We met some people at a local thrift store today who were looking at clothing and other items to donate during their first trip south, planned later this fall. Here are some ideas and comments from fellow Snowbirds who winter in Jaltemba Bay and other Mexican locations, who also donate time and resources while in Mexico.

First, lets look at clothing. It might be a nice gesture to present your Mexican friends with clothing, but keep in mind your tastes in clothing may differ compared to, say, younger locals in Mexico. There seems to be Ropa Segunda or second-hand clothing tables on many street corners and in front of many homes. There really doesn’t seem to be any shortage of these new business ventures, and frankly for those packing the family RV, clothing can take up a lot of space and add excess weight to the trip. These bales of clothing are brought south by visiting family members and sometimes by Snowbirds. Lets be clear that all items you bring into Mexico are supposed to be for personal use. Used and items of no commercial value (not for resale) tend to be ignored. I’m certainly not encouraging foreigners to import commercial lots of anything. If in doubt, confirm your intentions with Mexican Customs.

On a related topic to clothing, many women bring bras for donation to the Cancer de Mama Clinic held every spring in Jaltemba Bay. This 3-4 day clinic provides care for Mexican women suffering from breast cancer. Popular donations include breast prosthesis, bras, wigs and other items needed during breast cancer treatment. One comment often heard is under-wire bras are inappropriate for cancer patients. Another rule of thumb is if the bra is considered garbage up north and you would never consider passing it along as a gift to anyone, then don’t bother bringing it south. Appreciated items include nice sweaters, scarves, skirts, dresses – Mexican ladies like to look nice. Some airlines, such as Westjet, used to allow “humanitarian” supplies to be checked for free. With the latest change in baggage fees, confirm this with your airline before gathering goods.

Cats and dogs “graduating” from our Spay Neuter Clinics (offered by Jaltemba Bay Animal Rescue (JBAR) tend to go home with a small bag of food, a new collar or leash and a one-month dose of flea and tick treatment. Mexican Customs now limits these tick and flea treatments coming into Mexico, however, on your next trip past the thrift store, check for any used collars and leashes. In the months following our Spay Neuter Clinics, we quite often see dogs on the street sporting a collar, and we know these animals have been sterilized. This makes the job easier for volunteers who collect street dogs for the next clinic. Talk to your local vet or doctor’s office to see if there are any outdated supplies they can part with to donate to these clinics, such as saline, gauze and sutures. Monocryl sutures are best. Airline-style kennels tend to get heavy use at the clinics and we always need to replace a few every year. Simply load them with other items you are packing or detach the two halves and pack them similar to a plastic tote. We use towels or similar items as OR table drapes. Heavy towels take a lot of energy to launder each night. Instead, bring polar fleece in the form of old blankets or sweaters, that can be cut to various sizes for various sized animals. They wash and dry very quickly in the sun on a breezy day.

One of our newer groups is the Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.). Roughly 1½ years ago, a group of horses were rescued and are now being used to provide therapeutic riding to local handicapped children. The group can always use bridles, halters and other tack.

School and art supplies are always appreciated. At this time of year, check the clearance tables at your local retailer as they will likely be clearing out excess back-to-school supplies of pens, pencils, erasers, crayons and note books. Again, keep in mind that packs of refill paper can be very heavy. Local schools tend to receive most of these donations, however many expats take these supplies to smaller outlying villages that tend to be forgotten or overlooked.

I tend to bring a few bike helmets south every year, as locals really haven’t caught on to this safety idea yet. They are very inexpensive at thrift stores up north, and might be a good reward for a young rider you encounter. Every year, you see a few more local riders wearing a helmet. Helmets are ultra expensive in Mexico.

Nurse Vicky continues to travel to the outlying villages to distribute clothing and medication (through Nurse Vicky’s Dispensary). She always appreciates donations of Tylenol, Ibuprofen and other items to distribute to villagers suffering from dengue fever and other medical issues. Similarly, Dra. Lidia also distributes medications to old people in need.

by Rob Erickson

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