How to make a Mexican Village Happy--at NO Cost to You. Ever.
This little Hub proposes a simple act of kindness that you can perform for some deserving kids in a distant country (in this instance Mexico), an act that will take minutes of your time, and cost you—are you ready?—not one red cent! Not now. Not ever. So, if you stop reading at this point, your heart is made of stone and your veins are blocked with ice. You are the Grinch's friend.
Of those who continue reading, however, my meanderings below WILL come together, and I’m 100% confident that at least ONE of you will act on the suggestion to come (after I’ve hyped you up as much as possible). And one success here, is many smiling little faces there.
You’ve worked hard all year, saved prudently, and now it’s party time—2 glorious weeks in the Mexico sunshine at an all-inclusive resort. Six restaurants, eight bars, five swimming pools, free babysitting, and servants and maids everywhere to do your bidding You and your family are going to have a blast!
YOUR MAID’S SITUATION
Let’s talk for a minute about just one of those servants. I'll call her Eloise, and her circumstances are pretty typical. Eloise takes care of your room (and five others) and fetches anything you might ask her to fetch. Eloise is 28, and lives with her bricklayer husband and three small kids in a village 40 minutes away by bus from the resort. She has to get up at 5:45 AM to catch the bus. She works very hard at the resort: 6 to 10 hours a day; typically about 48 hours a week. Often, she has to work half-days on Saturday. She gets home about 7:00 PM .
Eloise earns between $2.28 - $2.70 an hour (CAD or USD), which translates into a little less than $500 a month. When he has work, her husband earns about the same, but the family can’t rely on that. Construction jobs are seasonal and unpredictable. Eloise also gets some tips, so the family is getting along , but barely. Many of Eloise’s co-workers can only get part-time work, but they have to be constantly on-call, making it difficult to look for more steady work. Many of Eloise's friends scrape along on wages Canadians and Americans would regard as ridiculous. The legal minimum wage in Mexico City, for example, is around $5.00 a day .i wish that was a misprint, but it is not.
From this little scenario, you can see that good kids’ clothes, kids’ shoes, toys, blankets, soothers, diaper bags—however necessary they might be—are out-of-sight luxuries to mothers like Eloise and her friends. Whatever they earn goes to food, rent, electricity, domestic gas, transportation, health care, school expenses. Nothing much left for nice clothes for the kids. Basics, that’s it.
BACK TO THE TEASER
(I told you this would all come together towards the end)
YOU are travelling by air to your resort anyway, and although you haven’t met Eloise and her friends yet, a simple gesture on your part would make a huge difference in the quality of their lives.
Here it is: many if not most major world airlines will permit EACH passenger to check through one excess 50-lb. (max) bag for Humanitarian purposes, free of charge. I’ll stick to the airline whose policy I have researched, and used, with no problem. Westjet, a Canadian carrier, permits each passenger one excess suitcase full of, say, kids’ clothes, supplies, and toys, plus used eyeglasses (I’ll come to that in a minute), free of charge. You can check the Humanitarian Baggage Policy of YOUR airline, probably on-line. Once you’ve confirmed the policy, call them anyway, get a name, tell them exactly where you’re going and what you want to take, and get a confirmation number (if they issue one).
To fill those suitcases? Simplest task you ever took on. Your sister’s 8-month old has been popping out of clothes as fast as she can buy them; your 10-year old daughter’s bottom drawer is crammed with near-new clothes she wouldn’t wear to a dog fight; your neighbour has three garbage bags full of hand-me-downs ready for the Sally Ann (Eloise needs ‘em more!). I’m sure you get the picture. A neat tactic is to involve the kids. Tell them what it’s all about, take them to Value Village to buy an old suitcase (probably less than $10), put the suitcase in one of their rooms, and get them phoning their friends for more clothes.
Everybody has to follow these simple rules:
· every item spotlessly laundered
· no stains
· no missing buttons, no tears, rips, or zippers that don’t work
· no used underwear
· no runny colours.
In other words, the clothing, blankets, etc, must look fresh and new. That’s just a sign of respect to Eloise and the other mothers and all the kids who get to wear these cool clothes. Oh! by the way—T-shirts and sweaters, pyjamas and such that sport “Canada” or “USA”, or infants’ clothes in “Osh-Kosh” (or whatever that brand is) are gold to kids in Mexico.
On to used eyeglasses. Virtually all optical dispensing companies have drawers full of used eyeglasses that customers left behind after they got their new prescription glasses. The Seniors in villages and towns in Mexico treasure these eyeglasses. Sometimes they can now see properly for the first time in years. I’ve found that when I ask, the optical companies send me away with a banana box (teeny exaggeration!) of used glasses in perfect condition.
One final point. Maybe you’ve bravely waded through this over-long Hub, and you say to yourself, “I don’t know any Spanish and I don’t feel right trying to explain to the maid, so I’m not going to do this.” Please, do it anyway. When you get to Mexico, wherever you are, take the suitcase, jump in a cab, tell the driver to take you to the nearest Catholic Church, or, better yet, the Church in the nearest small village (the people are needier), give the suitcase to the priest—and watch his eyes light up.
You’ll feel that glow for the rest of your holiday. Have a great trip!