Cindy and Bob Thomas recently returned from an international trip in the Caribbean. However, instead of lounging on the beach, Cindy spent her time in Roatan, Honduras, tackling a problem that doesn't happen in Alberta -- a rat infestation severe enough to cause a family to move out of their home.
Usually, Thomas brings Santa to Roatan with her to distribute Christmas gifts to children in villages all over the island. Although Santa wasn't able to make it this year, the couple headed down anyways with a different goal in mind.
"It's different when you go without Santa," said Thomas. "We weren't in a position to go out on our own into these different communities. So, we basically went down this year to spend time with the family that we help. This year, our main focus was to help them rid their house of rats."
Thomas explained that the trip costs around $7,000 for flights, accommodation and vehicle rental. With the rat problem this year, she spent more money, because the family had had all of their belongings destroyed, and had moved out of their unlivable house.
"We bought a big, huge steel garbage can with a lid and a snap strap so that you could hook the handles so the rats couldn't take the lid off," she elaborated. "We told them, 'put your food in there, put your clothes in there. This is where you keep [those things] until you get this rat situation under control.'"
Once the family's new belongings were safe from rats, the house was emptied, holes were patched and the entire building was scrubbed from floor to ceiling.
Undeterred by the experience, Thomas said the couple are already planning next year's trip -- this time, with Santa.
"I can't even explain the experience anymore, because it's always different, it's always unique," said Thomas about gift-giving to children. "You're always seeing kids you want to cry for, but yet you can't. You try and be as uplifting and happy as you can and it gives them a little bit of hope."