"On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...."

This beloved traditional holiday song is the inspiration for our seasonal blog series, "12 Days/12 Ways", a promotional effort of goodwill we started last year to draw attention to 12 not-for-profit groups or charitable organizations in Playa del Carmen and along the Riviera Maya. So many people from around the world travel to the Riviera Maya during the holiday season. Many reach out to us via regional message boards and Facebook looking for a way to give back to the less fortunate residents in our local communities. 12 Days/12 Ways was started to help these generous, kind-hearted visitors find legitimate and worthy charitable organizations to support, addressing their particular needs for this holiday season.

For each of the 12 days of Christmas, the BuyPlaya Blog, better known as "Life's a Beach", will spotlight a charitable organization or giving opportunity. Some may already be familiar to locals and frequent travelers to this area. Others, perhaps those most in need of recognition and support, may be new to our readers. It is our hope to do this every year, with updated information and wish lists.

The "12 Day/12 Ways" list has not yet been completed for 2011. If you have a favorite charity that you feel belongs on this list, collect all of the information you can and I will be happy to consider your group for inclusion.



Christmas Dreams PlayaSince 2000, a group of kind-hearted residents of Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya has helped local non-profits connect with those who need a little extra attention during the Holiday season. In years past, this group has helped organize the collection and distribution of thousands of Christmas presents for disadvantaged and special needs students as well as much needed dispensas (essential non-perishable food items) for families and elders in impoverished outlying villages. This year, the group has struck out on their own and created Christmas Dreams Playa.

This year, once again, this dedicated group will collect donations of non-perishable food items, clothing, blankets, and toys to help feed and clothe families and elders living on the Riviera Maya with few resources. Imagine the joy of seeing the smile on a child's face when he or she receives a toy -- for most of these children, the only toy they will receive all year.

This year, as in years past, Christmas Dreams has arranged for Christmas gifts for the students at Playa del Carmen's CAM School which educates children and adults from low-income families, born with a host of special needs/disabilities like cerebral palsy, neurological lesions, Down syndrome, visual/hearing impairment, motor disabilities, etc. Each student was asked to write a letter to Santa Claus (with help from teachers and parents) asking for a special gift. These letters and pictures of each individual student was then posted on Facebook and local message boards in the hopes that these Christmas wishes will be filled by generous sponsors. Already this year, Christmas Dreams Playa and their amazing supporters and volunteers have collected gifts for all 45 students from this CAM school!

Christmas Dreams PlayaHow can YOU help?

Donate Toys and Games
Another CAM school (special needs) in the city of Jose Maria Morelos recently reached out to Christmas Dreams Playa to provide holiday gifts for 29 students. When the letters actually arrived, there were over 100 requests. Each one of these letters was read by Christmas Dreams volunteers. Some of them are just heartbreaking--a 9 year old boy writing 'Amigo Santa' and asking for a new t-shirt and nothing more, or a pair of pants and some flip flops. These letters are now up on the Christmas Dreams Facebook Page in the hopes that you can fulfill these simple wishes. There is no time limit on these gifts. The families and the children will simply be grateful to receive the gifts at any time. Christmas Dreams organizers would like to be able to give these gifts on Three Kings Day which is celebrated all across Mexico on January 6th and is the time when children traditionally receive their Christmas gifts.

Donate Non-perishable Food Items, Clothes and Essentials
In Jose Maria Morelos, the organization DIF (compare to Social Services office in US) has identified a number of elders in the community who are in need of basic food supplies. Dispensas, packages non-perishable food essentials available at Sam's and all the larger supermarkets, are needed to get them through the winter. Additional dry beans, rice and sugar will be needed and Christmas Dreams hopes to purchase this in bulk using monetary donations and portion them out into zip lock bags. They also need blankets, flip flops and shoes. These food packages and essentials will be distributed in January 2012.

Donate School Supplies
In Playa del Carmen's far west side Guadalupana neighborhood, the children live in abject poverty and have very few school supplies. The teachers have literally nothing to teach with. There are 60 children in that school in grades K-6. They all need age appropriate school supplies and possibly backpacks. One of the teachers has tried many times to get something going for these children and has asked for help from Christmas Dreams. Crayons, markers, scissors, rulers, paper, pens, pencils, etc. are all needed. They can be given at any time before or after the holidays and can also be given anytime during the school year. The need is ongoing.

If you'd like to be a part of our mission to bring these needed items to these communities, please consider the following:

  • If you live in Playa or would like to bring down school supplies or toys, or make donations of non-perishable food items, please contact us and we will make arrangements with you to pick these up from you. You may leave a comment on the Christmas Dreams Facebook Page or call Gayle at 984.127.8881 or Heather at 984.116.7335
  • If you'd like to simply donate funds to support any or all of these projects, please send them via PayPal to christmasdreams2011@gmail.com. Please specify in the comments of your donation whether your funds should be used for "General toys," "General School Supplies" or "General food."

May your Christmas season bring you peace and joy.

Christmas Dreams Playa