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The gift of giving back
Christmas is a time of giving, but it's also a time of re-gifting, sometimes in the form of last year's unexpired fruitcake or an unusable leaf blower.
But for an orphan in Guatemala, re-gifting can be something of a Christmas miracle.
A Tsawwassen mother, whose boys had outgrown the low-rider West Coast Chopper bicycle they originally received from the Deltassist Toy Bank, donated it to Fe Viva World Missions, where it wound up becoming a Christmas present for an orphan.
When the "fancy red bike" arrived three years ago in a container sent from Vancouver, there was no question as to who it belonged to. Antolin, the eldest boy who was 14 at the time, was excited to have his own mode of transportation, and still uses it today.
"He has been with us since we opened the children's home eight years ago," says Lynn Weiler, who helps run missions in Central America with her husband Kim. "Antolin was rescued from the streets. He was badly beaten and mistreated by the guardians his father left him with as a small boy. He never knew his mother because she died when Antolin was an infant."
Antolin, who has just turned 18, has thrived against the odds. He recently completed his basic education and was granted permission by the state to leave school and begin training in a trade.
He has since been learning carpentry, some mechanics, and gardening/grounds maintenance.
The origins of the bike began with a donation to Deltassist's Toy Bank, an annual charity that helps provide Christmas gifts to low-income families.
For Tsawwassen mom Lisa (whose full name is being withheld to protect the identity of her children), it continues to be her guardian angel.
"Being a single mom in my financial position, you basically have zero left at the end of the month," she says. "No savings, no RSPs, you don't own your house. And so you're stressed out as it is and you're struggling to put food on the table and when Christmas comes along, it just blows you out of the water."
Christmas is a stressful time of year even for people who have money, because children have expectations, explains Lisa.
"So, going to Deltassist just takes that whole load of stress off your shoulders. And I think every year I've gone there I've just gone home on No. 10 highway crying because it's such a relief."
Even as she says it, Lisa pauses and admits it sounds "corny" but she does anyway.
"They don't just give you a gift, they give you hope. Because all of a sudden you think, OK, I'm going to get through this."
Lisa says things can feel very hopeless in a low-income situation where every day is a struggle, particularly living in an upper-middle class community. But Lisa is quick to point out there's a big difference between poverty in Delta and poverty in Guatemala.
"I look at the orphanage and those kids there haven't had proper parents. They've all been abused or beaten on or sexually abused and discarded like trash. For them to get that bike… they've never seen anything like it."
Even though her children quickly grew out of the bike, it still looked shiny and brand new. Lisa wanted to find a new home for it.
"When we gave it to the orphanage I thought, OK, there's a plan here. It wasn't just for us. It was for us to pass on."