In the U.S., we all give money to our charities. We don’t usually give time. We don’t give stuff unless we’ve already used it and are ready to give it away. This method of giving works for us. It’s easy. Those in charge of the funds buy the needed things. One hopes.
In Costa Rica, money just doesn’t always work. Because the things people need are not always available. If they are available, they are often much too costly.
So giving stuff is often better. People in developing nations use up their stuff. Use it all up. For instance, I have a million year old oven in my house with a broken thermometer. The landlord sent the repair guy who pulled it out – this tiny part that we would’ve tossed in the garbage – picked at it for awhile and got it working again. When I say Costa Ricans use up their stuff, I mean every last drop of use. Everything you bring here will be used. Nothing will go to waste.
You will see stuff on here that would clearly be impossible to carry in a suitcase. Like sheets of roofing material. This would certainly perplex the customs guys… But big items are here for locals who want to help out!
This list was compiled by the generous and Out There Vallarta Vicki, one of the prime movers behind our Meetup Group, with the help of :
Ginnee at Costa Rica Mountain
Scott at Crazy Jungle & Tropical Adventures Volunteer Vacations
Barry & Nanci at The Bridge
One more thing. The first time I saw this list, I was overwhelmed. If you are inclined to bring something, I swear to you ONE THING makes a difference. One pair of shoes may be all that stands between a child and school. I am not making this up.
Before a child can go to school here, they must have their own uniforms, including the required shoes 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. I know because it happened to us.
- 3-ringed binders
- Anything and everything educational
- Art paper and supplies
- Backpacks or small/medium duffle tote bags. Waterproof is good. Different colors would be fun for the kids.
- Blow up beach ball globes of the world (they have never seen the world round, only flat)
- Book bags
- *Books: Used/new books in both English and Spanish, for adults, teens & kids
- Coloring books and crayons, markers, watercolors
- Colored paper
- Colored pencils
- Computers (working): Laptops / Printer / Scanner (please provide cartridges, cables, etc. as they are expensive here)
- Craft paper
- Craft type items
- Dictionary: Spanish-English (not English-Spanish)
- Eraser boards (white)
- Face paint
- Finger paints
- Flash cards
- Games (Educational): memory/matching games/cards/coordination
- Geometry set
- Paper – plain white, lined and construction
- Pencil sharpeners
- Pencils (either pre-sharpened or please send sharpeners)
- Play dough (or ingredients: flour, salt, food coloring)
- Powder craft paint
- Rulers (metric)
- Science kits (must be in Spanish)
- Socks – all sizes, any color for everyday, most schools require NAVY or "Marine Blue"
- Tissue paper
- UNIFORMS: different ages/areas have slightly different requirements but you can hardly go wrong with white or light blue button-down shirts, navy blue pants and skirts, white or navy socks, black shoes
*Books in English and Spanish – adult, teen, kids, children – are so welcome. If you have to pick one language, pick Spanish. These kids need to learn reading is fun and interesting. Most of all, they need fun and interesting.
Re clothing: These are small frame people, so sizes S, M, all children sizes. I will still donate Mo and Ryan‘s good hand-me-downs, but they will fit very few Costa Ricans!
- Any practical clothing in good repair: jeans, t-shirts
- Baby clothes
- Bathing suits
- Diapers – Cloth – Diaper Pins
- Jackets (light)
- Shoes – Especially needed are black for school, but also tennis, any comfortable kids’ shoes. All sizes, types, for all genders.
- Skirts – Gathered skirts for girls (they like skirts)
- Socks (for kids) – good quality new socks
- Sweat shirts, sweaters – it gets cold in the mountains!
- Underwear – Children’s
- Uniforms – see above
- Baby – Boxed Milk, Formula, jarred food, bedding
- Baseball caps
- BLANKETS: These are expensive here and you need them at night in the mountains
- Bug repellent
- BUILDING SUPPLIES – ANYTHING you no longer need CAN & WILL be used: hammers, nails, roofing materials
- CLEANING MATERIALS: rags, sponges, Ajax, buckets, brooms, mops, laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent (the paste ONLY), bleach
- DVDs: especially for kids, rated G with Spanish subtitles
- DVD Players (for community centers)
- Fax machine (for community centers) Not thermal.
- Flashlights and batteries with standard parts easily found [batteries are EXPENSIVE
- here]). Even better are battery-less flashlights you can shake or crank.
- Non-perishable food Items: rice, beans, cooking oil, corn flour (masa rica), boxed milk, salt, sugar, powdered milk, canned tuna, dry soup mix, chicken broth, tang, hot chocolate mix
- Kitchen items: pots/pans, big spoons, anything really
- Printed t-shirts & caps with teams, states, cities, tourist that can be sold by the indigenous guides
- MEDICAL SUPPLIES: Meds for headaches and colds
- Vitamins, naturall remedies, aspirin, pain relievers, crutches, wheelchairs, Band-Aids,
- Nails: all kinds, especially nails used on aluminum roofs
- Pet supplies: food, leashes, bowls, toys, houses/cages, carriers, flea collars, Frontline type of products.
- Plastic garbage bags
- RAIN GEAR: umbrellas, ponchos, raincoats/jackets, rubber boots, galoshes
- Roofing material: galvanized zinc & tin.
- Sewing kits
- Sheets: single and double
- Shower curtains – thick, heavy, single color (used to waterproof thatch roofs)
- Sports equipment: shoes, uniforms, balls, bats, sets
- TARPS/BIG rolls of plastic – ALWAYS NEEDED to fix leaking roofs or waterproof thatched roofs
- TOILETRIES/PERSONAL HYGIENE ITEMS: shampoos, soaps (save the giveaways from the hotels), toothbrushes, toothpaste, kotex type pads, makeup (new or used), lotions, dental floss, toilet paper
- TOYS (see below)
- Towels: for bathing or rags for cleaning
It’s never too early to start bringing things for the kids in orphanages, etc. NOTHING electric or battery-operated. No monsters, scary or violent toys, figures, games.
- Art kits
- Art supplies
- BOOKS (ideally in Spanish)
- Coloring books (in Spanish if you can find them)
- Constructions type of things
- Craft things/projects
- Educational games
- Games: memory/matching games/cards
- Matchbox type cars
- Pickup sticks
- Rattles/things for babies
- Science kits (must be in Spanish)
- Sewing kits
- Soccer Balls (one of the most requested items – they are very expensive here)
- Stuffed animals
- Tea sets
- Toys –
- Wrapping Paper
DVDs at The Bridge
These are the ones Barry and Nanci have. If you have any of these and want to bring it anyway, someone else could use it, for sure. But if you are visiting the Puerto Viejo area and want to bring DVDs for The Bridge, these are the ones they already have:
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Bend It Like Beckham
- Black Stallion
- Blazing Saddles
- Calendar Girls
- Casper The Friendly Ghost
- Catch Me If You Can
- Chicken Run
- Dead Poet’s Society
- Emperor’s club
- Goofy Movie
- Green Card
- Ice Age
- It Runs In The Family
- Lion King 1 1/2
- My Fellow Americans
- Never Ending Story II
- Over The Hill Gang
- Patch Adams
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Santa Clause
- Something’s Gotta Give
- Sorcerer’s Apprentice
- Tarzan: the fearless & the trappers
- The Bear
- The Cat In The Hat
- The Majestic
- The Other Side of Heaven
- Under the Tuscan Sun
- Waking Ned Divine
- Zeus & Roxanne