Who made your clothes?

So, I’m starting this blog with an exercise. I want you to look down your body. Run your hands over every item of clothing that you’re wearing, every layer and feel right down to your shoes. Feel that material and look close at the stitches. Now, think about all the other hands that have touched your clothes too. Do you know how many? Now, check the labels. Made in where? Vietnam? China? Bangladesh? And made by who?

Did you know that, if you’re reading this, you have 4x the amount of clothes in your wardrobe than your parents did? Did you know that 1 in 4 people around the world work in the fashion industry as we know it, with 98% of those people living below the poverty line, and 80% of those people being women? And is any of this making any of us happier? Hell to the no. Far from it.

I want you to meet Nazma, who at 13 years old, started work in a Bangladeshi garment factory; earning a wage equivalent to £2 a month. Nazma’s life has been extremely difficult, because not only has she worked in conditions, that some consider as modern-day slavery since she was 13 years old, but she’s also seen the hardships and inequalities of hundreds just like her.

I saw Nazma last year. She was angry with the world and asking for change.

“Women are earning £50 a month. They make your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings. The multi-national and retailers come to where the labour markets are cheap. And when clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world, nothing is discount, women pay with their blood and their sweat… Women are not respected. Women should be safe in all workplaces, everywhere.” – Nazma Akter, London, 2017

And above is Laboni and her husband, who moved to Bangladesh to find work and a new life. Laboni, alongside 1,137 others died when her factory collapsed five years ago.  The Rana Plaza story still hits me hard because it’s a story so common and a story that is never taken seriously enough. A story where workers rights and concerns were ignored, and the clothes that now fill our wardrobes were made at a human cost, just like so many others.

Most of my wardrobe, and yours, would have started in the hands of girls like Laboni and Nazma. They then end up in shops worth billions of pounds. Worth enough money to pay these women and men fair living wages. Worth enough money for their CEO’s and management to actually make time and visit the hands that are making their goods. Worth enough money to ensure that no human is working in these unsafe and inhumane conditions, yet alone a 13-year-old child. Worth enough money to make a change.

You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not empowerment. That’s not freedom, or love, or anything positive in fact.

But we’re greedy, right? And at least they’ve got jobs, right?

Yeah in deathly conditions. You know in the UK when it hits over 25 degrees, and everyone starts banging on about ‘safe working conditions’ and workers’ rights in that godforsaken heat? Well imagine that, plus another 10 degrees, plus 10-hour working days, plus seeing your family twice a year, plus dirty living conditions, plus gruelling work environments that are unsafe and the air is filled with chemicals, plus very little choice so you’re trapped and taken advantage of. Workers in Cambodia faint daily from the heat, starvation and pure exhaustion. Who do they work for? Suppliers to Nike and Puma. For how much? £120 a month.

And that’s just a snippet of the effect it has on the people of our planet, but the fashion industry is harming our planet in extraordinary ways too.

As the consumers, we are the cause of this. We are the cause of a 500% increase in consumption. Because of us, the consumers, the factory industry is now the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the second biggest energy consumer and the biggest producer of the non-bio gradable material that is polyester. Click here for my last blog to read more about the effects that fashion has on our planet. 

 

What are the solutions?

The solutions are in our hands, and there are so many of them! As a consumer (and human being!), I love to shop, I like my clothes, and I love getting dressed up. And I’m not saying we should stop, that we should boycott and throw tomatoes at the doors of Zara, but we can shop with a conscience, with more care and with more heart. This is easier said than done, when every time you flick on to Instagram you see girls earning big bucks for promoting these labels hard. I get the pressures of society. But think, is it worth it? What’s going to really matter 10 years from now?

  • Repair, re-wear and reuse your clothes

Don’t buy anything with the thought of chucking it away. Buy things that you love and wear them with love, repeatedly. Repair them, learn to sew things up and customise!

