Volunteering at Mision Mexico - Bringing love, life and hope to our children

Mision Mexico’s Magic

A day in the life of a volunteer

One of the aims as a volunteer is to spread positivity and inspiration. I walk through doors in hope that at the most, I’ll change or improve somebody’s life, and at the very least, make their day a tiny bit brighter and their smile a tiny bit bigger. What you can never plan for is the impact that someone might make on you and the mark they may leave in your life. One of my biggest inspo’s from Mision Mexico is my girl, M. This is to you gal.

 

Like most of our children at Mision Mexico, M’s journey has a been a tough one. M was found at the age of 4, wandering the streets of Tapachula buying alcohol for her alcoholic parents. At 4 years-old, M was classed as a victim of abuse and neglect. She was bought to Mision Mexico by local social services and police, and has spent most of her life with Pam and Alan Skuse and the family they’ve created at the refuge. Through pictures and videos, you can see how far she’s come. From a sweet little girl to a confident, strong young woman, M is now 17 years old.

As one of the eldest in the house, it’s clear to see who’s boss when M is around, and she can definitely play up to the role when needed! She’s a leader who knows what she wants. And that’s one thing that I love about her. That throughout everything, through all the sadness and hardship, she’s a fearless go-getter who loves life. Plus, she’s completely lovable and has the most infectious and charming personality.

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Like most teens, M has discovered make up, boys and a hate for chores. Actually, I think she reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age! Sometimes loving and happy, sometimes stubborn and testing, and sometimes just misunderstood.

 

As a volunteer at Mision Mexico, it’s not always so easy to find one-on-one time, mainly because there’s 22 children all needing their own various kinds of attention and love! But when you find that time, you break down that barrier and you make that little bond, it can be magic.

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My first magic moment with M came on a trip into town one day. We walked and talked about school and bullying and she held my hand for the whole way home. Then our funniest moment was when she took me to get tortillas in the torrential rain. We were running (which is rare for me!) and as we were attempting to walk through a small river in the street, my flip-flop came off and I almost lost it…! She thought it was hilarious.

But my proudest moment and biggest wave of inspiration came when I took her to her first boxing class. As we walked together hand in hand, M told me stories about school and the girl who she didn’t get on well with. As we got closer to central, we had incidents with two separate cars of men stopping by us and cat-calling. Funnily enough, being one of the only few tourists in Tapachula, the attention wasn’t aimed at me, but instead, aimed at a 17-year old M. Feminist me, and human me was mortified and I was quick to wave them along in anger and hand gestures. Unfortunately, incidents like this are common in areas like this.

We turned up at the boxing class and M had a huge smile of excitement on her face. She got straight into it and barely stopped for the whole hour. While she was punching away at the boxing bag with a face full of determination, I couldn’t help but think about 4-year-old M being taken away from her sad family situation, and 7-year-old M growing up with her new family at Mision Mexico, and 12-year-old M getting cat called on the street, and 14-year-old M getting hit by the girl at school, and now 17-year-old M, strong, smart and beautiful and right by my side.

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It’s an amazing feeling to watch someone who is so remarkable in your eyes, keep looking over and checking to make sure you’re watching her in her newest passion, to  wanting to hold your hand whilst walking around the streets and asking advice about her problems in life.

And, although volunteering is all about giving out love and lifting others, you’re always left with that exceptional feeling that along with changing their lives, they’re also changing yours. Magic. Saying goodbye to M as I left Mision Mexico was one of the most difficult for sure. Kidnapping is not always the best idea but she’s amongst the bunch that I would have loved to have with me forever.

 

Unfortunately, life sometimes catches up with the children and M is currently going through some difficult life decisions. We all hope that she chooses the path that will bring her the most happiness and allows her to be the best version of herself. We love you M, and thank you for being such a big part of my life in Tapachula.

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

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers
Twitter: @misionmexico
Follow us on Facebook too! @misionmexico
http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

A day in the life of a volunteer in Mexico

Life’s a beach!

A day in the life of a volunteer

Thinking of volunteering? Want to know more about life in Mexico? Although it’s not this easy everyday, Sunday family days at Mision Mexico are truly the best, and here’s why….!

