Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Francisco Collazo
The very first country I traveled to outside the U.S. was Costa Rica.
I was 15 and I was alone, but I wasn’t scared. Not even when the shower in my host family’s home shot hot sparks at me while bathing. Not even when I took a chicken bus through the mountains in the middle of the night to go to the beach for the weekend. Not even when an earthquake-the first I’d ever been in-rattled the ground.
I carry every place I’ve ever been inside me, and I carry the people I’ve met with me, too. I think about them and wonder how their lives have unfolded.
Holiday cheer for all.
This Christmas, my friend Rebecca, a military wife, is hosting a holiday gift drive for Costa Ricans in need. Rebecca lives in Costa Rica and volunteers in her community throughout the year. During the holidays, she ramps up her efforts even more, counting on the generosity and support of friends and family to help.
This all started because people wanted to send us care packages…. People back home wanted so support our family who was living in a third world country on the local economy with no military base. During our time there I began simple (limited Spanish) conversations with people I interacted with on a regular basis– from the mom who was dropped off with her babies to sell fruit on the street to the guy who carried our trash down 18 flights of stairs because he was not allowed to use the elevator.
On Easter I happened to walk by one of the men who walked those stairs for the trash. He was sitting with his children and had a small loaf of bread. His wife was working. He was allowed to bring his children to work on Easter. There they sat, happy and thankful for their loaf of bread. Upstairs, we had a huge Easter feast with most of our favorites from the U.S. It was at that moment I realized I was blessed to be in the presence of gracious folks with true faith who were happy because they had bread and family. Talk about being humbled by the presence of the Lord. He was there with that family.
I decided then to ask family and friends to stop sending care packages for us, but instead to put together boxes of random items they felt they took for granted on a daily basis. I asked them to send those boxes to us and to allow my family to give them out to folks we met along our journey. Thus, Random Acts of Kindness began… care packages designed so that we can show others that they are not forgotten. Even after four years of this I still get tears in my eyes with every package. Who cries over boxes of toothbrushes, soap, and adult and children’s diapers? This girl!
If you’d like to help out with Rebecca’s project, you can do so in one of two ways. This year, she and her family are taking care packages to abandoned elderly as well as bags of groceries to families who live in the mountains of Puriscal. If you’d like to send a care package, you can fill it with toiletries and self-care items and send it to Rebecca via US mail; packages must be posted by December 7. A list of suggested items is below. The other alternative is to send money via PayPal, which Rebecca will use to purchase groceries for one of 20 families who have been adopted for the holidays. Each grocery bag will include: 2 or 3 Reusable Grocery Bags, Rice and Beans (Black and Red), Sugar, Corn, Flour, Cooking Oil, Coffee, Fresh Fruit, Cereal, Oatmeal, Powdered Milk, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows (a big treat down here at Christmas), Ketchup, Mayo, Jelly, Peanut Butter, Christmas Cookies/Chocolates, Box of Diapers and Wipes.
Items for the Elderly
Diaper Rash Cream
Talc Free Powder
Skid Free Socks
Sensitive Hydrating Lotion
Sensitive Bars of Soap
Tooth Paste and Sensitive Toothbrushes
Sugar Free Chocolates & Sugar Free Hard Candies
Regular Chocolates & Regular Hard Candies or soft mints
PJs with buttons for men
Nightgowns for women or Pjs with Buttons
T-shirts for men (white)
Softer Bristled Hair Brushes
Bath Towels (not too thick b/c they need to be air dried)
Other Cleaning Supplies
TO PARTICIPATE, PLEASE EMAIL REBECCA at email@example.com with RAK as the subject. She will provide you with specific instructions for mailing or PayPal-ing.
And thank you/gracías.