  • Engage with and challenge current suppliers

Shop ethically and challenge the fashion industry. If a company doesn’t have transparency regarding their suppliers and production makers, then the likelihood that they either have no idea who is making their clothes or that they’re in unsuitable, unethical conditions is highly likely. Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops

Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Who’s winning now?!

  • Realise change starts with you

Nazma is now a human rights activist who spends her days fighting for justice, safe working conditions and fair pay for factory workers. We can do the same. Follow ethical brands on Instagram, shop from ethical brands and support these people hard! Move away from the stereotype that ethical fashion is expensive and exclusive. Imagine if every brand was ethical? It would all be affordable and sustainable.

 

In fact, only 1-3% of the final cost goes to the hands that actually made them, so realistically speaking, we just need to shift the money from the hands of the super rich CEO’s and into the hands of these women. This way, costs wouldn’t even go up for us…

The makers of our clothing, those who are so often invisible and marginalised, are worth celebrating and given safety and quality of life too. No-one’s life, and the future of our planet is worth losing over the latest material trends. Let’s call on the UK fashion brands to protect the women who make our clothes and the planet that we live on.

And next time you change your outfit or purchase a new item of clothing, I dare you to look at the label and ask; Who made my clothes? Is she getting paid? Is she safe? Who is she?

Thanks for reading you lovely lot!

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

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Dating in China

Once upon a time, in lands far far away, there was a princess. After travelling every corner of the earth and kissing many-a-frog in search of her handsome, clever, bilingual prince, the princess found herself slowly losing hope in her big love adventure. Until one day, in the exotic lands of South China…

 

Dating in a foreign country. Sounds exciting right? And the big quest for love! Ah….

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I imagined that foreigners here would have similar mindsets and experiences as me, with exciting dates filled with stories of adventure, passion, excitement and rides home on the back of a vespa.

Wrong country. But you get the gist. Travel romance is meant to be just like in the movies!

And it is. Sometimes. But as I’m writing, I’m afraid to say, this princess is still very much solo.

 

First lickle problem; everyone knows everyone. All expats and foreigners hang out in the same two spots of my city which means that dating becomes almost incestuous.

China dating lesson number 1: look smoking at all times. You will bump into people at the worst of times. On other dates, at the bar, in the lift…

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Secondly, China is a bit of a limbo land for people. Those on their gap years or the lost souls filling in time (I’ve now been both…fab) and people trying to earn business bucks in an easy-ish to live country. Expats hearts and minds are not so aligned with mine. Not here anyway, and not that I’ve met yet anyway.

China dating lessons number 2: Expats and travellers are two v similar, but different things. Do. Not. Get. Confused.

 

Whilst travelling, I’ve met all sort of people from all cultures, walks of life and backgrounds. The guys I’ve dated from the expat community in China are like no other group I’ve been around. Narcissistic, entitled and uninspiring. Sounds harsh and just plain unfair right?!

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It also doesn’t help that my mandarin sucks, and I’m not fully attracted to Chinese men. So, very limited options over here (which Tinder reminds me of when it runs out of people to search for me every five minute) leaving me so full of hope…!

 

I’ve written about dating/travelling life before (like this one here) but never like this. I am about to give you the 411.

FYI, all names have been changed to protect identities and stories are slightly tweaked to add humour to what otherwise might seem a completely disappointing and sad series of events whilst travelling and finding love. It’s not all so bad my huns but it’s deffo worth a story or two!

 

Let’s start with Jay. Claimed to be a lover of art, coffee shops and all things ‘edgy’.

Went on a date to the art district and all he said was “if the art moves me then it moves me”…  Turns out nothing in life really moved him.

China dating lessons number 3: If someone refers to themselves as edgy, then they’re probably completing the opposite.

 

Then there was Arjun. He was older, well-travelled and quite interesting. At last!

A classic example of someone trying so hard to be ‘individual’ that unfortunately, he was like many people I’ve met before. The opinionated, self-entitled, arrogant, the-world-owes-me-everything-and-I-owe-nothing type of man.

