Abortion and our flaws

TRIGGER WARNING //

Everyone deserves the right of choice and safety. Period.

And whilst every country has its flaws when it comes to crime, human rights, and justice (with Mexico by far being no exception!), it feels so mixed to see so much street art from my recent trip like these below. On hospitals, on churches, on the sides of houses. So shameful and sad but with a hint of power, to walk around and see so obviously the change that people want, but also the care that they’re not receiving here in Mexico.

Whether you like it or not, the need for abortions will ALWAYS exist. And what’s already a difficult and traumatic experience has the extra added fear of danger and death. Because every year, there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions worldwide, but 45% of these will be unsafe. That’s 25 million unsafe abortions every year. 68,493 every day.

Here in Mexico, every state is different but there are only two states where it’s completely legal to have an abortion with one of the main legal grounds for an abortion nationwide being rape. But in a country where it’s estimated that a rape occurs every 4 minutes, and where most rapes go unreported, these are pretty ridiculous grounds.

And again, Mexico is no exception, because there’s an estimated 450 million women who live in countries with similar laws and situations, and some even worse. With deep ties to religion, culture and tradition making change much more difficult, those who are most vulnerable remain the most affected.

Preventing safe and legal abortions leads to many more health, funding, and inequality issues. It costs countries like the USA more than $7.5 billion a year just to treat complications from unsafe abortions. The financial burdens can also weigh heavy on women, their families, and their entire communities.

Money aside, and more importantly, women die every day from something that should be preventable, but they have no choice over. More than 7 million women are admitted to hospitals every year in developing countries, because of unsafe abortions. And these are just the ones that make it to a hospital. Object trauma, haemorrhaging and infections are just some of the risks they face. The methods are so inhumane that my tummy turned whilst trying to research these more. From metal hangers and knitting needles, to pumping toxic liquids and consuming unsafe drugs, the methods are brutal, heart-breaking and all with high risks of death.

On top of all of this, the pandemic has heightened the difficulty of accessing safe abortions. With the closure of hospitals and health-care spaces, shortages of supplies with contraceptives, girls and women being at home for longer whilst violence increases and schools, security and educational spaces staying closed, the most vulnerable remain the most affected. Again.

This is not only my opinion, these are statistics. Awful and preventable statistics. The flaws in our world. These statistics might not affect you reading, and for someone like me to be born in a country where contraceptives and abortions are common, safe, and legal, we should count our blessings every day, that should we need it, we have a choice.

We might never fully understand what some of these women go through. And it’s not about being pro-life or pro-choice and picking sides, it’s about support, having open conversations and creating safer spaces. Which is why it should be in the interest of everyone, whether it affects you or not, to prevent unsafe abortions worldwide. To use our privileges, our knowledge, and our voices to inspire change and fight for these basic rights, for all of us. Through law reforms, education, prevention via contraception and the option of safe and legal abortion, change is completely possible and should always be an option.

V x

To support and to find support;

https://donate.unwomen.org/en

https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/

https://iwhc.org/women-and-girls-covid-19/

https://www.msichoices.org/

https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/abortion-out-loud/

https://exhaleprovoice.org

To educate, read and watch (and where I got my stats from);

https://www.ted.com/talks/aspen_baker_a_better_way_to_talk_about_abortion#t-38591

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZD0RvJqmiE&feature=emb_title

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOJsel8t6wE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am7alPZW5fw&t=390s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-18abPVXH-8

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60721-0/fulltext

https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/news/the-law-trials-and-imprisonment-for-abortion-in-mexico/#_ftn46

https://gire.org.mx/plataforma/conciliacion-entre-el-trabajo-y-la-vida-personal-en-mexico/

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60721-0/fulltext

https://www.jstor.org/stable/3174889?seq=1

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0968808000901836

https://www.who.int/health-topics/abortion#tab=tab_1

https://survivingmexico.com/tag/rape-statistics-in-mexico/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preventing-unsafe-abortion

https://reproductiverights.org/worldabortionlaws?category[294]=294&category[325]=325&category[295]=295

https://www.worldometers.info/abortions/

https://metrosourcenews.com/2020/09/27/how-the-pandemic-has-affected-abortion-rules-around-the-world/

https://exhaleprovoice.org/post/exhale-ted/

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a41195/aspen-baker-abortion-ted-talk/

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

X

Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

Things to follow:

Things to watch:

 

Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad

Yesterday marked what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, a day to celebrate a man that dedicated his life to global peace-making and a day to inspire others to continue the fight for what is right. He once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” and I couldn’t agree more! The big legend.

