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A privately-funded shipment of donated goods and a trip to distribute the donated goods in 2010 served as the impetus for creating our organization; learn more about our work prior to establishment of LARN on our Project History page. We also invite you to learn more About us and Our Story.





Sorting donations for the 2010 donation trip. Credit: LARN

Throughout 2012, the founders and their friends and family continued to gather donations in anticipation of their next container shipment and donation trip. Several donation sorting events were held to organize and box up the donations already received for distribution in Panama.

In addition, LARN was incorporated and its Board of Directors established. LARN achieved tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code in the Fall of 2012. The board created a fundraising budget and outlined projects for 2013, in addition to planning for their next container shipment and donation trip.




Container Shipment and Distribution Project

Pilot Indigenous Dress Supplies Project

Pilot Pen Pal Project


Container Shipment and Distribution Project


Sorting mens' clothing.

Sorting mens' clothing for the next donation shipment and distribution trip. Credit: LARN

The donated goods that are currently being sorted and stored will be shipped to Panama for distribution. Volunteers in the US will sort the donated goods and load goods into a 20-foot container. Volunteers in Panama will unload the goods and move them to their storage destination. 


After goods are shipped and situated in Panama, volunteers from the US will travel to Panama for approximately one week to distribute donations. Board members and advisors will communicate with Panamanian locals to determine several communities in need that are within driving distance of the donation storage location. Volunteers will travel to approximately one community per day where donated goods will be distributed to individuals. Any donations not distributed after the community visits will be donated to local charitable organizations at the Board's discretion.

The entire project will build upon the lessons learned and process established during the initial trip in 2010. Shipping and distribution of donated goods will be funded by gifts, grants, and contributions. Travel expenses for US volunteers will be covered by a combination of the volunteers and LARN. The costs of volunteer housing, transportation, and food in Panama is factored into our 2013 fundraising goal.

Status Update:

LARN participated in the GlobalGiving Winter Open Challenge from November-December 2013 to help raise the funds needed to complete this project. We raised $5,130 during the Challenge. LARN has collected, sorted, and boxed enough donations to fill a 40-foot shipping container; that is twice the size we initially planned to send for this project. 

Boxes were moved to storage near the Port of Baltimore in January. A final sort-n-box event was held in early February to box up all the remaining donations received. Aside from surpassing 600 total boxes of donations during that event, we celebrated another milestone in our success: warehouse space to hold the event indoors, pizza and snacks for volunteers, paper goods (ie: plates and cups), resealable plastic bags, and a moving truck (with professional driver) to transport donations to and from the event were all provided as in-kind donations by local businesses and private donors. 

A 40-foot shipping container was filled on February 21; the container traveled by container ship from Baltimore and arrived in Panama City on March 12. The contents were transported  to our Panamanian headquarters for storage in late March where they now await the donation trip.

Thanks to our first corporate donation (Koons Toyota of Annapolis) and some generous individual donors, fundraising of the last few thousand dollars needed to conduct the donation trip was completed in December of 2014.  The donation trip associated with this project will occur from February 7-15, 2015. The six US volunteers will be joined by 11 volunteers in Panama. Five 4WD trucks were rented for the donation distribution to allow LARN access to the remote communities we will be serving. LARN plans to visit the following communities: El Agua Catal de Calobre in the Province of Veraguas, and Quijes and La Sabana in the Province of Colon. Residents of three additional communities (Barreta, El Palmar, and El Macho) will travel to La Sabana on the date our volunteers will be distributing goods in La Sabana. LARN is also working to identify an additional community to visit. Please note that LARN may have to make last-minute changes to the communities visited, depending upon road conditions, weather, and other factors. For the most up-to-date information on our donation trip, please follow our Facebook page.   


Pilot Indigenous Dress Supplies Project


An indigenous family in El Naranjal modeling their traditional handmade dresses, called naguas, in front of  LARN's rental truck. Credit: LARN

Because the indigenous women of Panama typically wear handmade dresses of a style unique to their tribe, most clothing donated to LARN is not appropriate for the majority of indigenous women. Indigenous peoples of Panama are among the poorest in the country and as the cost of sewing supplies and fabric rises, it becomes more difficult for indigenous women to afford the materials they need to make their dresses.

