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Our Story

 

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Our founders, Jennifer and Richard. Credit: Chhay Photo

Our story stems from the story of our founders: two people from two different cultures with a desire to help those less fortunate.

Richard grew up in rural Panama in what most people in the US would consider poverty. His family was relatively fortunate--they had electricity most of the time, running water every other day, and owned their home and a small piece of land that they cultivated to help sustain themselves. Richard's family always tried to share what they could to help the less fortunate. Meals at the Cedeño casa often include people outside the family.  If Mama Oti sees a neighbor in need, you can be sure she will invite them in for a meal and send them home with whatever food/clothes she can spare.

Jennifer grew up in a middle class family in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. A love of the ocean and its creatures was cultivated in her early in life and it influenced her choice of university and major. While attending a university in Florida, she took a summer internship at a marine biology laboratory where she met her future husband. Richard spent two years in the US in a program that enrolled him in a college in Florida to study aquaculture science; he also landed a summer internship at the same lab.

 

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Jennifer and Richard's wedding in Panama. Credit: LARN

Due to the stipulations of Richard's program of study, he had to return to Panama immediately after completing it. Their romance continued as a long-distance relationship until Jennifer moved to Panama. The couple married there in 2004 and continued to live in Panama for several years before moving to the US. 

Each time they traveled back to their Panamanian home, they packed extra bags full of used clothing and household goods provided by family and friends. Any family or friends who traveled with them were asked to do the same. These goods were distributed to Richard's family and neighbors in Panama. The couple quickly realized that there was a significant enough need to easily find new homes for a much larger assortment of clothing and goods if they could find a better way to get them to Panama.


 

In 2010, joined by friends and family from the US and Panama, our founders made the donation ditribution trip that led to the formation of LARN, Inc.
A group photo with some of the 2010 donation trip volunteers. Credit: LARN 

With the help of family and friends in the US, the Cedeños collected used clothing, toys, and other household goods that could be given to families and individuals living in poverty or sub-optimal conditions. In late July 2010, the Cedeños and several family members and friends traveled to Panama for one week. During that week, the group from the US were joined by a group of Richard's Panamanian family and friends to distribute all donated items to people living in communities in need. In total, the volunteers visited nine rural communities.

Following the success of the first container shipment and donation trip, the Cedeños realized that they could make a bigger impact and have an easier time with the shipping process if they began a non-profit organization to continue their work. This idea was discussed with their family and friends. Jennifer and her mother took classes at the local community college on starting a non-profit. Meanwhile, they continued gathering donations from friends, family and local yard sales. In 2012, friends and family gathered several times to sort and box up the overflowing pile of donations they received over the previous year. 

In the Spring of 2012 they established a board of directors and officially created LARN; the Cedeños had become our founders. LARN received its tax-exempt status in the Fall of 2012.

In late 2012 and early 2013, we established our online presence and began fundraising for our proposed 2013 projects. This website was launched in September, 2013.

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