And, I get asked a lot about my volunteer and charity work. How do I do it? Where do you even start? There’s different prices, locations, different work involved, different lengths of time required, etc etc etc. There’s a lot to think about and consider when it comes to changing the world! Drum roll please….

  1. Start with the basics

Find your passions and think about what you’d like to do (or what you’d NOT like to do). There’s literally something for everyone from the usual teaching English and childcare to the unusual like turtle conservation and building with the Maasai Mara. Focus on organisations that resonate with your morals and passions. Research them, make sure they’re legit, follow them on insta and drop them an email, even if it’s just to say, ‘hey great work you’re doing!’, you’ll get to see the response, ask more questions and review their requirements and application details. You can do it!

  1. My first solo trip

When I was 19, all I knew was that something bigger was waiting for me, but like you guys, I had no bloody idea where to start! So, I took to the internet, searched for well-known organisations and booked my flight to Morocco. Volunteering with a well-knoen, global organisation like Original Volunteers, VSO or GVI are great for first timers and pretty straight-forward, but usually come at a high cost. You’ll usually pay for your meals, airport pick-up, in-land help and accommodation, which means that all you have to do is turn up! I went to Marrakesh where there were daily placements for us to choose from such as visiting nurseries, village schools and an orphanage. There was a huge group of us and the organisation ran fun sightseeing trips too. If you’re looking for cheaper options then this isn’t the best way to start, but it’s easy and fun, especially if you’re a beginner, and organisations like OV are worldwide!

Where? Morocco.

What? Mostly working with children.

Who? Original Volunteers

Visit them here: https://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/

  1. Exchanges

Help X is an incredible website filled with individuals and smaller organisations that are seeking volunteers and help. Again, the work ranges from anything you can imagine and you can find work in the biggest cities of the world to the highest mountains (probably)! And the great thing about Help X is that there’s no middle man asking for big bucks for your help. Some places ask for donations which you’ll feel like you’ll want to by the end of your trip, but basically, they’ll offer accommodation and meals in exchange for your work. It’s pretty simple and a real great way to travel whilst volunteering. You really get a feel of people’s lives and get involved on a deeper level that you wouldn’t always experience with a bigger organisation.

Where? It’s worldwide but I’ve used Help X in Indonesia and my best gal has used it in Chile and Italy!

What? You can do all sorts! I stayed with a family and helped promote a fathers English School in South Sulawesi. One of the most interesting experiences of my life!

Who? Literally anyone and everyone.

Go have a goosey-gander: https://www.helpx.net/

  1. The internet

I swear by google. It’s thanks to me simply typing in ‘volunteer in Kuala Lumpur’ and ‘volunteer in Mexico’ that I found two incredible causes and had the opportunity to visit both. Just type in ‘volunteering in (insert country)’ then email away! Read the websites, follow them and check their values, then just go ahead and message them! I’ll also make a list at the bottom of great people and organisations to follow and check out. Social media is great for this, you can see what organisations are about from your computer screen! Instagram is great too, people will tag and post things of their own experiences. It’s a great tool, use it.

The refugee school that I found in Malaysia is always seeking volunteers. They’re a marginalised group of wonderful teachers and children who are all just hoping for better lives. They don’t get much funding or help in general so travel friends, go drop by and say hey!

Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What? Teaching

Who? School for refugees

They don’t have official pages so feel free to ask me for contact details and addresses!

  1. Mexico

Thanks to google. I also found this inspiring group of people! Mision Mexico has been a blessing for me and if you follow my social media, you’ll definitely know these guys! I volunteered with them last year and have continued my work with them ever since! They’re a small refuge for children in the border town of Tapachula, and they depend wholly on donations, volunteers and sponsors. The kids learn to swim, surf and all sorts, so the work needed is pretty varied and they’re always in need of extra hands! It’s a great cause and they’re a fab bunch of people. Read more about life as a Misión México volunteer here.

Where? Tapachula, Mexico

What? Working with children

Who? About 40 incredible kids and teens!

