Costa Rica is prosperous compared to the rest of Central America. Positively rich, compared to Nicaragua (our immediate neighbor to the north and the 13th poorest country in the world). Costa Rica does well due mainly to its stable government. No genocide here, no army, very peaceful, no dictator taking back your land, changing the rules on you without warning. No guys in uniforms standing around with huge guns. Except at the bank which is where you want them. This stability invites investment from all over the world, bringing jobs and money.
Still, there is real poverty here. Real hunger. REAL lack of educational opportunity. To those of us from developed nations, seeing all this up close and personal is shocking. And unbelievable. For me, anyway. At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I actually thought – God, you are going to think I am such a spoiled brat (like that’s news?): "This must be how locals in developing nations live."
Yeah. How could I be over 50, with a college degree, having owned my own successful businesses, have a pretty good marriage (ok, he’s not perfect today), blah blah blah… and still be so ignorant?
The only saving grace is that I KNOW I’m not alone in this. Until you see this kind of poverty up close and personal, you can’t even imagine it.
Evidence of it is impossible to miss, particularly in the city. I have never been surrounded by dirty barefoot children
begging, like we were in Nicaragua. (You see a few panhandlers, but my
sense is that Costa Ricans are too proud to beg.) But I all too often see "living quarters" and "neighborhoods" that are hard to look at. I force myself. These aren’t cute natives who are so used to living this way, they don’t mind. These are fellow human beings who are so poor they are living in conditions you and I don’t even want to look at.
What you won’t see, unless you make considerable effort, is how all of the indigenous people of this country live. Which is the same way many illegal aliens, mostly from Nicaragua, live. And, I imagine in some cases, ticos in the most rural areas. Subsistence farming is key to survival. Dirt floors, grass huts, no plumbing, no electricity, no phone, no shoes, you eat what you grow or can trade from a neighbor, no medical care. And, too too often, NO SCHOOLS. No real way to get a leg up.
I cannot fathom such a life.
I CAN help alleviate some of the stresses. You can, too. Here’s how.
Money is helpful, no question. If you want suggestions on where to mail a check or push a Paypal button, let me know. I will share with you the places and people and organizations I know about. There are some VERY good people on the ground here who are hands on and doing incredible work. I’ve seen it. Your money will not be wasted on office equipment here in Costa Rica!!!
The only real downside to donating money in a developing nation with a dearth of good shopping and a pitiful selection of goods, is that you pay double (because of duty) what you pay in the states… IF – and this is the critical thing – the item is available at all.
I don’t mean to discourage monetary donations. Please – have at it!!!! The beauty of donating money in a developing nation is that $10 goes a looooong way!
WHAT TO BRING
If you can bring anything on this list – even one box of crayons or one pair of children’s sneakers that you saw at Kmart or Ross for $2 and couldn’t resist or a G rated DVD with Spanish subtitles – please do.
HOW TO GET IT TO THE RIGHT PLACE
I can think of two easy options.
1. The best thing would be to ask the proprietor of the place you are staying if there is a drop-off or local organization that could use what you can bring. That would be simple, immediate and completely gratifying to help out "your" area! If your proprietor doesn’t know anyone, contact me and I will see what’s available where you will be. Once I find it, I will also let the proprietor know for future reference.
2. If you will be in San Jose overnight, let me know where you are staying. One of us will come get what you have and take it to the right place.
If you have some extra spoons or crayons or construction paper, just stick it in your suitcase. Maybe an opportunity will present itself on your Costa Rica travels.
If bringing stuff is too much to think about for your first visit, please consider it for your second. You will be back. In the meantime, there’s always money.
Remember me? We’d e-mailed each other a few times before my computer crashed … and then I lost your e-mail address, and for the life of me I can’t find a link to it on this blogsite.
I hope this comment, although responding to an older blog post, does get to your attention … no idea the mechanics on these blog beasts … .
I wanted to copy you on a post I’ve submitted to my favoured online discussion group. It has a membership of over 500, so, hopefully we’ll drown in socks before we come.
See how clever I am at contriving a meeting with you?
Here it is, slightly edited for privacy :
I’ve been waiting for a lull in conversation to mention this appeal. G(snip), N(snip), T(snip), E(snip) and I are going to Costa Rica in early oh eight, and we wish to support some of the (very) grass roots organizations working with aboriginal communities there. There are so many ways to offer support … with money being an obvious no brainer.
Travelling with three babes, our wish was to come up with a tangible, but lightweight, *something* to bring, and we’ve decided on socks. White socks.
Before a child can go to school in Costa Rica, they must have their own uniforms, including the required shoes and socks, right down to the color and ALL of their own supplies. It runs $75 and up per year. Not much to you and me but might as well be a million dollars to some families. Many children CANNOT go to school because they do not have a uniform! They can be and ARE sent home for not having the right shoes. If you are inclined to offer something, (for us to bring with us to CR) I swear to you ONE THING makes a difference. One pair of shoes, or socks, may be all that stands between a child and school. I am not making this up. (Thank you A Broad In Costa Rica for the verbage, which I’ve plagerized, slightly edited.)http://www.abroadincostarica.com/2007/08/what-you-can-gi.html
You come in this way: we want you to send us socks. Use this as an opportunity to discuss philanthropy, global social responsibility, poverty, privilege, education with your children. We want to fill up a big fat suitcase with bags and bags of white socks. All sizes … well, with the caveat that Tico people are generally smaller statured than North Americans. No stripes, no grey soles, just white, white socks.
You can send them to:
And, if you have a mind to, you could include a cash donation as well. Cash, cheque — both are lightweight, and will fit in our carryon. $75 can make a huge difference in one family’s life. I haven’t worked out all the logistics of how we’ll translate your cheques to a charitable giving in Costa Rica. One option that comes to mind is, you could click the link I offered and scroll down to where Sally references:
Ginnee at Costa Rica Mountain
Scott at Crazy Jungle & Tropical Adventures Volunteer Vacations
Barry & Nanci at The Bridge
and select one of these organizations to write your cheque or money order directly to. Another option is to write a cheque to me, Cindy (snip), and trust that I will translate these cheques into one donation cheque using (snip), my husband’s business currency broker. And yes, this latter option *does* require you to trust me to be honourable — hopefully a position that has been supported by your experience of me over the last two years on this list. For what it’s worth, we wouldn’t be jetting a family of five off to Costa Rica from (snip) if we were in a position to need to pilfer a bit off the top of the charitable givings you offer. Enough said.
If you have any questions, please offer them on list, as perhaps others will have wondered the same.
looking forward to a sock filled mailbox,
P.S. As you’ll discover on your own if you scroll long enough through A Broad In Costa Rica’s blog, Sally and Hal are ex-pat homeschooling parents to two sons.
I’ll be in CR at SJO on the evening of the 9th of June. I can bring a suitcase full of donations and leave it at hotel aeropuerto in your name. I need to know what your students need. Yes I read the list but any a guiding light to favorites would be appreciated.
I’m asking around to see what’s the most needed right now. I will get back to you – Thank you!!!