Christmas at Puerto Vallarta’s International Airport

Dear Friends,

            As many of you are enjoying this holiday time with friends and family, I want to share with you my incredible experience this past week with the children from Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

            Let me tell you about last Saturday.  I had an email a few days before from Sol Martinez Maciel, our wonderful administrator at the Refugio, saying that we had the opportunity to take some of the children to the airport to board a real airplane; however it had to be at night.  I was told to be at the Refugio on Saturday at 8:00 P.M.  By 9:00 we had 30+ children and Madre Chuy (who never joins us on trips) ready to go on a special large bus provided by the Marriot Hotel.  We arrived at the Marriott at 9:30 and enjoyed a wonderful Christmas movie in Spanish.  Now, please bear in mind that our children at the Refugio are generally in bed by between 7:00 and 8:00 at night.  MANY fell asleep during the movie. 

            At 11:30 P.M. we woke them all up and re-boarded the bus, bound this time for the airport.  Upon arrival we slowly made our way inside and toward the security gates.  Part of the way there we were informed that the flight that had promised to “welcome us aboard” was arriving from Edmonton, Canada 1 ½ hours late due to adverse weather conditions in Edmonton.  We continued our SLOW journey toward the gate with children bouncing between being wide awake and wired from the excitement and exhausted from the late hour.  It was quite comical to see the reaction of many of the travelers waiting by the gate as they “panicked” with the thought of these 30 children accompanying them on their flight this late at night.  

          At 12:30 A.M. the jumbo Air-Transat flight finally landed – then we were informed by the crew that we needed to wait while the plane was cleaned before we could board (por que? one might wonder).  At 1:00 A.M. we ascended the stairs, took our seats, fastened our seatbelts, and closed our eyes for our “pretend flight” to Canada, the North Pole, or any other destination in our minds.  This, of course, was the first experience for all of the children with 1) being at the airport, 2) being on a real airplane, and 3) being up that late at night, AND 74 year old Madre Chuy got to go on an airplane for the first time too. 




            Then, with the familiar “Ho, Ho, Ho,” we realized that Santa was onboard too.  He generously distributed gift bags, a stuffed animal, and bags of CANDY to each child.  Sol and I exchanged looks of panic, and she calmly announced to the children that this candy was for the next day, not now – PLEASE, no sugar highs this late at night!!!   By 3:00 A.M. we were all back on the bus returning to the Refugio with virtually everyone asleep.  When we arrived back, we quickly took shoes off and gently nudged all to bed as quickly as possible. 

            One might wonder how the holidays could get any better than this.  If you believe in the “Magic of Christmas” for others, as I do, please consider sending a donation to these wonderful children right away.  Donations sent by December 31st to the US or Canadian Foundations will be tax deductible for 2009.  With all donations of $150 or more received before January 31st you will receive “A Time to Give”, our 2010 Refugio calendar. 

Thanks, and FELIZ NAVIDAD,

 Chris Amo
Children’s Shelter of Hope Foundation