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Lamp Missions Help Disadvantaged in Latin America

Elira Ben-Avari - Orlando Sentinel
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September 25, 2012
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CLERMONT, Florida — For some Latin American children, being able to have new shoes, toys or even to continue school after the fifth grade is impossible because of poverty conditions.

The Latin American Mission Partnership is a locally run charity organization that partners with area businesses, individuals and churches in Latin America to help change lives for children and families.

The Clermont group works on behalf of economically disadvantaged children in Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba, providing scholarships for students, food programs for families and construction grants for churches. The group also hosts mission trips abroad.

Since 2000, the organization, also known as LAMP, has made 15 mission trips to Mexico, three to Cuba and a half dozen to Costa Rica. Projects have included building houses for pastors and installing flooring, lighting or ceiling fans at churches. Volunteers also have assisted families and helped to educate youngsters.

"Most of these kids start working at such a young age and they can't break out of this poverty cycle," said Jose Soto, director of the organization and Hispanic ministry pastor at First Baptist Church of Clermont.

Bright kids

He has been involved in the mission since it started.

"The children are so bright but so many do not have a chance," he said.

Soto said it costs about $300 per year for a child to attend school, which covers books, uniforms and transportation. Last year, three girls were sponsored by the group in order to continue their education. They are required to keep up their grades and perform community service.

"We help them and we want them to keep helping each other," Soto said.

In December, the mission sends Christmas gifts to underprivileged children in areas where missions had traveled and assisted in prior years. Soto recalled when a young boy received a remote-control four-wheel drive truck that he wanted badly. Unbeknownst to the woman who donated the truck, the family was reduced to tears and were so grateful to receive the gift for their son, Soto said.

'Big impact'

It's difficult for parents to provide even basic needs such as new shoes and clothing on modest family incomes of a few thousand dollars a year, he said.

"Something that may seem so small and insignificant here makes such a big impact on these families," he said. "We are often taught to be self-centered by society, but to give of our time and resources and then to see the look on someone's face who is in such need, well, it makes a difference in people's lives."

A fundraising car show in August at DiRomio's Pizza & Grill in Clermont raised close to $1,000 and another car show is being planned for early November. Entry fee is $20 per car. Cars are eligible to win awards in several diverse categories including best domestic, best import, best classic, best interior, best paint, best stance and best in show.

For more information visit LampMissions.com or call 352-874-8067. Donations may be mailed to LAMP, 614 East State Road 50, No. 162, Clermont, FL 34711.

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