Luckily, shopkeepers and advertisers aren’t the only people who spring into high gear over the holidays. So do the country’s charity organizations, which offer you plenty of ways to add someone to your gift list who could really use the kindness. These groups generally distribute their gifts Dec. 15-24, however, so time is short!
From indigenous groups lacking basic resources, to families living in makeshift shacks under bridges in the Central Valley, to young people in jail, there’s no shortage of groups who can benefit from a simple gift of clothing, books or toys. And for people looking to roll up their sleeves and help out in person, options abound.
One of the longest-running campaigns – with perhaps the longest name, “Every Indigenous Boy, Girl and Senior Citizen Has a Right to Smile This Christmas” – seeks to provide gifts not only to 1,500 indigenous kids throughout the country, but also to 500 senior citizens.
The drive, an annual effort that the Foundation for Cultural and Social Development of Costa Rican Indigenous Groups (FUNDEICO) began in 1989, targets five or six indigenous territories each year in order to eventually reach all groups. This year, the territories in which the organization will hold events to distribute gifts are Alta Talamanca Kachabri Bribri (Dec. 16-17), Bajo Chirripó (Dec. 18-19), Las Vegas de Rey Curré and Saritri de Buenos Aires de Puntarenas (Dec. 22), and Quitirrisí de Mora (Dec. 24), according to foundation president Carlos Chaverri. For senior citizens, the foundation offers food items.
He told The Tico Times that all contributors, even those who send a gift or donation from another country, will receive a written report on the results of the campaign, photos and videos of events held in the reserves.
Those interested in helping out can take gifts and food to the foundation’s San José office in the northern suburb of Tibás, 100 m east and 60 south of Burger King, or make financial contributions to Banco de Costa Rica accounts 229305-6 (U.S. dollars) or 229304-8 (colones). For more information, call 241-7187 or e-mail [email protected]
For many underprivileged children within the Central Valley, Gail Nystrom and her Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation are a source of support year-round, and that doesn’t change in December. Long-time foundation supporter Barbara Nace has for 15 years organized the group’s Christmas events for at least 140 at-risk children. Both she and Nystrom collect gifts and distribute them to kids whose families live under bridges as well as young people in the low-income housing development La Promesa in Santa Ana, southwest of San José, and in the shantytown La Carpio, west of the capital.
The organization also offers opportunities for people looking to do more than just buy and wrap a gift. People are welcome to donate items for a Christmas party, such as cookies or piñatas, or sponsor an entire event. The Humanitarian Foundation throws pizza parties for young people in prison who don’t get visits from family members, and last year took a group of kids from La Carpio to the movies.
“They spent a lot of time in the bathroom watching the toilets flush, because they’d never seen a flush toilet,” Nystrom said.
Another trip the nonprofit group seeks to organize, with a little support, is a visit by La Carpio kids to the NationalAmusement Park.
The park is just minutes from the shantytown, but might as well be on another planet for most of the kids.
For more information, contact Nystrom (390-4192) or Nace (282-9476).
Also benefiting a wide range of recipients is San José-based nonprofit organization Ministerio Amor de la Calle, which has launched its “Make a Child Happy this Christmas” campaign for the 13th consecutive year. The campaign targets 1,000 kids and teenagers, according to director Sonia Brenes.
“We hold Christmas parties for teenagers in jail, children and teenagers in urban areas and adolescents in rehabilitation at our refuge in (the Caribbean province of) Limón,” Brenes said in an e-mail.Ways to help include donating gifts for kids or teens, food for parties, Christmas decorations or funds to help cover transportation and other expenses. For more on how to help, call 256-2009.
U.S. singer and missionary Phil Jones, of Blood N Fire Ministries, is working with department store Cemaco to get gifts into the hands of 1,000 kids at the Triángulo de Solidaridad shantytown and other lowincome areas in San José. The eight-year Costa Rican resident, who sings with his band Mr. Jones as well as other groups such as Editus, said Blood N Fire goes through the community to conduct a census and record the names of ages of all eligible kids. Cemaco shoppers can choose a name at the store and then purchase a gift.
The five-year-old drive has become an international effort. Two families from the United States are flying in to spend the holidays in Costa Rica and help distribute the gifts Dec. 21-22 – a process in which local residents are welcome to participate as well – and a man in Germany is sending 100 gifts, Jones said.
“We try to give (gifts) to people we know, we’ve had contact with, so we know they’re the poorest of the poor,” he added. “These kids don’t get very much. They’re pretty appreciative of anything.”
When the foundation receives unlabeled gifts, Jones said he travels through low income areas throughout greater San José, doing what he calls “drive-by gift giving” – looking for needy families with kids the right age for the items.
To donate a gift, visit any Cemaco store in the San José area or contact Jones at 236-0978.
Another group seeking to help impoverished kids: the people behind orgullogaycr.com, the gay pride Web site, which has its own holiday initiative to help kids living on the street and is also working with the nonprofit Fundación Caritas Felices to help kids with HIV-AIDS.
The foundation is planning a party for 139 kids with HIV-AIDS throughout the country, and needs supplies – drinks, cookies, candies, disposable plates and utensils – or donations to Banco de Costa Rica account 228990-3, according to the site. Contact Caritas Felices at 236-2979 for more information.
In addition, Amigos de orgullogay.com (friends of the site) are collecting gifts for kids living on the streets, mostly in downtown San José at traffic lights, bus stops, restaurant entrances and other spots where kids often ask for help, according to webmaster Vinny Jarquín.
“Help the Kids on the Street was an initiative of two friends of our page,” Jarquín told The Tico Times in an e-mail. “A few people have insisted in their desire to help, and we hope the project works.We don’t discard (the possibility) that next year we’ll handle bigger projects, seeking direct support from businesses that are friends of the site.”
For more information, visit the site or contact Jarquín at [email protected]. Last but not least, the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree project –cosponsored by The Tico Times, TV Channel 7,Hospital Clínica Bíblica and Comunicaciones Colorvisión – provides gifts to more than 150 kids in need. To contribute, see the ad on page W-7, where children’s names, genders and ages are listed; choose a child and call the Salvation Army at 221-8266 for more information.