China dating lessons number 4: Never date someone with hair longer than yours, who turns up at the club in 30 degrees heat wearing a Macklemore fur coat and nothing on underneath. Then hits on your colleagues and makes a joke about it afterwards.

I genuinely hope he finds happiness in life and himself one day.

 

Then came Darren. Also claimed to be a ‘creative’ person who loves poetry and travel. We spent our short lived days eating dinner together, watching Netflix and bickering like an old married couple.

Turns out he was also very full of the talk, drama and all-right bizarreness; a running theme here in China!

Like the time he said he was too busy to ‘fix us’ (quote by him a month after meeting), because he was going house-hunting in the Philippines. Sounds exciting right?! An excuse I’ll let you have.

Way to impress!

Except he’s never been to the Philippines, has never bought property, and never even booked the flight or left the city that weekend…

Way to impress…

China dating lessons number 5: People will say anything and everything to impress you, to fill silence, to be people they are not. Actions always speak louder than words my great ppl. 

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Then there’s…

Joe – Basketball player who texts ‘just hitting you up, wyd tonight?’ every now and then. Makes memes of his own face.

Rob – Lives 2 hours away. Thanks Tinder.

Mo – Leaves in a month. Invited himself to stay on my coach on our first date. That date never happened.

Javi – Owns a pizzeria and doesn’t understand people who never travel. Has no interest in pizzas and has barely travelled.

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Dating in China is, well, quite hilarious! And I sound like a serial dater! But, there you have it. It’s exhausting right? Three months in and full of stories already.

 

And as you might know, dating can be tough at the best of times, but in a country where your options are limited and them options are pretty dire, there seems no hope….

 

But there is hope! More lessons to be learned (and re-learned). A note to me from me:

  1. Actions speak louder than words. Especially need to remember when said person has a lot of words. Being in the presence of some of these guys reminded me how much I do for myself and the things I can make happen. Alone. I’m all action, not words. You don’t wanna be with someone who drags you down, un-inspires you or leaves you to do all the work.
  2. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your gut and stop forcing things (even if he’s the only Latino guy you’ve met in months).
  3. If the conversation is all about him, he doesn’t even ask how you are, and he’s fully aware of it, then just say ‘thanks’ and leave. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Not in England, China or Timbuktu.
  4. Never stop trying! I laughed whilst writing this because it’s all quite funny, but it’s all part of travel and life. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re missing out on unless you try and put yourself out there. Do it for yourself and do it for the lols. I’m putting it all in my experience box.
  5. YOU ARE FAB. All on your own. And you are enough. One day you’ll meet someone who’ll have real stories to tell just like you and love every single inch of your crazy life and self. Until then, carry on doing great stuff in this world.

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Nine more months to go. Who knows what life will bring me next?! I’m full of hope… and in the meantime will carry on enjoying my life to the very max and filling it with all different kinds of love, frog kissing and passion! You go do the same too.

 

Stay tuned to find out more and follow my adventures on IG @vanishamay

Have a fab day my loves! Thanks for reading.

V

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Water is a women’s issue.

Believe it or not, water IS a women’s issue. The physical act of fetching water is part of gender inequality. Sanitation, which is a blessing thanks to water, is also a major challenge for those who have no idea what safe sanitation is. That is why I am walking 70,000 steps over the next 7 days for the organisation Care International UK. It’s my first proper fundraiser and my first week of teaching again in China (eeeek!) so it’s a super busy week for me! Plus, I’m new to the city of Shenzhen so all these steps will involve exciting new places and probably me getting lost a lot. But why am I going on about girls and gender inequality again? Who does it actually affect? And what’s the point?

But what about boys that make that same journey?

Someone asked me the other day, “but what about boys that make that same journey? Why is the focus on girls and women?” and I thought this was a brilliant starting point to explain why. Honestly, not many people have donated to the fundraiser yet, hence why I’m writing this blog. And aside from the fact that Care International are a women and children’s focused charity (due to the *crazy* idea that girls can eradicate poverty), perhaps not everyone understands the connection or importance of women and water. So please, you don’t have to donate or even speak to me again, but for your knowledge and for the future of our daughters, please just read this blog.

