December 18, 2010

Christmas in Vista Hermosa--Care for Kids La Paz

Beyond all that is lush and wonderful about Mexico, it’s impossible to forget that it’s also home to some very poor people. The hills around La Paz are filled with squatter’s shacks, mostly inhabited by migrants who have travelled from other parts of Mexico, hoping find work in this relatively prosperous region.

As cruisers—it’s easy to stay on the periphery of the places we visit. We hang out with fellow cruising friends, and only occasionally get to know the locals. But there are some people who venture to a place like La Paz, and rather than sitting on the beaches or hanging out at gringo events, they look around and find a place that needs them.
Barbara, and some of the beautiful girls who are in school with help from the foundation
 In this case, a woman called Barbara Spencer found a colonia called Vista Hermosa on the windswept hills above La Paz. There, the children went to school with empty bellies and even the brightest dropped out far too soon. So Barbara began working with the local priest and the children’s mothers—trying to get them a healthy breakfast three times a week. Then she added scholarships—helping bright, hardworking students to complete their educations.

We would never have known about Barbara’s quiet contribution to the little colonia on the hill—but I came across a notice she put up, requesting Christmas gifts for poor kids. And considering that buying gifts for kids in need is one of our favourite holiday traditions, I contacted Barbara and learned a bit about Care For Kids La Paz. When I told her we wanted to contribute, she invited us to the Christmas Fiesta.

The drive to Vista Hermosa took us beyond La Paz’s paved roads and up dusty winding ones—the view down was stunning, but the view around was one of poverty. The day though was a celebration and every child was dressed in their best clothes, waiting to see what gifts might arrive.
 We were quickly surrounded by children and Maia was swept away by shy giggling girls who practiced their English on her—while she practiced her Spanish. My camera was the icebreaker—with first a trickle, then a flood of shy smiles appearing in my lens.
When it came time for the piñata, Maia declined the first spot in the girl’s line, but happily accepted space further back. When the piñata burst, her hands were repeatedly filled with candy by our gracious new friends (which she then passed on to the younger children).
Comida (lunch) then gifts soon followed, and the day disappeared more quickly than we could have imagined. As we left, Maia was hugged, her red hair stroked and examined, and Feliz Navidads were exchanged.
And when we drove down the winding road and back into our fortunate life, we felt richer than ever.
 
If you are looking for a place for any Christmas cash you might have left over—consider Care for Kids La Paz. It’s a small charity, it only reaches out to a few hundred children, but it gives them an entire world of opportunities.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

All the best to you and your family. Merry Christmas. Anon

Debbie Abrams Kaplan said...

What a lovely post! I'm sure it will be a memory Maia (and of course you and Evan) will remember forever. We spent Christmas on Isla Espiritu Santo 8 years ago - with a bunch of gringos and our two Mexican guides (and 2 cooks). We loved hearing them sing their Christmas songs and hear about their memories of the holiday growing up.

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

Thanks, Anon. Deb, that sounds wonderful. I've tried to convince Ev and Maia to head out to Espiritu Santo for Christmas day--but they want to stay in port... Mexico is a fun place for Christmas though:)

Ian said...

That is a very inspiring travel... I am not aware of that place in Mexico. Well the happiness that they felt especially the kids are sure a fulfillment on you. It is always a good idea to help people even just in simple ways.