Do You Have Locals On You Christmas List?

Most of us care to remember them but don’t know how. So listen up
BY: CARRIE DUNCAN

Nearly all foreigners who spend much time here notice the sometimes ragamuffin kids running around. We wonder if they are truly in need or if that’s just the way it is here, and they are fine. Then there are all the thousands of kids in the barrio that we know are there but who we can’t see. Do they truly need our help, and if so, how can we best help them, and which ones? Do we just pack up a bunch of toys and drive out to the barrio and toss them out at kids we see? Don’t laugh, many good-hearted people do just that.

Here is a more organized and helpful way to remember local children at this time of the year. These organizations have been professionally vetted, and the organizations themselves have vetted the families they help.

What ever happened to just walking around and meeting folks in need? Well, first off there is the language barrier, as those in need seldom speak English. These are people who are poorly educated. Then there is the cultural barrier, how do you offer help? Cash? That always seems a bit crass in every culture. You give your teenage nephew cash because you can’t understand him. Same thing here.

Here’s how you can be a big help, in ways that actually save lives.

The Los Cabos Children’s Foundation is one of those well vetted, experienced charities that assist with the needs of the community full time, and have been for many years. They have a small core of paid staff and a huge network of volunteers who are counted on to raise money for the health programs that the Mexican government does not cover.

The LCCF has been instrumental in creating the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit the only one of its kind throughout this state. Together with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit they provide care to minors in the most critical health conditions. They also help children who cannot afford a life-saving drug, medical test, or procedure. Go to Loscaboschildren.org and you will be amazed at all the programs they have. They even have a children’s dental program! Buy a toothbrush.

Special needs kids are pretty much abandoned by the national health insurance program. Those who can’t walk are sent home to spend their life in bed or carried to a chair in the kitchen. How about buying a wheel chair? They have them at Wal-Mart for about $250, but then who do you give it to? Just work through Mobilize Mankind. They have been here for years, and the program is run by a U.S. trained and licensed physical therapist. They have a Facebook page.

LigaMAC has a great community outreach program, and they have gained special insight into who really needs help and how best to help them.

One of their dozen or so programs is the despensa. Its a food distribution program. Twice a month food vouchers are offered in a short-cycle program designed to help low-income families in crisis. Two times a month from their Support CenterSan Jose, LigaMAC provides food for qualified families in the form of food vouchers from a local supermarket. Vouchers and clothing for families are also on hand for those in immediate need of assistance. Despensa program families are given aid for three months and are then reviewed; most rotate out of the program with new families replacing them. At any one time they are usually offering aid to about 35 families a cycle. $80.00 U.S. a month helps feed a family of four to six people for one month. You can give online at ligamac.org and it is U.S. tax deductible. While you’re at their website check out all the other programs they offer. My favorite is their help in keeping these kids in school. The kids just need a little money for uniforms and books, or so they are not drafted as free child care for younger siblings. They are watched by this program and must keep their grades up.

There are dozens of well organized, well run, honest and caring charities in Southern Baja. The foreign community contributes millions and millions of dollars every year, but Christmas is an especially wonderful time to contribute, no matter how small. These people turn your dollars into warm clothes, medicine, education, the list is almost endless.

A good place to start your giving program is the umbrella organization most of these charities have associated with. The International Community Foundation is headquartered in San Diego but has a field office here in La Paz. They are organized to United States standards and are audited on a regular basis, as are all the charities they funnel money to. Their programs are so divers, (like protecting the Mexican environment), that there is bound to be a giving opportunity that’s near to your heart. www.icfdn.org. You can give right online. Tax deductable

So does channeling money to people through these organizations make giving less personal? Yes, I’ll give you that. But your alternative is running up to some Mexican on the street and pressing something into their hand. That can be insulting, unwanted, and unneeded, you just don’t know. So I urge you to take the professional but less personal route to giving this season.

But if you are inspired to get more involved, volunteer at these charities; every one of them needs extra happy hands all year round, you don’t need Spanish, and you can get to know the people you helped at Christmas time.