Every year, we take a day to give Thanks. We thank our ancestors for their sacrifice and struggle culminating in the liberties we enjoy today. We give thanks for our families and friends and we take a moment to reflect on how truly fortunate we are. Of course, we all have our own way of celebrating Thanksgiving but, generally, it involves gorging ourselves with copious amounts of turkey, watching football and passing out, belts loosened, on the couch. Don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of our traditional Thanksgiving festivities but I also think that one of the best ways to give thanks is to give back, to sacrifice a bit of our time, money and/or resources to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

I thought I might take this opportunity to give some well-deserved press to four of my favorite charities for 2008. Each was chosen because it is the pet project of someone I like and respect. Some I have written about in previous blog entries. Others may be new to "Life's a Beach" readers. I hope you will take a moment to check them out, visit the websites if available and make a contribution if you are able.


Project Warm Hands is the inspiration of my friend and fellow blogger, Wayne (Islagringo) on Isla Mujeres. Project Warm Hands collects and distributes new or gently used winter garments to needy children in the tiny village of Xico in the mountains of Veracruz. Originally conceived as a project for knitters to make hats, mittens and scarves for the villagers, this initiative has expanded, giving non-knitters the opportunity to send clothing items or make monetary donations to be used to purchase small Christmas gifts for the poorest children in this remote area.

How can I help?

1. Make a small monetary donation via THIS PAYPAL LINK. The funds are received and administrated by John Calypso, a resident of Xico who writes the very popular and well respected blog, Vivaveracruz.

2. If you are coming to Mexico, bring any handmade, new or gently used warm winter garments with you and ship them to Xico, Veracruz from your vacation destination. You could also bring a small toy or other gift. The shipping address is:

Project Warm Hands
Vicente Camacho Garcia
Calle: Benito Juarez s/n
Ursulo Galvan
Xico, Veracruz 91240

**Please do not try to ship your donated items from outside of Mexico because of possible problems clearing them through customs.


The Holy Cross Anglican School is located in the San Mateo district on the popular vacation destination, Ambergris Caye, Belize. An inspiring labor of love established in 2006 by Francis and Vernon Wilson in cooperation with the Episcopal Diocese of Belize, the Holy Cross School provides education, nutrition and health care to the very poorest children on Ambergris. The school opened its doors in 2006 to 60 students. The enrollment since then has skyrocketed to over 500 students. The school provides a safe and encouraging educational environment and three healthy meals a day to children who would otherwise be hungry and wandering the streets. With public schools on the island at maximum capacity, this is very often the only opportunity available to many families as they struggle to make ends meet on an island where great prosperity collides with abject poverty. It is only through generous donations and the work of selfless volunteers that this amazing school is able to continue serving the families of this distressed area.

My good pal Laurie administrates an independent weblog for the school and has gone out of her way to make sure that this worthy endeavor receives the attention it needs and deserves. Please take a moment to read more about San Mateo and The Holy Cross Anglican School in the entries that Laurie and I submitted for Blog Action Day 2008. If you have a few minutes to spare, please watch this informative video by documentary film maker, Travis D. Matthews.

How can I help?

1. Make a monetary donation through THIS LINK. The teachers' pay is subsidized by the Belizean government but the administrative salaries, the feeding program, safe drinking water, building costs and utilities are all paid for by donations from caring individuals like you.

2. Donate your time. If you are planning a trip to Ambergris Caye, contact Francis Vernon at franciswilsonbelize@yahoo.com to see what volunteer opportunities may be available.

3. Help fill the school wish list. The list can be found on the school's website and is also reprinted below. If you are coming to the island, see if you have just a little extra room in your suitcase for these much needed items.

Cork Board Squares for bulletin boards

51A- HP laser jet toner cartridges 

Rolls of clear contact paper - to protect teaching aids

Wide clear tape

Permanent markers - wide tip

Scotch tape

Red ballpoint pens

Copy paper - letter size: white and colored

Construction paper

Laminating sheets - letter size, heat activated

Bulletin board materials


Children Tylenol

Children's vitamins

Hand Sanitizer

Back Packs

Tennis shoes: adult sizes 1 through 8

Paint brushes - all sizes

Paint rollers

Staple guns and staples

Christmas decorations and goodies.