On a global scale, having better and safer water options helps women and girls in phenomenal ways, which in turn could see the eradication of global poverty.

Here are 10 facts on why water is a women’s issue…

  1. Safe water options reduce violence against girls and women. Walking at the age of 10 years old, along empty paths and across isolated lands means that girls like Ambie are at risk every day from sexual violence and harm. Issues that boys rarely face, and issues that girls face way too often. And in Ambie’s case, she’s just getting water so that her and her family can see another day…
  2. In addition to this, inadequate sanitation facilities like having actual toilets means that girls (especially those in cultures where shame and insecurity play major factors) will wait until it’s dark to defecate and urinate, which in itself causes three big problems – girls can’t go to school, health issues occur where they’re holding in too much for too long, and nightfall increases their risk (again) to sexual violence and harm.
  3. The lack of sanitation in schools for girls also means that when they reach puberty, they’re physically unable to attend school thanks to the facilities being catered for guys.
  4. School performance and school enrolment increases for girls in areas that have safer and better water access.
  5. Reduction in violence, education and work opportunities for girls mean that they grow to be women who will lift not only their families out of poverty, but their communities too. There is a huge correlation between focusing aid and opportunities on women rather than men to reduce poverty levels.
  6. In countries where water remains a problem, women also bear the majority of the housework. This means that it’s a woman’s duty to still walk 3 hours a day in some of the hottest places of the earth, carrying litres of water, and holding her youngest child whilst being 8 months pregnant. That’s not even an exaggeration. It really does happen. And that’s a woman’s problem.
  7. Contamination and exposure to hygiene related diseases such as sepsis and hepatitis means that periods and pregnancy in general can be extremely dangerous for these millions of women and their babies.
  8. This water that’s collected is not even always safe or clean. These women just have no other option but to give contaminated water to their families. As a result, 500,000 children die every year from dirty water, diarrhoea and many more to cholera.
  9. In Africa, 90% of this burden will be carried by women. Girls under 12 years old will be twice as likely to carry this responsibility than boys under the age of 15 years old.
  10. Unless gender is integrated and implemented in targets like safe water for all, then global goals like poverty eradication by 2030 will never be achieved.

And aside from all of that, shouldn’t water be a basic human right for anyone? How lucky are we to turn on a tap and sit on a toilet, thanks to luck and location. Why do millions not have that same basic human right and we have no limits?

 

And on a personal scale…

  1. I’ve attended two women’s marches in the last year, both organized by Care International. Both were filled with inspirational women from all around the world, with inspiring, life-changing and heart-breaking stories. As an organization, I’ve really grown to love their work and believe in the good that they do for the world.
  2. Nearly 1/2 of the world live in poverty, in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. I’ve travelled and seen extreme poverty, worked with children who come from difficult backgrounds and met incredible people who might never receive the same opportunities as you and I, just because of the location, circumstance and luck they were born in to. If there’s anything I can do to change this, then I’m gonna try my absolute best, no matter how small. And you can help too!

How can you help?

There are so many things that you can do to help me and them! You can join me! Or straight up donate to my fundraiser! This is the lovely link….

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/vanisha-sparks

Or if you really can’t spare even £5 (which will turn into £10 when you donate before the 22nd!!) then you can share this story and link around to your friends and family in hope that it’ll reach more people and I can actually hit my very small target for women and girls all over this world who need it so bad, and who could literally change this planets future given the right opportunities and chances.

So, from Monday 16th April – Sunday 22nd April join me in my 70,000 steps in China. The UK government are also DOUBLING all donations made during this time which is incredible so be sure to click gift aid on all of your donations!

Thanks for reading if you got this far! It’s so important for me and for girls like Precious up there! Keep up with my stuff on Instagram and snapchat this week! You da best.

