High School last Thursday, I thought about those kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. During that drive, I said a personal prayer for their safety as those Papermakers headed off to compete at State. They could have been my kids, your kids, my friend’s kids. And, just 15 minutes after driving away from the State teams send-off, I learned it was my friend’s child.

Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old Latter-day Saint girl was gunned down by Nikolas Cruz — along with many others. She was guilty of nothing. She was a happy, active teenager, like many here in Camas, Washougal, and throughout the world.

Her father and I chat about BMW’s, the latest technological advances, my tenure at Amazon, and I often just refer to him as a “geek.” It’s a longstanding joke between us. Ryan and I served together in Ecuador, serving our church and finding ways to help others. And, that’s the kind of family he has.

I can’t even imagine the grief and shock that Ryan, Kelly and their family are going through. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare turned reality, and it’s playing out in the national media. There will be funerals, memorials, tributes — and there will be a courtroom trial. All with the glare of television cameras and reporters.

Their lives have changed forever.


Alaina Petty. Photo courtesy of Petty family.

So, how did we get here? And how do we resolve it?

Family Therapist, Julie Russell, says when people become isolated they act out in outrageous ways — and that’s why we keep seeing these tragedies unfold.

“Broken homes, neglect, abuse all contribute to society’s problems,” said Russell. “Sometimes all a teen needs is to know that someone really cares and loves them.”

I’ve listened to all the reports about Cruz’s mental instability and the all the red flags that led up to this horrific mass murder. People are calling for additional gun control, new legislation, more armed guards, more security, more funding for mental health. I say debate it all and do it in a civil way. But, don’t talk forever. Our society needs to act.

Cindy Giovanni, a former Superintendent in Columbia, MO advocates for the following:

  • Get AR-15 rifles off the streets.
  • Fund mental health initiatives (local, state and national).

Local representatives call for greater funding for school resource officers in every school — even elementary schools. I say do it.

But, my gut instinct tells me no President, Mayor, Congressperson, legislation or policy can ever get into — and repair the hearts of individuals. A sick, demented, evil person will always find a way to wreak havoc. There are some people that like to watch the world burn.

So, while the politicians debate and play the blame game, what can you do right now?

Be loving, respectful, charitable to those closest to you.

Lift others around you.

Do something kind for those in your mind may least deserve it. You never know what’s happening in one’s heart or mind. People act out because they feel anger, insecurity, pain, suffering, loneliness. The list goes on and on.

Imagine a world in which we all do one nice thing for someone next to you. The world could change in an instant.

Sweet Alaina Petty didn’t deserve this. Her family is forever changed. Their little girl is gone.

The Petty family’s faith will bouy them, and they have a community that loves and supports them.

“We love you, too,” Ryan Petty told me. “Hug those kids of yours!”

For now, pray for them, and for all the families affected by this madness. Act by showing kindness to others. Be patient. Love others. Make it a point to do something nice for someone else each day.

The Petty family has asked everyone to donate funds to help Maddy Wilford, a friend of Alaina’s, to assist with her recovery. She was shot, and was severely injured during this tragedy. They do this as they prepare for their daughter’s funeral.

Thank you for reading.

Love, Ernie Geigenmiller


The Petty Family. Before moving to Florida, they lived in Washington — in Seattle metro.

It’s been a month since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and as first responders and local leaders face the herculean task to get necessary supplies to millions of victims, one Portland resident shares his story of trying to get his family out of harm’s way.

Rio Rios, 49, is a Puerto Rico native, and although he’s lived most of his life in the United States mainland, his parents (Luis and Virginia), sister (Yanira), niece (Natasha) and nephew (Gabriel) were caught in harm’s way as Maria threw an already struggling Puerto Rico into the dark ages.

“Eighty-five percent of the island is still without power,” said Rios. “And the water situation is dire. Water-wise, it’s hard to keep things clean because when the water does come it’s contaminated, and only 60 percent have water. There’s no money, no work, no economy. Even the banks are closed. ATMs don’t work. Basic necessities aren’t easy to find. Traffic lights don’t work, which backs up traffic for miles.”