Australian founders, Pam and Alan Skuse spent many years building Mision Mexico and creating a home filled with love, life and hope. Together they’ve seen hundreds of children from Tapachula and the surrounding areas walk through their doors, even creating a youth transition programme that provides children with a more mature environment with the resources to help with their next stage in life. Combining their love of surf, Pam and Alan regularly took the children to the beach for special family time and fun for everybody. Along with the help of generous donations of surf boards and volunteers giving surf lessons, the children were able to practice riding on the big waves and test out their skills as the first surfers in Tapachula!


Following from this is Pam and Alan’s next great project, Mision Surf. Over the last few years and with the help of many donations, Pam and Alan have built an incredible beach house in the poorer community nearby. The ideas behind the use of the house are endless and inspiring. The house has already served as a place for the local children to come and enjoy free swimming lessons, and our children have also completed an art project that saw them venturing out into the community to paint and create beautiful and bright mural’s. The house also has space for various workshops for the children, guests and the community which will include art, craftsmanship and many more activities. Alongside this, Mision Surf will be a hotel complete with a small restaurant which will provide our children and the people from the community with jobs and training in tourism.

So, they’re the basics and the background of Mision Surf, and that’s where we get to spend every other Sunday together as a family! It’s my favourite day for sure, and my most favourite day during my whole time there was a Sunday beach day.

Mision Mexico has a bonus like no other refuge that I know of. During my time in their home in Tapachula, the family and I would spend every other weekend down at their beach house on the coast Mision Surf. Though it’s no holiday home for the kids, and luckily the beach is only a 30 minute drive, beach Sunday’s definitely feel like a mini-break!


The morning shift starts off with a rush because we need to get 22 kids fed, dressed, ready for the beach and sitting in the cars! The 30-minute journey consists of everyone in the van singing along to whatever’s on the radio! It’s funny, and every child knows most of the words to the Latino music AND the western music that plays. Pure talent. 


My favourite beach day was slightly different to the usual. Usually we spend a few hours at Mision Surf then head home for a family BBQ, the normal chores, TV etc. But on this day, we spent literally all day at the beach house, listening to music, playing in the pool, surfing at the beach and eating almost non-stop whilst drinking Jamaica. It was so much fun, and not once did I hear “I’m bored” or “when are we going home?”. The older boys with the help of Jonathan managed to make sure that everyone got into the pool, by choice or with force! And the sun also shined all day which topped everything (and meant that half of us left looking like lobsters!).

Days at the beach are not just filled with fun but are also incredibly important as a family and for the children. It’s the one day in the week where worries go out of the window and everyone laughs and plays heaps more than usual. The children are given the space to be just children and the day is full of normalcy which is usually natural for most families but with 22 children, days like this take a lot more planning and hard work! All the moments shared on that day, all the love and laughter makes all the effort worth it. It’s days like these where you think you’ve gotta be the luckiest volunteer going! BBQ, beach, surf, swimming pools, fun and sun. What more could you possibly need?!

For all those interested in volunteering or teaching skills through workshops and projects, please don’t hesitate to ask further. You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’re in need of volunteers especially for the holidays throughout the year with the first being this Easter 2018. Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers
Twitter: @misionmexico
Follow us on Facebook too! @misionmexico
http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

International day of the girl child - J at Mision Mexico, Tapachula, Mexico

Dear girls of Mexico, 

I’d like to dedicate this International Day of the Girl Child to the refuge of Mision Mexico and its 13 inspiring girls, and to the girls throughout this beautiful but progressive country. Although the girls in this refuge are lucky today, this wasn’t always the case, and unfortunately there are many other girls just like them. My dear girls, today is for you.

 

My main interest and area of research has been on inequalities and crimes against girls but mainly of those in Asia. Before coming to Mexico, I had very little knowledge of the gender injustices and inequalities felt throughout the country. Actually, statistics suggest that crimes against girls are extremely common in Mexico and run deep alongside the culture, drugs, tradition and machismo attitudes which are putting thousands of girls at risk every single day. These statistics include our girls at Mision Mexico.

