Secret Santas

Wild country, on the east side of the Sierra Las Tarabillas. School’s soccer field in the foreground.

Many of our cruiser friends look for ways to help out local communities that they visit. One effort comes from a Rotary Club chapter in La Paz that counts a few sailors as members.

Entry to the school. Note the blue water tank in the righthand photo. La Soledad is totally off the grid.

Julie went along to make a delivery with the club on 12/16, and took a few photos of course. Thanks to our friend and Club Rotary Bahia de La Paz member Charles from S/V Shadowfax who helps explain the details:.

Gifts for 80 kids were organized and numbered, and everyone was excited to see them.

Generous cruisers and townspeople play Santa to kids from the Soledad Albergue, a rural boarding school located in southeastern Baja roughly behind the fishing village of San Evaristo. La Soledad is about a three hour drive from La Paz, about 1/3 (~75 KM) on paved roads and 2/3 (~64 KM) on a blend of rough gravel and soft sand.  

Live music and a short Christmas skit entertained the crowd before the gifts presentation.

Kids aged 5 – 14 from widely spread rural families (ranchos and fishing villages) attend the school.  It’s too far to go home at night for most of the children, so they live in dormitories.  Money is in short supply in these areas, as sometimes kids will mention in their letters to Santa.  Often we are the only source of Christmas presents.

Some La Paz merchants also donated some clothing that kids could choose from. School cafeteria.

The kids write letters to Santa, distributed by the club. Donors buy presents, wrap them and return them to the Club.  About 30 gifts were provided from the La Paz  cruising community. The Club delivers them to the kids during their Christmas program before they leave for the holidays.  

Rotary member and La Paz businessman Mr. Yee starts the festivities along with Laurie the school principal. Mrs. Claus gives a briefing. Lamb for lunch after the celebration.

For the three years that we have participated, we have found the requests to be pretty modest, usually the wish list includes a pair of sneakers and perhaps an item of practical (dress pants, sweatshirt, etc.) clothing. We usually add in a few other generic items that we figure will either be useful, fun, or able to be shared with others.


Our friend Charles usually appears as Santa to help hand out the gifts, but as he had to travel to the U.S. because his mother was in the hospital, his wonderful wife Carol filled in as Mrs. Claus.

Once all the gifts have been handed out, then there’s a signal that everyone may open them. Most everyone waited patiently! Check out those fashion shoes!

La Soledad is pretty self-contained. There is a fresh water source nearby which is pumped to storage tanks. The international Rotary (as well as the local chapter) is involved in an initiative to bring inexpensive water purification devices to remote areas, and the school may be a beneficiary of this program soon.

Do kids in the U.S. smile this much when they get socks? The Rotarians (including exchange students from Brazil and Germany) with one of the truckloads of gifts.

Solar power provides electricity (nice big Xantrex inverter in the principal’s “apartment”), They do have a satellite internet connection to receive some tele-education. (Nearest cell tower is probably 75 miles as the crow flies.) Some of their fresh food comes from the nearby ranchos and fishing villages – so the kids eat well – no source of junk food for miles and miles! (Menu below for my foodie friends.)