People always tell Claus Bauer he is crazy.
On Boxing Day, as the rest of the world prepares to do battle for bargains, the 31-year-old begins his own annual tradition.
He takes his vacation from his day job as a social worker with the disabled — to go to work at an orphanage in Mexico at his own expense.
Like most of us, Bauer could spend Christmas exchanging gifts, shopping, rushing from place to place and putting to the back of his mind that odd, slightly guilty feeling that maybe — just maybe — hustle, bustle and debt are not what the holiday is all about.
Instead, the Burnaby man chooses to act on his desire to give — without thought of receiving.
And he’s got news for anyone thinking of following his example: Philanthropy is addictive.
“I figure I’m doing my part. It doesn’t feel like an obligation. I just do it so much because I want to do it.” says Bauer. Sitting amid a heap of toys and clothes.
“I come from a place where having a car, having a phone, having a house is the norm. This just makes me realize how lucky I am.
” Bauer — and yes, he’s heard the Santa “Clause” jokes before — has been spending his Christmas working in Mexico since 1992.
This year his girlfriend, Stephanie Wesselo, 25, and their 11-month old son, Jordan will be tagging along.
Each Boxing Day, Bauer and friend Mounir Nader organize a group of volunteers to drive from Vancouver to an orphanage in the dirt-poor town of Florido, just south of Tijuana.
Last year, they took 28 people. This year, they’re hoping to take between seven and nine. Some of their past projects include building homes, a community center for the village, and a computer lab filled with cast-off PCs donated by Vancouverities.
They paint fences, construct playgrounds and even put together a toilet.
And no religious strings are attached — something which makes the venture unique in the goodwill world.
Carlton Toews is the man who first introduced Bauer to Mexico.
As founder of Love Tijuana, Toews has been traveling to Mexico since the 1980s. Bauer got his first taste of Floride as a Love Tijuana volunteer.
“Clause is a young man with a heart filled with compassion for the poor and the needy in the world,” says Toews.
“He comes filled with enthusiasm to work to make a difference.”
Says Bauer: “A lot of people like to believe they’d like to do this, but it’s not easy for them to remove themselves from day-to-day life.
“My Philosophy in life is to get out of your comfort zone — if you do get out, you receive so much more and you gain from other people.”
The Province discovered Santa Clause when Stephanie emailed us. The former Miss Swaziland met Bauer when he was volunteering in Africa.
She believes her boyfriend is an inspiration to others who want to help but aren’t sure how. “I just think it’s great that he can take a time out of his life to help the underprivileged.” says Wesselo.
“It’s nice to have a boyfriend who others consider special.”
Volunteers — including Bauer’s mom and gaggle of friends in Penticton — collect toys and clothes.
Nader will never forget the thrill in the eyes of a young girl after receiving presents.
“It truly is like a Santa arriving — the looks on the faces,” says Nader.
“Clause is the type of individual who will walk into a room and everybody will want to get to know him. He brings a zest of life.”
The cost of the adventure is between $650 and $750 — which covers the building supplies, orphanage needs as well as travel and accommodation.
Bauer’s dream is to start a non-profit organization which will draw on the talent pool of businesses and individuals around the Lower Mainland to help people in need around the world.
“You can’t stop him,” says mom Hilde Bauer. “I think it’s a very good thing. We have to help the ones who don’t have anything.”
— If you’d like to volunteer your time or money, call 720-4034 or go to www.bauerandassoc.com
By: Jason Proctor – Staff Reporter