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Why Panama?

We often have people ask us, "Why Panama?", so we will take the opportunity to explain why we feel there is much good work to be done there. 

It is true that Panama enjoys a higher average income than that of many other Latin American and Caribbean countries. But, that wealth is spread unequally within the country. The GINI index measures the distribution of wealth within a country. It answers the question: does one person have all the money in the country or does everybody in the country have about the same income? A high GINI index means there is a big gap in distribution of wealth... there are very wealthy people and very poor people without a lot in between. A low GINI index means the wealth of the country is very evenly distributed. Click here for a map representing GINI, sourced from the CIA's "The World Factbook- 2009." In Panama, the GINI index is relatively high at 51.9, something the founders have both personally witnessed and experienced.

You can learn other factors impacting poverty in rural Panama at the Rural Poverty Portal

LARN is dedicated to helping those most in need, including underserved indigenous communities. In Panama, as in other places, the government has methods in place to help its indigenous population on paper, but in reality, many are still living in dire poverty.

This is a typical home in the areas of Panama we serve. Cinderblock, wood, concrete and corrugated galvanized steel sheeting are some common building materials. Indoor plumbing and regular electricity are rare in these communities. See our Photo Album "Living Conditions in Rural Panama" for more images of typical homes in areas LARN serves. Credit: LARN

LARN's ultimate goal is to provide assistance that will help Panamanians become self-sufficient. Yes, we do collect and distribute used clothing, household goods, toys, etc. However, we also aim to provide training and tools to help individuals and families make a better living for themselves and break the poverty cycle. We're sure you've heard the proverb "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  We endeavor to put this concept into practice with our projects such as the pilot Indigenous Dress Supplies Project.

We recognize that there are many people in the US and other parts of the world that are living in poverty and also in need of assistance. The founders of LARN chose to start helping the people of Panama because they have seen the relative lack of assistance currently available in rural Panama, especially in remote communities, and have a unique ability to connect US donors to Panamanians in need of assistance. We can never deny the fact that there are many regions of the world in dire need and we will never discourage donors from supporting the causes they deem worthy. Currently, the founders believe it is their unique niche to use their networking skills and understanding of both cultures to provide a link between Americans wishing to help others and Panamanians who are in desperate need of that help.

Finally, and quite importantly, we are not opposed to working in other areas of Latin America. If we intended to solely focus on Panama in the future, too, we would have called ourselves the Panama Relief Network. In fact, we are quite open to working in other countries in the future as opportunities present themselves and funding becomes available. We already have a few ideas from potential opportunities that we have run across. When the time comes that we can expand into other areas of Latin America, we will modify our mission statement accordingly. However, for now, we will focus our dedicated team and our fundraising efforts on a place we know and in which we know we can make immediate impacts with the infrastructure we have established.

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