V

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Research and useful links

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/when-women-no-longer-have-walk-water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/world-water-day-how-women-farmers-can-overcome-drought

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/search/content/water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/walk-her-shoes-journey-no-other

http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/gender.shtml

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bEtqZoD4V4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_o_oqEHluw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–uWCAOehOo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfjEcOp-SeQ

10 steps to the best year yet!

YAY! It’s finally 2018. Which usually means nothing to me. I’m not one to shout around “new year, new me” but this new year is an exception. This new year has come at a time where I’ve needed change and a reason to change more than ever before. This new year, I’m all about new focuses, new hopes, and perhaps not a new me but, a bolder, fiercer and better me. And I can’t bloody wait for it all. So, in line with a ‘new year, new me’ comes my New Year resolutions. Here are my 10 goals/resolutions/guidelines for 2018 which I hope may spark some inspiration and oomph for all of you who may need it too 😊

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  1. Do good for your own good

I recently read that being kinder was one of the most life-changing New Year resolutions for anybody to practice. One small deed a day could change a life, including your own. Go out of your way to do something positive in the world like helping a stranger or volunteering. Not only will you be doing good, but you’ll automatically feel good too.

My goals:

  • One deed a day.

Tips: Buy flowers for someone, cook for your family, plant a tree, volunteer, smile at a stranger, campaign more.

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  1. Healthy body

This year I vow to try it all. Yoga, karate, gym, eating less meat, and getting my 5-a-day. Living a healthy life isn’t just about losing weight, but also about being physically fit, and giving lots of love to your body, plus it’s all better for the planet.Last year, I climbed Machu Picchu mountain and it was bloody hard! This year, I want to climb a mountain with less struggle. And it’s also true, a healthy body brings a healthy mind and life, hence resolution #3…

My goals:

  • Join the gym (which I done today, yay)
  • By the end of the year: to feel physically better, lose extra rolls, gain body confidence
  • Climb a mountain

Tips: Join the local gym, make a food plan, walk more, try a new class, buy fresher food.

  1. Healthy mind

My mental health took a bit of a bash in last year, so, this year I vow to do all that I can to move away from that place and into a better, healthier and more positive mindset. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and a healthy life. You’d be a fool not to invest so much into your own self and mind.

I’m going to measure this by –

  • breaking unhealthy habits and placing them with good habits like nail biting (caused by stress and is abso rank) –> Reading, painting, writing (de-stress, get clever, get creative, keep the hands busy).
  • De-cluttering my life, selling old clothes, and living more minimally (check out the documentary on Netflix – Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, it will change your life!). I’ve recently wiped my iTunes too and started fresh with the music and things I listen to everyday. It feels so good to start fresh and get rid.

Tips: Cut down alcohol intake, adapt a better sleep pattern, regulate the time that you spend on social media, write a diary, exercise.

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  1. Know your worth

The tough times from 2017 left me feeling like I was not worthy of being loved, like I didn’t deserve the truth and that people thought it was okay to treat me like sh*t. The lessons I learnt from this? Some people lie, cheat, and will find all sorts of ways to hurt you. That’s life, and that’s them. It’s not a reflection on you. It does not mean that you are not enough, or unworthy or are undeserving of ever being treated well. Not everyone has the same heart as you, and the way people treat you reflects them, not you. YOU ARE A QUEEN. Or a King. And you’ve done incredible things, and you’re an amazing person, and probably achieved a lot more than these people ever will. So, forget them, treat yourself well, find peace, give yourself a break and trust yourself so much that you can erase anyone who thinks it’s ever okay to break any part of you (pep talk to myself right there!).

Tips: This is obviously hard to measure but I’ve just bought a book called You can heal your life by Louise Hay which is dedicated to helping you find your own self-worth, love and acceptance. I’ll let you know how it goes… and if in 6 months time you find yourself erased from my life, sorry not sorry.

