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      Creating a life in America

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - There is an apartment in Columbia full of love and laughter, but the story begins thousands of miles from here.

      Cacilia Lopez came to the United States from Mexico 10 years ago.

      Ondina Miranda came over from Honduras 8 years ago.

      Their paths crossed once they got to the states and found their way to PASOs, a local group whose goal is to help integrate Latino families into the American way of life.

      "The most important thing for us to be in PASOs is to make bridges from the community with PASOs. And then PASOs makes bridges with the other resources." says Ondina Miranda, a community leader for PASOs.

      Resources in areas like healthcare and education, which can often seem overwhelming and confusing for someone new to this country

      Though both of these women are now community leaders, they remember their early days in America where simply taking care of a sick child was made even more stressful by not knowing where to go.

      "Before when my daughter, she was fever - very high. I say ' I go to the emergency room'. And maybe I can save the money to go to the emergency room and just call the doctor or just go to another clinic." says Cacilia Lopez, a PASOs community leader.

      The women say PASOs has been a saving grace by not only showing them where to go, but creating a bond within the organization made of strong friendships that create a safety net.

      "When you come here, your friends are your family. If you have any question and I don't have the money to call my mom to ask for, I can call some of my friends and tell 'ok, my baby's feeling like this'. And you can tell me what you recommend." says Miranda.

      Most importantly, Cacilia and Ondina want people to know that many who come from other countries are not trying to drain America's resources, but rather contribute in a positive way.

      "We come here because we look for a better life. We don't want to take government resources. No. We are here to work. We pay taxes. We need to learn." says Lopez.

      A desire to learn that drives many to organizations like PASOs, which helps serve as a roadmap for their future in America.