The Peanut Pet Shelter in Playa del Carmen is most likely well-known to all "Life's a Beach" readers but most of you may not know some of the back story behind the creation of this amazing endeavor.  Jen and Andy MacDonald came to Playa del Carmen from England with the dream of running their own restaurant in this charming Mexican Caribbean tourist destination. They found and acquired a small eatery on calle 8 called Bambu. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous landlord with visions of condos dancing in his head put a quick end to Andy and Jen's dream. Just a few months later, they found themselves without a restaurant and wondering what's next. Somewhere along the way fate intervened. Their unbridled enthusiasm and love for all creatures great and small landed them with a rather large number of furry boarders sharing their small living space. What had started out as a couple adopting a few needy strays grew within a few short months into a legitimate no-kill animal shelter, a unique initiative on the Riviera Maya. With the help of a few generous benefactors, kind local vets and caring tourists and local Playa residents, Andy, Jen and her son Adam work tirelessly every day providing food, medical care and love to over 80 dogs and cats. They have managed to rent an adjoining plot of land and are now putting the finishing touches on proper kennels and enclosures for these dogs and those that are sure to come. If you have not had the chance to visit the shelter on a recent trip to Playa del Carmen, I strongly suggest you take a few hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon to check out this labor of love.


How can I help?


1. Planning a trip to Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya? Bring down a few extra collars and leashes or any items from the wish list printed below. You can make arrangements to drop them off at the shelter or contact me and I will gladly come to your hotel to pick up the donated items!

Worming Medication
Flea & Tick Medication and shampoo's
Dog/Cat Food
Collars & Leashes
Newspapers and old towels
Cat traps
Cat/dog cages
Cat scratching posts and toys
Infra red heat lamp to keep new born kittens warm.
Kitten powder milk
Advantage multi spot on for cats/kittens
Leukemia and Aids tests for cats

2. Make a monetary donation through the PAYPAL LINK on the Peanut Pet Shelter website. Donated funds go towards food, spaying and neutering, vaccinations including Rabies and Parvo, flea, tick & de-worming medications and treatments, expanding the shelter, education programs and information for the local pet owners among countless other expenses necessary to keep this shelter running.

3. If you are going to be in the Playa del Carmen area, be sure to come by for the now famous, Saturday Dog Wash. Not only will you be helping in the monumental task of bathing and de-ticking these lovely animals, you will also get to meet a lot of nice local Playa residents and have a great time!

4. Buy Playa del Carmen Real Estate. That's right. If you are planning to purchase a house, condominium or lot in Playa del Carmen or anywhere along the Riviera Maya, we would like to assist you and also contribute to The Peanut Pet Shelter. If you purchase a piece of real estate through us at Bric International, we will donate $1000 usd in your name to The Peanut Pet Shelter. If you are interested in investing in this region, simply contact us through this blog or our website, www.BuyPlaya.com and mention the Peanut Pet Shelter in your message. If you use our Buyer Broker services we pledge to donate $1000 usd of our share of the commission paid at closing to the shelter!!


4th World Love is the brainchild of film/TV producer, blogger, Pilates fanatic, food writer, sailor and student of the world Misty Tosh. This year, she set up 4th World Love, an NGO based on the concept that with a little assistance, a village really can direct itself toward not just sustainability but success. 4th World Love acts as a sort of middleman between the villagers and the rest of the world helping remote towns to facilitate their ideas achieve their dreams.

In the shadow of Mt. Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia, on the island of Lombok, 4WL has opened a community center, which will house a library and provide English classes and computer skills workshops to the community. Other initiatives all over the world will follow.

How can I help?


1.Make a donation! With the average family earning the equivalent of about $100 usd per month, even a little goes a long way. Currently, a donation of just $100 usd enters you in the drawing to win a once in a lifetime, all expenses paid, 10 day trip to Indonesia with Misty. Click here for all the details.


2. Donate books, school materials and office supplies for the new community center on Lombok. Contact Misty and her crew here for details.

3. Check out the 4th World Love Online Marketplace. Proceeds go to support 4th World Love projects.


4. Volunteer your time. The commitment is significant but this opportunity is certain to be life-changing for you and the villagers whose lives you are impacting.


5. Spread the word. This is a new initiative that needs all the press we can give.



Happy Holidays everyone!! Let's all count our blessings, share the wealth and spread our love.