To put it in perspective, the island is 100 miles long and 30 miles wide, and has 3 million-plus people living there, he said. It’s densely populated.

In Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, where his family resides, homes keep their lights on by using gas-powered portable generators at sporadic times during the day, which is causing some pollution issues.

“Before Hurricane Maria hit, life in Puerto Rico was already difficult,” Rios said. “And now it’s ten times worse.”

Since Maria wreaked its havoc, Rios has worked hard to communicate with his family, sending them needed supplies, and keeping current, but given the dire situation there, he and his wife, Allison Anderson, offered to bring his mother, sister, and youngest nephew to Portland.

“Given mom’s health issues, and that my sister cannot work and provide for her family, we decided to bring them here. It’s what family does,” said Rios. “My father has decided to stay there, for now, and so has my niece.”

Anderson has been preparing her office, which will be turned into a bedroom.

“It’s been so sad to see them go through this,” said Anderson. “It’s devastating to see such a beautiful place be destroyed.”

The couple will receive Virginia on October 22, and Yanira and Gabriel on October 30.

They are presently looking for employment for Yanira, who is a speech pathologist, and for a school for Gabriel to attend.

“This whole tragedy has been devastating,” said Rios. “I’m an American citizen, I’m a veteran, I served in the Gulf War, but I grew up in Puerto Rico. This where I was formed and shaped. I’m really sad about what’s happened to my family. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico. And, I wasn’t able to protect my family.”

Agriculture is a big part of the economy there, but given the hurricane’s devastation, new crop harvests are a year away.

“They can’t find cheap food,” Rios said. “The magnitude of the problem overwhelms everyone, especially the first responders who have been working so hard.”

Rios urges everyone to take emergency preparedness seriously.

“Let’s get the word out about having a 72-hour kit, about having 30 days worth of food in a storage closet,” he said. “People make fun of those who prepare, but it’s a good idea. Look at the reality of what’s happened in Puerto Rico. Don’t you think those people would appreciate a 30-day supply of food on-hand?”

He said canned meat is prized right now, as fresh meat can’t be easily preserved without electricity.

“It’s a major humanitarian crisis,” he said. “This is like every post-apocalyptic movie I’ve ever seen, except it’s real. It can happen.”

Puerto Rico Fundraiser

Over the past weekend, several Puerto Ricans gathered together to raise funds for their devastated brothers and sisters. The benefit featured live music, a live auction, and lots of food. They raised $24,000 in funds that will go directly to Puerto Rico.

To learn more, visit:

Gallery: Images from Puerto Rico


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Remember the low-fat craze of the 90s? While fat has had a bad rap in the past, new research shows not all dietary fat is unhealthy.

Good vs. Bad Fats

Bad fats increase your risk for heart disease and negatively affect your cholesterol, while healthy fats protect your brain and heart.

Instead of adopting a no-fat diet, focus on swapping unhealthy fats for healthy ones.

All fats are high in calories, so the key is choosing healthy fats and practicing moderation. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommend the following:

  • Replace saturated fats with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Limit saturated fats to less than 10 percent of calories a day.
  • Avoid trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil to give foods a longer shelf life.

Eat These Foods

Eat more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These can have a positive impact on your heart health and include Omega-3 fatty acids. They are found in plant and seafood sources.


  • Fish (salmon, trout, and tuna)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocados
  • Oils (canola, olive oil, soybean)

Proceed With Caution

Eat saturated fats in moderation. Too many saturated fats raise your total cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products.


  • Red meat
  • Full-fat dairy (milk, ice cream, cheese)
  • Processed meats
  • Lard
  • Fast food
  • Avoid these foods

The US Food and Drug Administration plans to ban trans fats, but current regulations allow food with small amounts of trans fats to be labeled “trans fat free.” Check the ingredient list on packaged foods and skip anything with partially hydrogenated oils.


  • Biscuits
  • Margarine
  • Frozen pizza
  • Coffee creamer
  • Packaged pies
  • Fried fast food
  • Doughnuts
  • Microwave popcorn

Guayaquil, Ecuador — Although her parents haven’t heard directly from her, Camas resident and 2013 Camas High graduate, Paige Jackson, who is currently serving an 18-month LDS mission in Ecuador, has been accounted for, and is safe following the largest earthquake to hit the region since 1979.

