To Costa Rica, with toys, candy and love (January 23, 2013)

Written by Carole Dastous

Published by Mackenzie Report on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

La Crete Ridgeview Central School secretary Debbie Froese spent her Christmas 2012 vacation helping others in Costa Rica.

Froese went to Costa Rica as part of the Billy Graham Christian relief organization called Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child. It was Froese's third such trip (the first was in Mexico, and the second in Paraguay).

In preparation for this year's Operation Christmas Child, volunteers in La Crete and at the Ridgeview Central School packed a total of 3,164 Christmas gift boxes in the weeks and months leading up to Christmas.

It was some of those boxes that Froese followed, at her own expense, to their final destination in Costa Rica.

Even though the Christmas boxes included basic necessities such as clothing items, toiletries, dental supplies, bar soap, and school supplies such as pencils, notebooks, and lined paper, Froese said the kids looked first for toys and candy.

"Kids everywhere are the same."

Handing over the boxes was an "overwhelming experience," said Froese.

"From the time the (box) is filled by volunteers, to the hand out, the box has seen a lot of hands in the long process to the child. It's a very humbling experience to be part of this process."

Next to the toys and candy, said Froese, box recipients look for a picture of the senders. The picture, explained Froese, is a way for the people there to "make a connection" with who is helping them.

The boxes which Froese handed out in Costa Rica contained the picture of the group of volunteers at the Ridgeview Central School on the school's packing day event on Nov. 24, 2012.

The village where Froese went was two and half hours away from the country's capital, and not far from a beach resort.

"I have mixed feelings. As in every country you have the rich and the poor. We hope to reach those not just poor in material possessions, but those also poor in spirit," said Froese.

At distribution time, said Froese, the village children, though poor, always appeared with hair well done and dressed in their Sunday best.

Looking back on the trip, two events stand out in Froese's mind.

One is handing a grandmother a set of refurbished prescription glasses with which to (finally) see the details of her grandchildrens' faces, and the other is helping to calm a scared child about to visit the dentist at a dental clinic that was set up with equipment brought all the way from Alberta.

"She sat with me for a long time, on my lap. Then I went with her to the dentist. She was shaking with fear," said Froese.

"The next day, I felt a little hand in mine. In all the 25 team members gathered there, she had found me, and came to say thank you."

What does it feel like to leave Costa Rica after such a visit?

"You plant a seed, hope it falls on fertile ground, and let the Lord do the rest," said Froese.

United Nations Statistics Division reported the 2009 gross national income of Costa Rica as $6,181US. The Statistics Division also reported 32 per cent Internet users per 100 inhabitants, and 25.3 per cent of the population of Costa Rica as being in the 0-14 age group.

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