‘Street Santas’ bring food, joy to Costa Rica’s poor

December 11, 2009

Christmas came early for hundreds of homeless in San José as an international brigade of Santas distributed parcels of food and clothing this weekend throughout the city´s poorest areas.

Forty-five self-proclaimed “Santa en las calles,” or “Street Santa,” traveling in the back of 12 pick-ups and one truck, handed out more than 200 bowls of spaghetti, 500 cartons of juice and hundreds of parcels containing clothing and blankets to those living on the capital´s streets.

Eighteen cities, including London, Miami and Madrid also participate in the Christmas hand-out.

“It went extremely well. We started the convoy at 6 p.m. on Sunday and finished at 1 a.m. on Monday morning,” said organizer Jesús Palacios, a 22-year-old Venezuelan who lives and works in San José.

“We gave away all of the food, all of the blankets and all of the men´s clothing. We were still left with a few parcels of children´s clothing, which we will donate to orphanages this week,” Palacios said.

It is the second year that San José has taken part in the charitable event.

The idea originated in Venezuela in 2006 when a group of friends decided to bring a little festive cheer to the less fortunate. Since then companies and individuals have donated food, clothing and money to the cause.

The 45 volunteers started the operation at 7 a.m. on Saturday from the main playground of Colegio Don Bosco de Altamira, where they organized and packaged the food and clothing donations, before setting out in the back of the trucks wearing Santa hats

The convoy´s route encompassed the south side of the city, the Coca-Cola district and Barrio La California, stopping traffic and bringing cheers and smiles not only from the homeless, but also drivers and pedestrians impressed by the kind-hearted gesture of the Street Santas.

Volunteer Jorge Solano, a 17-year-old student at Colegio Don Bosco de Altamira, said, “I read about the project in a Sunday paper and decided I wanted to help. I´ve worked in an orphanage before and enjoy volunteering. It´s a great cause.”

As word spread among the homeless community, scores of homeless men and women emerged from their cardboard shelters and chased the fleet of trucks as it snaked through the busy streets of the capital, desperate to get their hands on a clothing parcel and food container.

The clothing packages included two pairs of trousers, a jacket and two shirts and were split into three categories to cater to men, women and children.

Volunteer Ester Porras, a San José accountant, said, “It makes you want to cry seeing the smile on these people´s face when they receive their gifts. It´s nice to give something back.”

Anyone interested in more information can visit the group´s blog at http://santaenlascalles.blogspot.com.

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