President Maxsimo Torres, who heads the Ecuador Guayaquil South LDS mission (where Jackson has been assigned) issued the following statement:

“Terremoto en Esmeraldas 7.8. Todos los misionero (a)s en la misión estamos bien. All missionaries in our our mission accounted for and doing well. Gracias al Senor por sus tiernas misericordias! We are grateful for the Lord’s tender mercies!”

Residents along the Ecuador coastline were most affected by the 7.8 earthquake, which struck Saturday at dusk local time, turning hundreds of thousands of lives upside down.

Jackson’s parents, Jeff and Temple Jackson, found out about the massive earthquake about 9:30 pm Saturday. Their family has been active contributors to the local community for 20 years. Paige, and her twin sister, McKenna, played on the Camas High School Girls Varsity Basketball team, and siblings Brynn and Jefferson “Bubba” currently attend CHS.

“We spent most of the night hoping she was OK,” said Temple. “We’re glad to know the missionaries are all accounted for.”

Ecuador Earthquake

Hermana Paige Jackson, center, blonde hair, is safe and accounted for in Ecuador, following Saturday’s devastating earthquake. This photo was dated March 15, 2016.

The death toll soared from under 100 on Saturday night to 238 on Sunday afternoon — and it’s expected to rise, according to CNN. At least 1,500 people were injured, said Ricardo Peñaherrera of Ecuador’s national emergency management office.

The cities of Manta and Porteviejo were the hardest hit, with buildings totally collapsing, and roads and overpasses destroyed. The earthquake hit Saturday night causing houses to collapse and knocking out power in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city, authorities said. People left their homes and wandered around, some sleeping in the streets.

Ecuador Residents Describe Earthquake

Zoraida Gallegos, a Duran, Ecuador resident, said “The earthquake hit right at 8:50 pm and the lights went out immediately. Electricity was out all night. It’s been very scary, but we put our faith in God.”

Gallegos provided most of the images in this article.

Local officials asked residents to not travel on Sunday, so emergency personnel could get help where it’s most needed.

Ricardo Blum, who lives in Babahoyo, Ecuador, said “there were several families who lost their home last night, and they are currently staying in the local church. I’m grateful my family is fine.”

He said there’s a lot of devastation, but that people are helping each other.

“We’re grateful that nothing really terrible happened in Duran,” said Carlos Pincay. “We did feel the quake and it lasted a long time. A few things fell down. It’s the first time I’ve experienced something like that. In other parts further north many have died, and there is much devastation. Today, nobody attended church, and we hope there won’t be any aftershocks.”

Angel Romo, who lives in the mountains, in a city called Ambato,  said “We felt the quake up here in the mountains, but we didn’t have the devastation they had on the coast.”

In a race to help residents, Ecuador deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers to the affected areas. The armed forces built mobile hospitals in Pedernales and Portoviejo and set up temporary shelters.

In addition, because of destroyed highways, first responders are having trouble transporting water and other much needed supplies to the hardest hit areas.

Pincay said local communities and church members are sustaining each other until additional help arrives in those areas.

Technology also played an interesting role in this tragedy. In order to not tie up phone lines, many Ecuador residents, with connections to United States citizens, have used the Facebook Safety Check App, which allows family and friends to connect during emergencies.

That’s how this reporter found out about the earthquake. My phone lit up with alerts about friends in Ecuador. Thank you, Facebook.

The Jackson family will provide updates on Paige as they learn more.

Ecuador Earthquake

The Facebook Safety Check alerts family and friends about the status of loved ones during a tragedy.


Ecuador Earthquake

Porteviejo, Ecuador, was one of the hardest hit areas in this quake. Photo provided by Zoraida Gallegos.


Ecuador Earthquake

Porteviejo, Ecuador, was one of the hardest hit areas in this quake. Photo provided by Zoraida Gallegos.



