by Susan Dearing
Please click on the photos to enlarge
Christmas is a time for giving, and Manzanillo has several children's homes where a small, personal gift item would be so appreciated. You can show your generosity in a simple way. Tuck a new toy, doll, or article of clothing in your suitcase when you visit Manzanillo, and show a child you care. It doesn't matter if you're coming after Christmas.
Below is a list of what the children from the Valle de las Garzas orphanage would most like to have. The photos for this story were taken last year at Christmas when your gifts were taken to the children. Children at the Las Garzas orphanage are some of the poorest and most needy in Manzanillo. This year, they range in age from 3 to 13 years. Currently, there are 19 children in the home, roughly 50% boys and 50% girls. The 40-bed facility is run by 3 nuns (along with volunteers from the church), and though it is large, it is not very well-equipped. The children have virtually no toys, and very few clothes. It is dependent mostly on private donations to keep it running. There are several other orphanages and care facilities in Manzanillo, as well as a home for the elderly. Directions on where to bring your gifts follow at the bottom of this story.
Last year, when we came to pass out toys, many of the younger girls clearly wished we had brought more dolls. It was difficult trying to decide who would get the few we had. Barbie dolls were prized, but dolls or stuffed animals that are safe for very young children are really needed, too. Something that made a big hit: watches. The kind you can find at Wal-Mart for under $6. Last year, we didn't have enough to go around.
Decorative T-shirts--for the girls, tees with glitter and ribbons; for the boys, popular soccer shirts with logos of the Chivas or America teams. Actually ANY T-shirts will do, new or used. Shorts, too, all sizes. Jeans, as you can see from the photos, are much needed and sought-after, new or used.
The smaller children love stuffed animals of any kind. Anything from the Disney channel, Dora the Explorer, Ariel, the mermaid, you get the idea. If your child likes it, our kids here will too. Why not let your children make some of the selections of gifts for the orphans here? What a learning experience!
Backpacks for school, school supplies, coloring books, games for all ages. Make-up kits for the older girls, costume jewelry, especially earrings. Hair barrettes, young girls perfume, tennis and soccer shoes of any size. An unusual item that was extremely popular was a toy cell phone. We only had one, and you can't imagine how many children wanted it!
Sugarless candies, perfumed shampoo and soap, shorts, socks, underwear. Anything with a superhero, such as Spiderman. Little girls purses, Fisher Price toys, learning toys, toys with action, but no battery operated toys, please, unless you are prepared to bring a few dozen replacement batteries. Gifts should be durable!
Last year, more than $5,000 USD in gifts was donated to the orphanage through a story similar to this one. This year, we want to give the children in Las Garzas a chance to have a special Christmas. Toy cars and trucks, particularly police cars and fire trucks, books in Spanish, super hero action figures, games like wooden paddle balls, and Frisbees are great gift ideas. We guarantee you that no gift is too small or unimportant. If you're not coming until after Christmas, that's okay. You'll save big and be able to give more with the 50% off sales in the U.S. and Canada. We've been told the Dollar Store and Dollar Tree are great stores to shop in. See if your church will help. If everyone in the congregation gave a dollar, think what good it could do! Other necessities, such as towels, sheets, pillows and blankets are also needed, so take the time to fill every nook and cranny in your suitcase.
They have another problem at the Las Garzas facility. While everyone is eager to bring gifts, the Mother Superior told me of a serious problem. Their last electric bill for 2 months ran $18,000 pesos (about $1,400 USD). The facility doesn't even have air conditioning! The orphanage pays a higher business rate, though it is a not-for-profit organization. The federal electric commission doesn't care. A mad scramble for donations of money saved them from getting their electricity cut off. But it is that time again. It is thought that the electric bill is high because of the round-the-clock washing of clothes, and the swimming pool, and this summer the facility had up to 40 children. Only one old refrigerator is available to draw power, but it is not one of the newer energy-efficient ones.
The original benefactor of the facility, an American named Rodney Good, donated 50% of the costs to build the facility. The church came up with the other half through donations from the congregation. If you or your church can spare any amount of money, I will find time to take you to the orphanage to give the sisters your cash in person. There are only 3 sisters who care for all the children (whether it be 19 or 40), one cook and a kitchen assistant, and a maintenance man/gardener. The Liborio Espinoza Casa Hogar will be closed for 2 weeks beginning Dec. 18. All children in the home will be placed with loving families for the holidays, so they will not have to spend Christmas alone.
On my last visit on Saturday, Dec. 3, one of the sisters told me of a daily need of soap for washing clothes, cooking oil, and sugar, all available here, just in case your suitcase is stuffed.
Remember, these are the kids from just one of our facilities. There are others, equally deserving of your help.* Gifts can be brought to the Scuba Shack, Km. 15 Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid, in Santiago. The author will see that they are given to the children. If you can't bring something, go shopping at our local stores when you get here. Write Susan Dearing at email@example.com
If you would like to visit the La Garzas orphanage in person to pass out your gifts, call me at 120-2667 when you arrive in Manzanillo. If you'd like to volunteer to be Santa at the orphanage, bring your suit, and give me a call!
*Recently, at a Fashion Show/Breakfast to benefit the Helen Keller School, this author met the director of that school, Elias Torres, write: firstname.lastname@example.org. The school, located in the Tapeixtles area, near central Manzanillo, works with disabled ("special needs") children.
I also had the pleasure of going to the annual Christmas Party at MESE (Menores en Situación Especial, or Minors in Special Situations). The purpose of MESE is to help children living in the streets. They have a home with a dormitory where the children sleep, and a kitchen that prepares food, so they will not go hungry. The social workers and care givers at MESE try to learn about the particular situation that put each child on the street, and attempt to find a suitable solution, and most importantly, get them back in school. You can sponsor a child for $250 USD/year, or you can contribute to help single mothers learn a trade, such as sewing, hair styling, or cosmetology. You may e-mail Mapy or Sandra of MESE at email@example.com