  1. Give, give, give! But not to them…

My career and life are both spent giving, which is fine considering I volunteer and have dreams of being in the humanitarian sector. But, does that mean everyone deserves all that I have to give? Ha-ha no. One of the toughest life lessons is knowing when to stop giving. Know the difference between someone who needs, deserves and cherishes the time, attention and love that you give, to someone who is fully taking advantage of you. In 2017, people drained me from all that I had to give until I felt empty. This year, I’m taking all of that back and giving it all to myself and the people who truly appreciate it all, whilst laughing in 2017’s face.

Tips: volunteer, spend time with my loved ones, spend time with myself

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  1. Be bold, be brave and never stop dreaming

The path to achieve my dream job is a long and messy one. It requires years of unpaid volunteer work, which means years of savings to back me up. Hello 2018, my year of money making and saving (made challenging due to my needs of being far away). So, I’ve made the bold and brave decision to move to China, I’ve signed a year-long contract and will be leaving soon to start the next chapter of my life. It doesn’t always have to be so extreme, but never stop chasing your passions. There’s endless amounts of discovery and ways to achieve your dreams.

My goals:

  • Move to a new country
  • Save money to volunteer

Tips: JUST GO FOR IT. Life is too short. Be brave. Go for it all. And realistically, create a savings account, do some research, plan your steps.

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  1. Try new things

Ever seen Jim Carrey in Yes Man? My goal is to be him this year. Obviously not literally, and only to a certain extent, but I want my year to be filled with “oh wells” and “why not’s?” rather than “what ifs”. I want to try everything. And I won’t be scared to fail, which is a lesson I learnt thanks to my great pal, 2017. But, to keep it realistic, my goal is 10 new things. From saying yes to a new food to visiting a new country to trying a new gym class.

My goals:

  1. Joined a gym!                          6.
  2. New job in China                   7.
  3.                                                    8.
  4.                                                    9.
  5.                                                  10.

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  1. Feed the brain

This year, I also vow to keep learning. I want to read more books, I plan to re-start my mandarin, I’d like to blog more, and I want to fill my brain with new things from all over the world. Educate, learn, be productive and stuff the brain. It’s all possible and easier than ever. You’re never too old, or too young, and it’s never too late.

My goals:

  • Update my website and blog more
  • Buy new books to read
  • Cut down Netflix and learn Chinese </3

Tips: Make lists of things you’d like to achieve for daily, weekly and even yearly. Find a book genre that you’re in to, or even watch more documentaries! Research things and never stop asking questions.

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  1. Stay motivated

It’s so hard to stay on track and be inspired when you’re stuck in a rut and life seems to be going wrong on every level. BUT, it’s so important. In 2017, I lost so much focus and inspo that it completely messed me up. Until I found it again. I started reading again, making my lists, getting organised and finding ways to motivate myself again. And now I feel on top form. But just in case…

My goals:

  • Surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you
  • Make lists (like this one) to track progress and give reminders

Tips: Make a power playlist that makes you want to run the world every time you listen to it, remind yourself how phenomenal you are, think about all the greatness you’ve yet to achieve.

  1. LOVE YOURSELF

If you didn’t get the jist already, my 2018 priority is me. I’ve grown, and I’ve changed, and I fully choose myself. All the love, happiness and kindness that I so freely gave out before, I’m giving to myself. Why? Because self-love is the most important kind of love. Because I am going to smash 2018. Because I deserve it all.

And if you’re reading this, you probably deserve it too! Love yourself and love your life HARD. Make some goals, get inspired and make 2018 a wonderful year for you. I am too excited for it all.

Cheers! Here’s to me, you and 2018 🎉

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

Things we forget as tourists…

A Peruvian protest

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to visit one of the wonders of the world, Machu Picchu in Peru. Our three-day Inca Jungle Trek was fully-packed with activities including biking through the Andes Mountains, mountain hiking and the infamous Inca city of Machu Picchu. However, our trip was full of unexpected surprises too due to the recent protests in Peru which brings me on to my next little rant about things that happen whilst travelling!