LARN will designate funds and goods to provide indigenous women the resources needed to make their own clothing via a pilot project in 2013-2014. For this pilot project, one community will be chosen. Proximity of the community to LARN's Panamanian volunteers, acceptance from the community leaders, and number of participants in the community are all factors that will influence selection of the chosen community. Along with providing fabrics and sewing tools such as thread and needles to the community's women, LARN will assist the women in setting up a process for selling dresses if so desired. In certain regions of Panama, indigenous-style dresses are sold to tourists. Volunteers will follow-up periodically with the indigenous women to monitor the progress of the project. The majority of the first year of this project will be spent identifying a compatible community and collaborating with the local women to begin implementing the project. The first year's work will primarily be done during and after the donation trip, as face-to-face meetings with leaders in the selected community will be necessary. In year two, the project will primarily focus on providing supplies and volunteer support to maintain the project.

Status Update:

A potential community has been identified and there is great interest among the women of the community. Meetings were held with community leaders in late October and early November to work towards finalizing this community's participation in the pilot project. There seems to be great interest within the community in the optional portion of the project to sell handmade items in the US. So, LARN purchased the supplies for an initial batch of seven handmade girls' dresses and purchased the completed dress samples from the community at the cost of labor. The community also had an interest in selling handmade purses and bracelets and is working on samples for us.

LARN is now researching consumer interest in the completed dresses and the price they could command in a US market so that we can post them for sale online.  LARN will also be comparing the cost of supplies for the project in Panama and the US to determine where supplies for the ongoing project should be purchased.


Pilot Pen Pal Project

A Panamanian student receives his first letter from his American Pen Pal. Credit: LARN

Students from one homeroom class in an elementary school in Maryland have been paired with students of a similar age from four schools in rural Panama. An initial group of 21 pairs of Pen Pals has been established. Students will communicate several times a year and learn about another country and culture, encourage each other in their studies, and experience the benefits of cross-cultural exchange in our ever-shrinking world. LARN volunteers will translate the letters before delivering them between the Pen Pals.

By connecting students from two nations and multiple cultures, students in both places will benefit from learning about each others’ lives and seeing both the similarities and differences. One goal of this project is to help motivate Panamanian students to stay in school; they are less likely to complete secondary education (middle or high school) than their American counterparts. Encouragement to stay in school could help the Panamanian students ultimately obtain higher paying skilled jobs to break the cycle of poverty prevalent in rural Panama. US students are addressing an educational component of communicating clearly through written language and practicing the proper elements of a letter, in addition to the cross-cultural aspect of the project.

Status Update:
Students in one of the four participating Panamanian schools show off photos of their new American Pen Pals. Credit: LARN

The US students wrote their introductory letters which were translated and delivered by our Founders in late October, 2013. The US class sent pictures of their school, participating students, and their classroom, as well as small tokens like rubber band friendship bracelets and coins that have US symbols on them. The students and teachers in Panama are very excited to participate in this project. When the letters were delivered, the Panamanian students were particularly thrilled to receive photos of their Pen Pal and were running around to each others´desks to see the photos of their classmates´ Pen Pals. Teachers in Panama have already expressed that they see huge potential for this project to expand. The Panamanian teachers also expressed interest in becoming Pen Pals with the teacher of the US class; former Board member, Meghan Sabat. In anticipation of receiving their first return letters, the US students began learning some Spanish words. Return letters from the Panamanian students have been received, translated and were delivered to the US students in December, 2013. The Panamanian students also included photos and small tokens from the Panamanian students. Meghan received letters from the teachers of the four participating Panamanian schools. Panamanian schools were on break until mid-February. Another round of letters was sent to Panama in early April. 


Fundraising Budget

Our fundraising goal for 2013 is $38,600. This includes the costs of the projects outlined above as well as associated administrative expenses.

2013budgetchart.jpgThe chart above shows the distribution of funds based upon our proposed budget for 2013. In short, we expect to spend 89 cents of every dollar raised to implement our projects. The chart will be updated at the end of the year to show our actual breakdown. We continutally strive to improve this breakdown so that we can make the most effective use of the funds we raise.


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