FOR the 13th year, Tico Times readers made Christmas something special for needy children across Costa Rica. Through the Salvation Army program The Angel Tree, readers donated more than 200 gifts and $2,500, which was distributed to underprivileged children around the country at special Christmas parties.
Regular readers likely noticed the full page ads that ran in the newspaper in the months preceding Christmas, listing the names and ages of children selected by the program to receive a donated gift this year. Hundreds of readers responded, some sending gifts, others sending money, which the Salvation Army used to buy clothing and gifts for the children the readers selected.
The Angel Tree program, which is carried out by the Salvation Army in different countries across the world, has been in Costa Rica for 13 years, with The Tico Times participating since its inception here.
ACCORDING to Pedro Soto, coordinator of the Costa Rican program, some 50 businesses participated this year nationwide. In most cases, a Christmas tree in the office is adorned with small cards bearing the names of needy children; workers choose a card and buy a gift for the child.
The Salvation Army collects the gifts and gives them to the children at special Christmas parties held throughout the country, featuring music, clowns, games and food. This year, 5,365 children received gifts through the program, Soto said.
The children are chosen by participants in another Salvation Army community program called Liga de Lugar (Community League), which holds workshops for women to help build skills, self-esteem and awareness about domestic violence. Every August, the women come up with lists of needy children in their neighborhoods, which the Salvation Army uses for The Angel Tree program.
“TO be able to let these children participate in the holiday of Christmas by receiving a present and clothing – so they aren’t excluded because of their economic conditions – that is very important for us,” Soto said.
And there is another value to the program that he said “transcends” the presents.
“It is very important because it reinforces a culture of solidarity in Costa Rica between people with more resources and those with less,” Soto said. “We are very thankful for the help and trust the readers of The Tico Times give the Salvation Army.”