 

Our first occurrence with the protesters was on our first journey to the mountains. We had no idea what was going on when the minivan stopped in a road rammed with traffic and was held there for nearly two hours! Turns out the protesters were actually Peruvian teachers fighting for higher wages. They’d been protesting for over 20 days all over Peru, and their main destination were the tourist roads to Machu Picchu which disrupted travel for days and lasted for weeks. Fair enough!

  

Would you work for that?

The teachers were on strike, placing rocks, stones and wood in the roads and on the train tracks leading up to Machu Picchu. They were angry about the fact that the government who receives millions of US dollars thanks to the tourism industry, but Peruvians don’t see a single bit. We ventured out of the minivan to see the lines of hundreds of teachers and protesters and ended up speaking to one teacher who explained how they care, clean and teach doing jobs that they shouldn’t be doing and all for the monthly wage of 210 Peruvian Soles. That’s equivalent to £50.

 

By the last day of our trip the protests had got so bad that the teachers had apparently derailed the train tracks which meant that after a day of mountain hiking and walking around Machu Picchu, Becca and I trekked for another three hours along the train tracks in the dark to the next village to then catch a 7-hour minibus back to Cusco.

 

I won’t lie, the whole thing was pretty tiring, but I was disgusted by the cheek of the tourists around us who had every right to be annoyed by the slight inconvenience, but to display it so openly to the locals and people who tried so hard to help? Who do you think you are? Not forgetting the idiot guy who thought it would be funny to shout to the protesters and joke about whilst juggling in amongst the police and crowds.

 

Think about the teaching staff in our own westernised countries and how we think they get paid pennies (which they do in my opinion compared to some not as deserving occupations!), and then think about receiving 50 bloody pounds a month for all that love, care and demanding work. Nah, sit back down in your air-con minibus, on your £3,000 two-week trip and think hard before you speak.

 

Waiting for karma…

It’s funny, and there’s literally always one person who just never fails to shock you with how they even made it this far out in the world without karma knocking them out first, but the ignorance of some people when they’re in someone else’s lands and lives is unreal. Who do we think we are? Aren’t we forgetting something? That this is their country. And their fight is extremely worthwhile and incredibly important. And at the end of the day, who cares if we had to walk through the jungle and see fireflies with a couple of Peruvian people (turned out to be a highlight of the trip!), the thing that matters is that their voices were heard and that they get to exercise their rights with complete freedom.

Thanks for reading my little rant guys!

You can keep up with my adventure on instagram @vanishamay

Happy travels!

Vanisha

Dreams of Tapachula

Day one in the life of a volunteer!

 

So, I’ve been in Tapachula for 24 hours now and so much has happened already including an evening stroll around the pretty city center which was filled with friendly people, a fair and churros and an emotional goodbye to my big, eventful, backpacking trip as I hopped into a taxi to Mision Mexico. Hello new adventure!

 

My journey here started in January when I was in full stress/productive mode writing my final major project at university in London whilst attempting to plan the rest of my life (and I still have no idea for those of you wondering)!

 

I’m deeply interested in education, aid, crisis, children and women’s rights, and am aiming to spend my life dedicated to the humanitarian sector. So what better way to start than by volunteering?

 

One night in my productive/stress mode, I googled ‘volunteering in Mexico’ and Mision Mexico’s Children’s organisation happened to be one of the first to pop up! And the website was in English (I speak zero Spanish even after three months of being in Spanish speaking countries!), and they were looking for volunteers! I sent an email, had a quick reply back and the rest is history! 7 months later and here I am.

 

I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. Dreaming about volunteering, about the start of the rest of my life, and of recently, dreams of Tapachula.

 

I didn’t come with many expectations but my knowledge of Tapachula itself was that it was completely the opposite to the rich, modern city that I’d left behind. A fairly poor and typically Mexican city found on the border of Guatemala, my research told me that poverty, crime and gender inequality were all traits of the area (tiny butterflies in my tummy as a criminology and sociology graduate!) but, so far so good! It’s all quite charming including the people!

