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Philanthropic family sail into action

Luis Samudio believes birthdays should be more about giving than gifts. His 50th was no different.

The Pennsylvania resident brought three suitcases filled with things for charity when he visited on Anthem of the Seas two weeks ago.

He and his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters then spent a good part of their three days here putting their plan in place.

“These things are only a few dollars [in the United States],” Mrs Samudio said of the soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and other toiletries they donated to the Centre Against Abuse. We know there are not thousands of low-income people in Bermuda, but there are enough.”

The family initially planned to bring in 20 bags filled with 13 toiletries each but, as many friends wanted to help, they tripled their expectations.

Laurie Shiell-Smith, the charity’s executive director, “seemed very grateful” for their efforts.

“I think she was a little surprised when I e-mailed her a month ago,” Mrs Samudio said.

“We didn’t know each other but I figured if someone is either looking to leave an abusive situation or anything it could be a help to have some essentials to help them relocate.

“Usually we fly. On an aeroplane you really pay for the suitcases but this time we were on a boat so we thought we’d try it.”

The problems began when they tried to get the luggage off the ship.

Bermuda Customs told them that as long as they did not bring in anything illegal and paid the duty, all was fine.

Royal Caribbean International, the cruise liner’s operator, was not as keen.

“They were very unhappy with the idea,” Mrs Samudio said.

“When we arrived on November 12, they wouldn’t let us leave with the donations.

“They were suspicious because it is not something that people normally do.

“Laurie called the port agent for me. She also spoke to customs on the ground. Everyone was on the same page, and said, ‘We don’t mind if you bring these items in, as long as you have documentation.’

“We spent maybe two or three hours on Monday and another couple of hours on Tuesday. When they finally gave us permission, we took a taxi to Laurie’s office.

“It was OK. We expected to spend a little bit of time doing that, but we were happy to get it taken care of.”

Their hope was the act would also have a positive effect on their daughters, Alison, 14, and Lizzie, 12.

“I don’t want them to dwell on what they are going to get — that’s all some children think about,” Mrs Samudio said.

“I didn’t want my kids to be self-absorbed; I wanted them to be confident enough to look outside of themselves.”

They knew they had made the right decision to donate supplies when they saw the prices in Bermuda stores.

“Holy cow!” Mrs Samudio said. “Some things we bought for one dollar in the United States are $7 in Bermuda.”

The family fell in love with the island on this, their first trip.

They chose to go on holiday here because it was a simple journey out of a New Jersey port and back home.

“I don’t like when you have to jump to a whole bunch of different islands,” said Mrs Samudio.

“We wanted to just go somewhere and relax. We thought it was incredibly beautiful. The history was amazing. We learnt a lot.”

It was too cold to swim, so they are hoping to pay another visit.

“We have it on the list to come back,” Mrs Samudio said. “Just seeing the beach was incredible. We came home to 12 inches of snow.

“We developed a friendship with Laurie. She was lovely. She showed us everything. She was a very gracious host.”