Elder Robert Thomas Van Den Dungen Bille is a young American serving as a full-time missionary in Belgium and The Netherlands for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was born in Utah, spent most of his life in Beverley, England, and spent the last five years prior to his mission living in Gilbert, Arizona. He was at the site of the Brussels train bombing just 12 hours before the attacks last week.

We had just a few minutes to interview him today (March 28) via email during his break time. This article is a hybrid of his weekly correspondence and answers to specific questions, as it relates to the Brussels bombing attacks.

Excerpt from his weekly correspondence:

“I’ll begin with the somewhat obvious — my heart truly goes out to everyone directly and indirectly involved in everything that happened in Brussels. I’ve really got to consider myself blessed, because just 12 hours before the Metro bombing, my companion and I were on that exact Metro train that was bombed, heading home from a day in Brussels. Let me repeat that. 12 hours before the Metro Bombing, we were on the EXACT SAME train that was blown up. We also take a train that passes through the airport on a weekly basis; I still can’t really comprehend how blessed I am to have avoided all that stuff. I am currently serving in Leuven, which about a 25 minute train ride from Central Brussels; so while I’m pretty close to it all, I still feel quite safe and distanced from it. There was a bomb threat at the Leuven Station, about 4 minutes from me, but that turned out to be nothing.”

Elder Robert Thomas Van Den Dungen Bille often travels via bike, while serving in Belgium.

LM: What was your initial reaction to the Brussels bombings?

EV: My initial reaction was embarrassingly casual; I don’t think I fully grasped the magnitude of what was going on, only a few miles away from me. We were lucky to have received multiple updates throughout the day, and after each update, it began to sink in more and more. I wouldn’t say I am angry, I am more confused I suppose. I don’t really understand why; what was the ultimate goal? Who benefited? Why? I suppose these are questions terrorists ignore, but I really don’t understand. Anger never really set in, I guess I was caught up feeling more like, “Is this real life?”

LM: Do you feel insecure about moving in and around Brussels? 

EV: Yes, I do feel insecure about moving around. Although I am not stationed in Brussels, the effects can certainly be felt in the surrounding cities. We were given the go ahead to take public transportation, but my companion and I have made the decision to avoid it as much as possible. I’ve grown up in a safe environment my entire life, so being suddenly exposed to something like this is …  scary. I think the most thing I am insecure about, is proselytizing. These terrorists aren’t really too fond of Christianity, or any other form of religion besides their own, and I am out here, 7 days a week, proselytizing and preaching about it. I suppose it scares me that I could knock on one door, and my life could change.

LM: Has your religious/spiritual faith bolstered you? 

EV: With that being said, my faith has bolstered me. I’ve made the conscious decision to move forward with faith, knowing that the Lord will provide a way and a warning for me. I also have immense faith in the Lord’s hand, regarding these attacks. Those four Elders, and that one Sister missionary were being watched over, and protected. The Lord had a hand in their protection, without a doubt in my mind.

What are local people saying?

EV: The locals are pretty angry; mostly with the government for allowing unchecked immigrants to enter the country. It’s been a pretty hotly debated topic, whether immigrants should be allowed in or not, and it’s a pretty 50/50 split on the matter. Most of the local Belgians would agree that something needs to be done in Molebeek (The part of Brussels that houses most of the immigrants, and is known for its ISIS connections). Yet nothing really seems to have been done, even after the attacks. The saddest part, is that most of the Belgians believe this is simply the beginning. It is almost as though they have resigned to the fact that there is more to come.

Additional excerpts from his weekly correspondence:

“The day of the attacks was a weird one — we essentially had to stay in our apartment the entire day, with limited contact, wondering what was going on in the outside world. Honestly, it was a pretty bizarre day in my short life; having to actually have a conversation and a plan about what to do in the event of an ISIS terror attack; these are the types of things I see on the news; stress about, but ultimately end up forgetting about it. But now I’m in it; I’m living close to it; it is way more real. I am sure you heard about the four missionaries that were caught up in the attacks, and my thoughts are with them continuously. My bishop here in Leuven is actually quite good friends with one of the Senior Elders (Elder Norby), and we will be going out to see the missionaries involved soon.”

Elder Robert Thomas Van Den Dungen Bille enjoys a moment with some furry friends.