Pulling up to the grande casa verde was nerve-wracking! This is it. Here I am. Dreams becoming a reality!

 

I was shown up to my room which is in a separate volunteers house and has its own living space, kitchen, bathroom and balcony! Again, I was pleasantly surprised because I have my own bedroom with furniture and places to put my clothes, and my own fan. All huge luxuries after backpacking! Mision Mexico is full of colour, big palm-like trees and there’s even a volcano in the distance!

 

Everyone was so friendly and gave me space to chill. Good job regarding the lunch that followed a few hours later was filled with heaps of cheeky introductions, lots of little happy faces and many, many new names! Definitely a good way to start the next part of my life!

 

Keep with the adventures here on Instagram @misionmexicovolunteers and @vanishamay and keep your eyes peeled for many more blogs to come!

 

For all those interested in volunteering please don’t hesitate to ask further. Please apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com. We’re in need of volunteers throughout October-December 2017. Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

 

Mision Mexico,

Tapachula,

Mexico,

http://www.lovelifehope.com

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

Here’s what’s wrong with volunteering…

As my life is about to take a huge turn in the right direction with the start of my career and voluntary work beginning this month, I can’t help but think, in a world that is desperate for volunteers why voluntary work seems to be only for the few and not for everybody? What’s the problem with volunteering? Why me? And why not you?

Luckily, a few years ago I finally realised my passion and the main things that I want to do with my life. My purpose in life is to help people, to help improve lives and to fight for justice, human rights and alongside those with no voices. So, obviously, I love talking about it, about aid, crisis, the news, and the world and all of the people in it. And naturally people tend to give pretty positive responses but among the questions and shock some say..

“That’s so amazing! I can’t believe you’re doing it unpaid!”

“Wow I don’t know how you do it!”

“Is that safe? Should you be doing that?”

“Ooh I could never do that. Only few people like you can!”

“How do you have the time? Shouldn’t you be actually working?”

Err well, you could do it! I don’t have the money! I make the time! Is crossing the road always safe? Which got me more thinking about the bigger question; why aren’t more people volunteering? What is the big issue surrounding helping those in need? People back at home (from my experiences in England) have all these excuses as to why they can’t volunteer. And some are fair enough, people work long days, have families, busy schedules. But if you can find the time for the gym every day, a cinema date once a month or even a night out every weekend, then guess what? You already have time to volunteer. 

Volunteering is like a taboo word that makes people run away and shut their doors. But why? Volunteering can be literally anything for as many hours in the year as you want it to be. It’s fully flexible with tons of options! And you’re helping the world! Bonus.

You could volunteer by helping the homeless for the day, by helping conservation and caring for turtles in the Caribbean for two weeks, you can work some hours at the local animal sanctuary, spend 30 minutes on the phone at the Good Samaritans or even protect women from violence in India for months on end. There’s literally something for everybody! So now what’s the excuse?

For an hour in your day or a week in your year, forget safety, forget time and forget money. Being human is being selfless. If everybody gave a little something back and spent time with those more in need, then already the world would be a better place. And of course we can all take time out of our days to spare some kindness, love and humanity. 

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote everyday about the kind of community that you want to live in.”

So what kind of world do you want to live in? Choose to help, choose to change the world and choose to volunteer! 


Here are some websites and a list of voluntary options: 

Redcross – http://www.redcross.org.uk/Get-involved/Volunteer

 • Shelter – https://england.shelter.org.uk/support_us/volunteer

 • Food bank – https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-involved/volunteer/&nbsp;

 • Good Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/volunteer-us

 • Original volunteers – http://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/

 • GVI – https://www.gvi.co.uk/

 • HelpX – https://www.helpx.net/

 • Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/

 • Mision Mexico – http://lovelifehope.com/

Thanks again for reading guys!

Remember to follow me and my travel adventures here on instagram @vanishamay

Vanisha 

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