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Portland Peace Corps volunteers part of Smithsonian Festival

Two Portland Peace Corps volunteers are in Washington, D.C., this week to present demonstrations during the Smithsonian Festival.

Laura Kutner and Tim O'Malley will demonstrate their projects from their time in the Peace Corps at the festival, an international exposition on living cultural heritage. The festival began Thursday and continues through July 11. It typically attracts about a million visitors each year.

'The festival is unique celebration of all the work we do with communities and the integration of culture,' said Kutner.

Kutner, who returned from service in Guatemala in 2010, adapted an existing technique to construct buildings out of plastic bottles and inorganic trash. Using bottles as bricks and trash, such as plastic bags, for insulation, she helped a community build two classrooms in an affordable and sustainable way.

Kutner will demonstrate the technique for the festival by constructing a sample wall for the exhibition. She said she feels that the festival brings importance and recognition to both the volunteers, but also the people they are representing.

O'Malley, a Philadelphia native who lives in Portland, served with the Peace Corps in Belize until 2005. For his demonstration he will accompany the Umalali Women Singers, a musical group that blends traditional Garifuna sounds influenced by the cultures of Belize and Honduras.

Oregon has the fourth largest number of Peace Crops volunteers in the country. The Portland area ranked No. 10 in the nation for the number of volunteers.