Although the season has come and gone, I wanted to share an exceptional experience that my family and friends had with an adopted family of 4 – in Costa Rica.
Our children had planned a trip to Costa Rica for a 10 day visit over the Christmas season and they asked us to join them. We hesitated but investigated the area, addressed safety and health concerns and bought our tickets! Our trip consisted of 17 family members and close friends, who collectively decided we would take our good fortune in life and adopt a family in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica.
As the matriarch of the family, I reached out to those that would be going and those that would not to seek their interest, through a small contribution, so we could make a difference for a family. I had my daughters contact our condo representative and help us select a family, from their point of view, that could use a prosperous Christmas. It wasn’t long before we had a family of four identified dad, mom and two children – a 7 year old boy, Dennis Jr and a 5 year old girl, Deanne Stephanie.
As my husband and I prepared our own luggage for this wonderful trip we ensured we had room for all that had come our way from those donations. We had cash that we converted to colon, Costa Rica’s recognized currency. We had gifts that we collected consisting of hair brushes, ribbons and barrettes, pencils, erasers, coloring books, sweet colorful candy canes, crayons for the younger children and even items specifically meant for mom and dad.
Each of these items were consolidated into little give away packages for the children we hoped to encounter over and above the family we had adopted. They were bundled into girl and boy packages and sealed with love so that every child would have something to carry off from our meeting.
Work was happening behind the scenes for our family, the kind people of our condo in Costa Rica had discussed with the selected family; what would they need to help their Christmas be special. This family’s list was for essentials only, food, rice and some special spices that were too costly for them to purchase. The children asked for items that are in abundance in our great grandchildren’s toy boxes. Deanne Stephanie asked for nothing more than a Barbie and little Dennis Jr. wanted only to one day own a remote control car!
We settled into our happy comfortable condo in Costa Rica, looking forward to the day we could take our generous donations from folks back home and invest it in a family that needed to have a break so their Christmas could also be memorable. The secretary of the resort was given time off to assist us in shopping and getting the most for our money that we had gathered for this family. It included a visit to the local grocery store to buy items that this family was accustomed to, but not always able to afford. Rice, seasonings, items for everyday living! We even purchased a pre-roasted chicken to lessen the burden of needing to prepare a meal on Christmas Eve.
From the grocery store we went to a local mini mart that carried clothing and items that these precious children had dreamed of. We bought the little girl her very own “Frozen” Barbie, searched for the remote control car for this little boy that would be the envy of his community because he had one. We also made sure that he had double the batteries he would need to enjoy that for weeks to come. Dad would receive some very much needed clothing and a brand new toiletry kit. Mom would be blessed with new dresses, pants and blouses that she had not had in sometime, and all topped off with some wonderfully special lotions and hair products for the lady of the house. Shoes for every member of this family were also afforded from the donations that came from back home.
All the items were loaded into our rental vehicle and off we went to meet this family in their home! Before arriving we took a moment to stop on the side of the road to package these special gifts for each and every member of this family. As we did so, the community children became curious and before long we had many surrounding us, with wide coal black eyes, wondering what was going on.
With all the work that had been done back in Canada, we had bundled packages for both boys and girls and for different age groups as well. We could not get these into the hands of the curious children fast enough! My daughter and son-in-law handed out these gifts to every outreached hand and yet we were very aware of every single thank you that came back from these exuberant children. As the smiling, children ran away with their little treasures, we still had a few packaged gifts left that could go to other children in the neighbourhood we were about to enter.
We drove slowly into their local neighbourhood and were taken aback by the pure simplicity of their living standards. Nothing more than tin walls, with used lumber that had been collected by these people to build, what they would call their homes. The roofs were thatched with old palm tree leaves and weaved into one another for some form of density to ensure rain did not reach them in their sleep. Clean clothing hung from the wire fences with hanging pots and essential tools that we here in Canada so take for granted.
Karen, our guide pulled up in front of our family’s home. They were ready for us to be there – but certainly not as ready as we were. Our excitement could hardly be contained to share our gifts for someone who was apparently less fortunate. As they exited their humble home the smiles are the image that I will hold dear forever. The children were shy, clean, well behaved and anxious to see what these strangers were bringing.
As we began to unload our Christmas parcels and bags of essential foods items, the community children began to appear; once again curious as to what was going on. Again we pulled our remaining gifts bags for these children, split into girl and boy appropriate packages. It was not long before those bags of love were gone, with all that remained to be nothing more than a plentiful bag of colored candy canes. My son-in-law encouraged these children to take “as many as you like”, only to have one little boy suggest that “we only need to take one so others could also have one”. This choked me with emotion that a child would refrain in order to have his community friends also be able to have a sweet treat that was indeed a special for them.
As the candy canes were distributed our family remained at a distance, not really know what to do or say. So Karen told them in their language, that they could step forward to help get the items into their home. They all pitched in to load the grocery items into their humble household. It wasn’t until later that we came to understand that they had no refrigeration, nor a stove to cook on, yet had a large fire pit that would serve them well in cooking what we had brought to them. The roast chicken created a lot of conversation amongst mom and dad – and I guess it would have been because no one needed to do anything extra on Christmas Eve to prepare this bountiful meal.
The children were then presented with their specially wrapped gifts and told to feel free to open and look at what was inside. Deanne Stephanie spotted her Barbie and became so focused that she hardly noticed the clothing and other special items that had been prepared for her. With one exception and that was a specially wrapped gift that had a fancy Christmas ribbon and a Christmas bell that sparkled. She unwrapped this gift with care, and carefully took that ribbon and bell and placed it around her neck as though she had been presented with a gold medal. She swung from side to side to show off her new necklace and smiled wide as she clutched her new Barbie that this image will forever be ingrained in my mind. Once Dennis Jr popped open that bag to discover he had a remote control car, all the other little boys that were watching chattered gleefully about his new found riches. He carefully looked deeper in the bag to discover shoes and candy treats that he knew were special. It was not long before he scooped his bag to hurry away and discover more of the contents.
Mom and dad were both grateful, breathless and emotional to the wealth of items they were being presented. They could not express their appreciation enough and through our interpreter continued to thank us and have god bless us for the entire ½ hour that we visited. Only once the van was empty did we seek their permission to have a family photo taken. Karen asked if they would object, of which they clearly did not.
From the picture attached you can see that Christmas Eve in Costa Rica was made special by all those that donated back in Canada. Each and every individual that provided cash, time, packaged presents with special bows and bells – know who they are… and it is for those people that I want to thank you for allowing us to be the courier of love that came from each every hand and household back in Chestermere, Airdrie and area, as well as MountainView Campground – in order to make for a very special Christmas Story in Costa Rica.
Minnie & Henry Braeutigam
Our adopted Costa Rican family