Similar to much of Asia, Latin America portrays correlations between low levels of education and high levels of poverty with high level of crime. But the differences lie in the research, statistics, media coverage and report-making which when compared, seems almost non-existent in Latin America and especially Mexico. It’s no surprise that I knew so little about what it means to be a girl in Mexico, because there’s nothing to know about. No one’s writing about it. No one’s talking about it. Which means that no one’s stopping these injustices or supporting the girls who face difficulties that we can’t even begin to imagine. And for those that have tried in the past, their lives have been in grave danger and they’ve faced horrific consequences. Here are some statistics that I could find:

 

  • In Chihuahua, Mexico, 66% of murdered women are killed by their husbands, boyfriends and family members.
  • It’s estimated that 14,000 women are raped every year in Mexico. That’s 38 women and girls every day.
  • Statistics also suggest that 44% of women in Mexico will face some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. 91% of these cases will go unreported. And of the cases that are reported, not even 8% will end in conviction.
  • Sexual violence and torture remain as routine practice used by security forces like the Navy and the Army as well as the Mexican police. Reports by Amnesty International suggest horrific statistics and confessions by women who have been unlawfully arrested, raped, electrocuted and abused by officials in uniform. What hope do these women have?
  • Studies also suggest that Latin America is the worst place in the world to be a woman.

 

Femicide is a fairly new sociolegal term which I used almost every day in my last year at university, and its a term that can be best described for the 40,000 murdered Mexican women that occurred between 2000 and 2014. Femicide is the deliberate gender-based killing of a female. Put more simply, it’s where girls are killed for being girls.

Alongside this, there’s the harassment. The widespread and systematic act of sexual harassment is something that even I have felt during my time in Latin America, and its incomparable to anywhere else I’ve been in the world. It’s on the streets, it’s in the clubs, in public places, in shopping centres, it’s in Peru, in Colombia, in Brazil and in Mexico.

If the discrimination and lack of humanity is this obvious and common whether it be a too-close-for-comfort encounter on a bus or the murder and rape of feminist activists in their homes, then why is there not more data, research, policy plans, and solutions for our girls? This chart complied by the UN women shows the lack and missing amount of data for women in Mexico. The data doesn’t even exist.

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http://www.endvawnow.org/uploads/browser/files/vaw_prevalence_matrix_15april_2011.pdf International day of the girl child – Mexico

The 2017 International Day of the Girl Child’s focus is on data collection and analysis, and using this data to “adequately measure and understand the opportunities and challenges girls face, and identify and track progress towards solutions to their most pressing problems.” (http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/)

 

Human trafficking, sexual slavery, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect and gender based stereotyping like how a girl should behave, are all experiences, knowledge and some of the backgrounds shared by our girls at Mision Mexico and in the city of Tapachula. The reality of a statistic actually having a face is one of the toughest things to come to terms with whilst volunteering here, but our girls now have lives filled with hope, love, choice and opportunity. Let’s make this a reality for all girls. 

Today you can make a difference. Equality, safety and crime-free lives are not impossible goals for our girls. You can help raise awareness by sharing this post or by checking out the links below. You can also donate, follow and volunteer with the girls and boys at Mision Mexico.

 

Thank you for your time!

Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

Vanisha

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Instagram: @vanishamay

 

Mision Mexico

http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

Your not-so-typical day at work

A day in the life of a volunteer

 

Many of you are probably wondering what a days work at Mision Mexico looks like. Well, wonder no more! This blog is gonna give you all the info that you need about what to expect whilst working as a volunteer here…

 

EXPECT ANYTHING!

 

The end.

 

Jokes aside, every single day is different. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had days at the beach, BBQ’s, school days, days-off school days, arguments over the TV, hair-styling, cooking evenings, a big Mexican Independence day party and so much more!

Of course, any day with your family is full of craziness, happiness and the usual annoyances, but imagine if you had 22 children!

 

Think…

22 x more mouths to feed

22 x more sets of teeth to make sure are getting brushed

22 x more children to get up out of bed for school

22 x more chances of tantrums

22 x more happy smiles

And 22 x more children that inspire you and make you laugh daily

I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but working here will test your every skill. I’ve worked in busy, fast-paced environments before so for me, it’s not a new feeling for 13 different people to be shouting your name at once whilst you’re trying to do 10 other things at the same time! However, you do find yourself muttering under your breath “omg” every now and then here! You really get stuck in and involved with the household, it’s a nice feeling.

 

Days typically start at 5:30am on weekdays. I wake the children up (making as much noise as possible), get the breakfast ready, make sure they’re dressed, showered and send them off to school in their groups. Usually around 7am, you’ll be covered in a pink glow because Tapachula has some kinda crazy magic and the most insane skies ever! Shift is over by 9am and by then you might need an hours nap or so!

