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

This beloved traditional holiday song is the inspiration for our Holiday Giving Blog Series, "12 Days/12 Ways", a promotional effort of goodwill we started in 2010 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 2012. 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.


Chritmas Dreams Playa 2012Since 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. Last year, the group has struck out on their own and created Christmas Dreams Playa. In total over $86,000 mn worth of presents, school supplies and food essentials were distributed by "Christmas Dreams Playa" during the 2011 holiday season, an amazing accomplishment for a fledgling organization.

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 many of these children, the only toy they will receive all year.

Christmas Dreams 2012 is gearing up to be the best yet. The organization is sponsoring 4 different Christmas projects this year!

1. Collecting and distributing Christmas gifts for the students of 2 CAM schools (Special Education schools). 
2. Rewarding dedicated at-risk students in an After School program in the Colosio.
3. Providing food baskets and warm blankets for over 100 elderly adults.
4. Collecting school supplies for the KKIS (Keep Kids in School) Project

How can YOU help?

ChristmasDreams Playa 2012Donate Toys and Games
This year, as in years past, Christmas Dreams will arrange for Christmas gifts for the students at CAM schools in Playa del Carmen and Jose Maria Morelos. CAM Schools educate 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 were then posted on Facebook and local message boards in the hopes that these Christmas wishes will be filled by generous sponsors. Their "Querido Santa" letters have been received, carefully read and translated and posted on the Christmas Dreams Facebook page. Click on the links above to browse through them. This year, we have requests from over 150 children and challenged young adults. Certainly you will find one that tugs at your heartstrings.

 Support an After School Program
Father Bernard Quinn from the Guadalupe Catholic Church in the Colosio coordinates an after school program for children in grades 4-6 that attend the public schools. These students want to pass their tests to get into high school and need more help than the public schools can offer, so they attend this after school program three days a week. Mondays and Wednesdays they work on homework and Fridays they get help with English. He operates 2 groups with a total of 100 students. If the students' families can afford it, they pay $200 MN a term for the help. The majority cannot. He would like to find a way to reward these students for their dedication and hard work. Our hope is to be able to offer a cinema day for all students at the local movie theater and to give each child a Spanish/English dictionary (only a couple of students have them and they are so necessary!).  For this project alone we need to raise $10,000 pesos. Monetary donations can be sent through the Christmas Dreams Paypal account posted below.

Christmas Dreams Playa 2012Father Bernard has lived in the Yucatan since 1975, starting out in Chetumal where he started a church and school. Then he moved to Cancun to start a church and school and eventually moved to Playa to continue his work. His school in Playa del Carmen has annually held 1st place in the academic testing of all schools along the Riviera Maya. This Irish born priest is a most amazing man!

Christmas Dreams Playa 2012Donate Non-perishable Food Items, Clothes and Essentials
In Jose Maria Morelos and Playa del Carmen, the organization DIF (compare to Social Services office in US) has identified a growing number of elders in the community who are in need of basic food supplies. The elderly have traditionally been cared for within the family structure, but we are finding more and more elderly, especially grandfathers, who have no family structure and, therefore, no way to take care of themselves when their days of earning an income are past.  Often homeless and hungry, they are a growing problem. Although we can't solve the issue, we can help the ones we know about through food donations and the distribution of food, blankets and donated clothing and shoes. We anticipate this year's distribution will reach more than 100 local elders. Dispensas, packaged non-perishable food essentials available at Sam's and all the larger supermarkets, are needed to get them through the winter. These food packages and essentials will be distributed in January 2013.

Christmas Dreams Playa 2012Donate 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 Pelopides School was selected by KKIS (Keep Kids in School) as their project school because they are one of the few schools to provide scholarships opportunities for their students. At the moment, 50% of their student population is afforded reduced or free tuition. Some students only require a partial subsidy while others have their tuition covered in full. This school teaches English to all students for half of the day, a skill that is helpful for later job placement and advancement. KKIS volunteers come into the classrooms once a week to help students learn English by reading to them. The school is small and their resources few. If you are planning a trip to Playa del Carmen please consider packing some extra school supplies in your luggage. There are 420 children in the school in Kinder1 - Grade 3. Blue ink pens, pencils, erasers, glue sticks, crayons, markers, scissors, rulers, paper etc. are all needed appropriate for ages 3 - 9. Age appropriate backpacks would be much appreciated, as they are considerably more expensive here. (Please do not bring notebooks as the schools and the Mexican Board of Education (SEP) requires very specific notebooks to be used.) English language materials such as beginning reader storybooks, games, etc are also needed.

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 are visiting the Riviera Maya and would like to contribute school supplies or toys, or make donations of non-perishable food items, please bring them to Jez at JAVA on Calle 10 between 5th and 10th between the hours of 7am and 3pm. If you are donating a toy for a specific child, please be sure the gift is labelled accordingly. If transportation is an issue, 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.
  • A certain amount of money is required to make this Holiday mission a success. If you'd like to donate funds to support any or all of these projects, please send them via PayPal to christmasdreamsplaya@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."

    *At the moment, donations to Christmas Dreams are NOT tax deductible.


May your Christmas season bring you peace and joy.

Christmas Dreams Playa