Santa’s elves worked hard this summer collecting the best that Clinic, Lancome and Chanel had to offer any time they offered free gifts (with a purchase of course!!).  And after collecting samples all summer, it was time to bring everything down to Costa Rica and Ecuador to share.  To top off the treasure trove of gifts to share was the donation of an entire collection of Chanel products compliments of a good friend.  Sharing these gifts with folks that work hard to get along in life has already been and will continue to be a treat this year.
Aside from the generous collection of items we gathered to share, there will be a Santa showing up a week early in Tres Equis, Costa Rica this year thanks to all the ERA folks who supported our trip t-shirt program.

Our trip t-shirt program was initiated in the early years of our trips here in Costa Rica.  Our goal was two-fold: 1).Come up with a collector’s item t-shirt for all of our friends who were so generous to come to Costa Rica and paddle with us—a design that would be unique each year; and 2).Give something back to the rivers we enjoy so much. 
Years ago we learned that it was very selfish of kayakers to try and convince a region to not dam up their river just because we wanted to continue to paddle there (we learned this on the Bio Bio River in Chile).  We had to make it economically beneficial for a community to not support a hydro project that could (or not) bring them more prosperity.  The course we took was to a) try and economically support the local community as much as possible through patronage and b) to prove our long term commitment to the area.  Education!! 

We began our program by seeking out any organization who was working to educate the locals as to the fact that they had a voice in what happens to their natural resources. When that did not pan out as well as we hoped, we turned to the generation that will count the most: the youth. 

With the help of Tico Rafting, a local rafting company in Turrialba, we organized an annual raft trip for a school group to join us on the Pacuare River for the day. This provided the opportunity for students to raft the river (which at $75 a pop, was not really an option for most), and for them to witness extranjeros appreciating their local river.  It was impressionable for students to see extranjeros traveling from so far away just to kayak on their rivers.  We then followed up several years’ of raft trips with more education.  We turned to the schools themselves, and decided to identify a needy school near one of the rivers we so love and donated school supplies to them. 

Last year we supported the small school outside of Bajo Pacuare on the Upper Upper Pacuare River.  This year we targeted a small school in Tres Equis—near the put-in for the Lower Pacuare.  With only 30 students, we were told the Tres Equis school is considered the poorest in the region. 
Once the trips were over and all the shirts accounted for, we headed to Costa Rica’s version of Price Mart and loaded up Miguel’s van with school supplies. Paper, tablets, backpacks, pens and pencils, world globes, glue sticks and rulers, all into Miguel’s van they went.  And then we headed over to deliver the supplies.  That was Part One of a two part plan.  Part two was actually finding the school!  After seven hours in the van, we were not quite successful. We knew where the school was: another hour minimum at the end of a very bad road.  But we were running out of day light. And had a flight to catch the next morning.  So we left it up to Santa Miguel to deliver the supplies this next week!
Thanks to all our friends who helped donate such a collection of soaps, crèmes, shampoos, cosmetics—and particularly the Chanel perfume (boy are there some good smells from one end of Costa Rica to Ecuador)…and to all who donated to a trip t-shirt.

There is no harm in giving something back to the rivers that give us so much enjoyment!!