 

The late shift starts at 2pm and allows time for lunch, activities, their extra-curricular classes and chill time with the kids before the next lot of craziness begins! You’ll start dinner, call the bell and they’ll rush over. That’s another joke. Like most children, it takes a good few minutes and bell calls to get them all sitting down in one place! After dinner is my favourite time of the day. We send the little ones to bed, read them stories, have more one-on-one time and get lots of hugs and kisses goodnight! Then once all the chores and jobs are done, it’s TV time with the grandes which is usually in Spanish but makes for good practice…!

At the weekends, the kids will dance in front of the TV to Latino chart music, all in sync and all absolutely outstanding! I love watching them all dance! We’ll have family Sundays with BBQ’s and activities like the beach and surfing. They go to church, play four-square, cards and watch movies in the evening.

 

Among all the usual tasks and jobs, the kids will test your patience by playing tricks, teasing each other and you, and being normal hard-work teenagers! But they’ll also surprise you in good ways, with unexpected kind words, bonding sessions with the ones you thought hated you, and heaps of love and affection.


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

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers

Twitter: @misionmexico

Follow us on Facebook too! @misionmexico
http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

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**

The troubles of travel. Do you have what it takes?

Thanks to social media and mobile phones, it’s easy to see the glam side of travel. But what you don’t usually see or hear about are the downsides. And although there are many beautiful positives, there are of course many downsides to choosing a life out of a backpack! 


So in my 32nd country and new home of Mexico, I present to you my 3 main pros and cons of travel:

Lack of connection to life back home vs a connection to the world 

Although it’s easier than ever before to sit down in front of your laptop and see your mum from the other side of the world, the connection and life from back home is definitely lost and missed whilst travelling. Being around your friends and family is completely different to constantly being surrounded by strangers and new people. While you’re planning your next trip around the world alone and what backpack to live from, your friends are growing up, settling down with partners, children and in homes for life. Life doesn’t stop back at home and the daily conversation and closeness to the people that I love is one of the only things I miss while I’m away. 

However, you do gain a whole new connection to the world and countries you travel to and people you meet along the way. People change your life and ways of thinking on a daily basis (as well as the few the completely test you!) which is amazing, and inspiring and so worth missing a Sunday dinner or drink down the pub for a while!


The constant need for adventure vs the absence of normality

My last three years in London was the most settled I’d been in a long time and it still wasn’t very settled with a summer in Asia and three house moves! But I loved my routine of work, uni and social life. And it was something I really took for granted before I travelled. It’s a lovely feeling being settled and having a routine, knowing what you’ll be doing next week and having an unpacked room with all your belongings in it. It’s normality that you miss whilst travelling. The ease of being able to pop down to costa for a coffee or doing a food shop in Morrisons, and the little things like a proper duvet and going to the fridge for food! (Lol that my main normalities revolve around bed and food). And then the big things like a monthly pay and regular income…!

But during these days I’d find myself longing to get on a plane again. I loved my life in London but the need to see a new city or two, to be around more exciting and inspiring people, the need to try something new always takes over my need for normality. And so again, I venture across unknown streets and into new shops for cups of coffee. I walk the streets listening to people speaking unknown words and wonder what will happen today. Whether it’s excitingly life-changing   or completely bad luck, every day brings something and someone new which is worth the risk surely?


Wanting to go home VS never giving up

We all have bad days but it’s the home comforts and people around you that always seem to make things better. So, when you’re travelling, all these bad things are quite literally more complicated and harder (because you’re a million miles away!) and always feel 10x worse. Losing my debit cards and camera was tough, inconvenient and gutting, and being ill whilst away is incredibly testing too. Honestly, some days, all you want to do is give up, book that flight home and run into the arms of mum and dad. But at the end of the day, all that’s really lost is a few objects and a few days in bed which could happen back at home too. The experiences and memories that I’ve gained trump my GoPro pictures any day. And alongside that, it makes you realise what’s important, makes you 10x stronger and so much more independent. So, if you can get through these times with a smile on your face and the determination to keep going then guys, you’re smashing it! 

People rarely tell you that loss is a fundamental part of travelling. You’ll experience feelings of loss of normality, chances of love and settling down, opportunities of a normal 9-5 paid career. You’ll feel lost, alone and question what on earth you’re doing. But you’ll find new ways of living, loving and working. You’ll never get the experiences of travel by never leaving your doorstep. And so far, through all the tests and difficulties that I’ve faced, I’ve learned that it’s always worth the risk. 



Catch up with my adventures here on instagram @vanishamay

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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