By Suzanne A. Marshall from the January 2019 Edition
This is our fourth year volunteering for the children’s Christmas party in the barrio of Santiago. It’s a special event held outside in the school grounds where a whole host of expats, neighbourhood volunteers, and older boys and girls, help us out each year.
It’s a lot of hard work for the day, but so meaningful and satisfying to see all of these children, in their finest apparel, having a great time. They are extremely polite and shy, very handsome and beautiful, with their big eyes looking into all these foreign faces who are trying to speak Spanish and make them happy.
Thanks to the year-long hard work of Jimmy and Barbara Brown, Dennis and Linda Breun and Paulina Van Grimbergen (the Committee), this event has been taking place for over a dozen years. This year, we estimated that over 750 children attended, from toddlers to young teens.
The party jumps with raucous laughter and the antics of clowns and a well-organized area for kids to sit and enjoy the fun. Santa also attends and each child receives a very good-quality gift and stockings with candies to take home and enjoy. They can also have their faces painted, and many do!
This year’s gifts included ‘shoes that grow’, for children who are shoeless or outgrowing them quickly, as well as tables of children’s clothing and items donated by many.
The volunteers have set up tables around the covered basketball court and there we cut up hundreds of pieces of pizza, pass out donuts and serve juice to each and every child. The moms and dads wait outside the fences and enjoy the show from a distance.
The tiny ones are served first and are seated in the shade.
As I stand there helping serve small plates of pizza to the long line of niños and the helpers, I can’t believe how orderly and polite these children are. I wish them Feliz Navidad, and even sing a little to make them laugh, then let them select whichever plate they want.
As I am doing this, a young girl pulls out a wrapped candy for me and then passes me a neatly folded letter. Her name is Margarita. She wears a lovely red dress and is perhaps nine or ten years of age. Then she carries on down the line and I step back to read the letter.
It’s a great understatement to say that I was deeply touched by this note. In fact I found myself teary-eyed and holding back the flow. I was so moved by this letter. There are no greater gifts than these in life and I am grateful to have been the person she decided to pass this on to.
The note read:
Photo credit: Laurie Henderson
This letter has so much meaning for us all about sharing and caring enough to be part of this event. Of course, I passed the letter immediately to the group who work all year to make this fiesta take place. I know that they were deeply touched as well. I think sometimes the task is daunting, and some wonder if they’ll do it again next year. But this lovely young girl, who made such an effort to communicate with us in English no less, makes it all worthwhile, I think, and makes all the efforts so much more meaningful and special.
Thank you, Margarita, for sharing your feelings with us and for making this wonderful time of year even more meaningful. And thank you, committees and volunteers, for letting me be part of this truly joyful time.
Suzanne A. Marshall hails from western Canada and has been living the good life in Manzanillo over the past 8 years. She is a wife, mom and grandma. She is retired from executive business management where her writing skills focused on bureaucratic policy, marketing and business newsletters. Now she shares the fun and joy of writing about everyday life experiences in beautiful Manzanillo, Mexico, the country, its people, the places and the events.