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How to make a Peruvian Child Smile December 05, 2007 10:27 AM

Bring smiles to small faces this holiday season by giving Christmas presents to poor children in South America! For almost a decade, the Ramos family of Peru has maintained a beautiful annual tradition. Every year, they collect a treasure trove of presents for children -- small, inexpensive things that can nevertheless mean the world to a child without any toys of his or her own. And every year, they travel hours through rough, unpaved terrain to the vast shoreline of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, to give the presents to the children living on traditional floating villages constructed of reeds. From time immemorial, the Uros people, a pre-Incan indigenous group, has lived on artificial floating islands made almost entirely of reeds. Totora lake reeds are constantly added to the top of the islands to compensate for the reeds at the bottom rotting away. The islands are tethered in place with ropes to the bottom of the lake, but can be moved if needed. With a culture and economy based mostly on reeds and subsistence fishing, the Uros have very few material possessions, and the children often work from an early age. Of the children, Mariel Mercado Ramos writes, "[T]he kids are so nice and so grateful for not too much, they don't need the last Barbie or the biggest toy that shows on TV, they get very happy with a common doll or a little car, the best for them specially for the boys are the balls of soccer and for the girls balls of volley. So since that year all the next years these kids wait for us on Christmas." She continues, "It was the first year we went to give the presents, it was raining very hard, but still the children were waiting, waiting for somebody to give them something, so we pass and there was a little girl and we gave her a doll, she started dancing in the middle of the rain, she was so happy. I will never forget this image, and after that I start crying because, Thank God!, I always have many things. So although I know that life sometimes is not fair, still it doesn't take anything to give a little smile to someone." Your $10 purchase will provide two small gifts, such as dolls, sports equipment, or toy cars, to children living on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
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