Candy, ice cream, games, gifts and a visit from Santa Claus may be the key ingredients for a successful Christmas party. But gathering those ingredients for this particular party is a sure challenge for the volunteers of San José-based Fundación Vida.
Every year, this nonprofit dedicated to providing economical and emotional support to low-income families living with HIV/AIDS hosts a Christmas party for more than 250 children living with or affected by AIDS.
“It’s a rare opportunity for these boys and girls to hang out with other children living with the same condition, the only time of year when they don’t have to worry about people finding out they have or live with someone who has HIV/AIDS,” says Marlone Avila, director of Fundación Vida, who has volunteered at the organization for more than 10 years.
Aside from serving as a fun gathering of peers, the event seeks to provide the children with new clothing, shoes and a toy or two for the following year.
In the past, the organization has received food and other donations from large companies.
This year, however, as a result of new ownership and changes in corporate policy, important donors have pretty much withdrawn their contributions, leaving the organizers with little hope of gathering enough food and gifts for the event scheduled for Dec. 15.
At the end of 2006, 2.3 million children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV worldwide, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Child and Adolescent Health and Development Department at the World Health Organization (WHO).
More than 90% of infected children were born to HIV-positive mothers and acquired the virus before or during birth or through breastfeeding.
In children, the HIV virus moves quickly and becomes AIDS sooner than in adults. Consequently, most children under 15 who test positive have a shorter life expectancy than teens and adults.
No data are available on the exact number of children living with AIDS in Costa Rica, but the foundation thinks it works with most of those who have been tested and found positive and receive treatment from the country’s Social Security System (Caja).
“Anyone interested in making a donation, buying gifts and food or helping out during the party will definitely bring a smile to our loving boys and girls,” Avila says.
To make a contribution, call 258-3882; volunteers will provide the name and the clothing size of a child to sponsor or a list of necessary supplies. Monetary donations can be deposited in the foundation’s Banco Nacional account, number N-177910-7.