Friday, December 24, 2010

Correos Chile

Every year Correos Chile puts out boxes of “Dear Santa” letters that the public can sift through, choose, and later send or drop off the items requested to the sender.

Two years ago my boyfriend, his friend Luis, and I sponsored a letter from a young girl. It turned out really well.

This year the two of us sponsored 5 letters, and Luis 2 more.

I feel conflicted about whether to write about this again because I feel in some way its might be rude to write about the personal lives of these other people, or some might question whether my motivations are to make myself feel good rather than purely to help someone else. But, while I think the former is worth it for the positive light and exposure to the issue, the latter might not be entirely untrue. While I can insist that my main intention is focused on the receiver, I won’t deny that it’s been a really positive personal experience for me as well. After all, the personalized aspect of the process is why I chose to participate this way instead of anonymously dropping off a giftwrapped box in a bin somewhere.

I actually would prefer to just keep quiet to avoid my conflicting feelings all together, but I feel like this campaign isn’t very well known and is seen in such a negative light sometimes that it deserves the positive exposure, even if its just within my small friend group. Actually, everybody I have actually told my experience about in person has reacted by relaying news features that portray the campaign as a failure this year, highlighting all the scams and cheating that have been discovered within it. Those exist too, I even noticed specific examples when I was selecting letters. But I think that overall honest letters and positive experiences highly outweigh and outnumber the negative.

So far I’ve been to 3 of the houses, but I want to write about it now.

The first letter I chose was written by a lady a few years older than I am. She works selling food and crafts on the street, where she was given a big ticket for lacking a permit. When you don’t pay those (as many wont, because giving someone a ticket for illegally selling stuff on the street its almost a Catch-22 situation if you think about it) the police try to take you in to jail, again something that could be troubling for a single mother of 3. Anyway she wrote a very sweet and humble letter asking Santa to keep her kids in mind and maybe help out with Christmas dinner and some expensive dietary needs of the toddler. She seemed a little embarrassed that we came to her house, and had obviously put in a huge effort to get the place clean before we got there. She was very thankful for the dinner ingredients we put together, and the oldest boy did his best to keep his cool as he set the little gifts under three, but it was hard not to notice the huge smile that kept escaping.

The second letter we chose because it was simple, straightforward but cute, and close enough to the first address that we might as well combine the trips. Without the dad around, and after a huge and ridiculous sequence events leading to his mother’s near-death experience and injuries, there weren’t going to be Christmas presents this year…. Unless, of course, the young boy took matters into his own hands! When we called to say we were on our way with a gift, the mom was very confused, as she had no idea that her son had even written a letter to Santa. They invited us in for tea, and we chatted til 1am. The boy sat and quietly stared at the package which did indeed contain the remote control car he asked for, but he wont know that until Christmas. Overall, he seemed most pleased that the letter program had worked, and that his mom was proud of him for having thought of and executed his own idea to participate in this program.

The third letter was “written by” a 2 year old boy, which my boyfriend at first found suspicious. Given that, obviously, parents help out on these things, it didn’t put me off and I was drawn to the very practical wishes for diapers, milk and Christmas dinner. There were many numbers at the bottom of the page, and between today and yesterday I felt like I ended up talking to half the extended family! Luis was supposed to come with me to drop off the stuff, but in the end that didn’t work out and I didn’t want the trip carrying heavy stuff, a backpack full of potatoes didn’t help, to be in waste so I just went myself. The street was out of the way and really hard to find, and when I finally found it with the help of a little grandpa and a man sitting in the street by the remnants of a bonfire, I was about 1,800 house numbers away! Luckily the numbering system was disorganized and I didn’t have to go far at all. But I was somewhere I didn’t feel very comfortable, being led through meter-wide path winding between metal roofing materials. I finally got to the house and first saw the 2 year old, who was very frightened to see me. The mother was very young, a little embarrassed to have me there and especially surprised to see a foreigner. She told me about their struggles and their other baby son who had died. Then she asked me lots of questions about why I’d choose to live in Chile, and how and why we decided to bring things to people who wrote the letters. The little boy dug right into my bag and pulled out his diapers, though was too timid to talk to me until later when I gave him his own gift. He suddenly got a HUGE smile (frequently interrupted by shoving a dinosaur appendage in his mouth) and wanted nothing more than to smile at me from then on. When I left, he yelled something approximating “Chau…” and then started to cry. He didn't want me to leave!

As far as we could see, with these letters, everything written was true. These families either needed or would really enjoy having the gifts they wrote about. I don't think its necessary that the family should be exptremely poor or desperate. But its important that the public, who generally only sees a single negative angle of the program through news sources, realizes in a large number of cases, the gifts are, at the very least, a very nice contribution to the family's celebration, and they are well received by very appreciative people.

There are good endings too.


  1. It doesn't matter really if you do it for yourself or you get a pat on the back for doing it...because in the end someone who otherwise wouldn't have gotten anything recieved a huge christmas surprise. Lydia I loved what you did two years ago...its deserve a pat on the back because you give others what they too deserve. hugs from the continent up north...or rather the same continent...up north. ;)Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks Dana, but don't let him get to you, there is CLEARLY a reasonable separation between the bodies of land. ;-) jajaj
    Merry Christams! Happy New Year. p.s. come backkkkk

  3. I think what you do is a great thing. Made me reconsider this subject, as I thought about it and faced the same doubts about the scams.
    Even if you think that maybe you write about it because it makes you feel better, what´s the problem? That´s the natural response! You helped someone in great need (you have to be, if you wrote to Santa), and feeling good about it is maybe the best reward.
    I think I´ll try to do it next year. I promise.
    Thank you, and Feliz Navidad, from the same continent xD.

  4. Giving gifts to charity at xmas is my favourite part of the whole xmas experience - and I know that sounds very geeky! Unfortunately, arriving in Santiago only recently, I learnt the correo charity deal too late, and I don't know Spanish so I may have missed notices.

    It is fantastic that you were able to help these people in need and I'm sure meeting those special people is something you'll remember always.

    Merry Xmas

  5. que bonito lo que hiciste tú y tu novio ya no queda gente así que haga cosas sin esperar nada a cambio el intéres mueve al mundo ahora
    ojála haya mas gente como tú y tu novio.

  6. I think it's very sweet that you did that and not at all gratuitous that you write about it. I mean, now other people will know that there is something like that to do. I didn't know!

  7. Dear Lydia,

    I found your details on your blog, I hope you might be able to help me with my strange request!

    I am a Producer working on a television show called House Hunters International which follows English speaking expats in their quest to purchase a house abroad. I am hoping to find English speaking expats to profile who are living in Chile. I wonder if you or any of your expat contacts might be interested in getting involved?! Please find a little blurb about the show below:

    House Hunters International is a half-hour program currently airing on the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV). The program is a spin-off of the popular House Hunters and has spent the last several seasons exploring the idiosyncrasies of buying real estate in other countries. HHI is about a personal journey of discovery and the making of life-long dreams.

    The series is designed to de-mystify the international home-buying process by going behind the scenes of a house hunt where buyers and their real estate agents tour 3 homes. At its core, House Hunters International is a travel show concentrating on the idiosyncrasies of the locales and what makes them special and different. A great deal of effort will be made to capture rich visuals and to provide sequences where viewers will be exposed to local vistas, traditions, lifestyles and architecture.

    Please get in touch if you have any more questions about the show. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Best wishes and many thanks,


    Michelle James
    1-3 St Peter's Street, London N1 8JD - +44 20 7704 3300