Visit and follow us here: https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

f129e153-6b66-4f71-a07e-18815d7e301d

And there you have it! Volunteering isn’t easy. The process can be long, expensive and the work itself can be tough, demanding and sometimes emotionally hard to deal with. You work with people who have been through the unimaginable and still manage to smile more times a day than you. And you work alongside people who commit their lives just like Mandela, to making the world a better place for all. It makes you question the world and life and what really matters. And that’s why it’s all worth it! You’ll be forever changed, and the world will be too 😊

I hope you feel inspired and I hope you go do some good today!

Feel free to message me if you have any questions about anything still!

Have a lovely day folks

V

X

I’ve tagged a load of people to follow on my latest post on IG too! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay

Below is a list of sites and people to follow;

16429_10151301719433201_380832897_n

Finding home.

 

This year, I’ve found it challenging to define the word ‘home’. After travelling year upon year, with endless amounts of moves, I couldn’t be further from finding ‘my place in the world’.

The last five months, I’ve been living back in my hometown. And most people in the small town that I grew up in have lived in the same four walls for all their lives. I’ve had a total of 6 addresses just in that town alone. On top of that, I’ve spent a year of my life from my backpack travelling Asia, South America and unpacking my bag for a few months in China and Mexico. And more recently, I made my move to London where I stayed for 3 years under 3 more different addresses. And now I’m back ‘home’ but I’ve never felt so unsettled. *update I’m now back in China where I’ve semi-settled, found a new place, have a daily route to work and now have another home address. Deep breath*

So, in my head (and to you), I’ve been trying to work out what and where ‘home’ is. What does home really mean? Have I come home? Do I have to build a home in just one place? Is home even a building? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Or a person? (I know, cliché). Where is my place in the world and why am I struggling so hard to find it?

And you’re probably thinking why it’s so important. What on earth is she talking about now?! But seriously (when I was writing this over the Christmas period when families are supposedly all gathering in their ‘homes’ to spread joy and festive love) I couldn’t help but wonder that this word that people find so much comfort in, this word that’s meant to mean everything, the word we go to when we’re lost or run to for safety. What if someone doesn’t have this word? What do they have? Where do we go? I’m doing all the running, in fact I constantly have one foot out the door, why can I not just bloody settle? *and these thoughts caused me so much anxiety at the time I started this blog but it’s always in the back of my mind as I travel and try to find new places to be. The idea of being ‘lost’ and the pressures to ‘find your place’ can be overwhelming ok. Hence my brain going into overdrive*

Perhaps it’s because in my hometown I feel surrounded by ghosts of people that I left in my past, and memories that I don’t want to revisit, and versions of me that I don’t want to remember. My hometown will never feel like a home for me. And I think that’s the same for lots of people. You never know what people have to go home to. Home isn’t always a happy place. It’s not always safety or comforting. Home can be something we run from.

Or perhaps it’s because I’ve travelled and moved too much. Maybe settling will never be an option for me and that might be okay. I can’t think of one place that I’d want to spend even 5 years yet alone my life. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘home’ yet.

Or maybe it’s because home is a feeling. A few months after I started writing this and I’m in a strange place of between. But I’ve come to more of a conclusion now and feel a lot less anxiety lol. Home is a feeling. A feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety. A few months ago, I thought my childhood and choices in life meant I’d always have the feeling of instability and lack of safety, but, it might not be so bad. Maybe I’m still hunting for my ‘home’, someone to share this beautiful life with and he’ll remind me it’s not the about destination “it’s about the journey Vin”, he’ll say as he commits to a lifetime of journey-ing around the world with me…

Right now, for me, I feel at home in many countries, with many people. I walk around my new city in China and feel familiarity and warmth in people, like the last time I was here was four days ago and not four years. Every day I look forward to the day I’ll fly back to Mexico, the home of Mision Mexico and the people whose lives are still joined with mine. It’s the feeling after a Skype session with my loved ones then seeing them and hugging them after months of being apart. I’ve been on the run around the world leaving parts of myself everywhere. And now, my place in the world is all over the world and that is such a blessing. My home is in me and in my people.

Some food for thought and it’s a good watch!

Ever felt lost or need a chat? Give me a shout!

Have a fab day and follow my IG adventures @vanishamay

V

X

p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

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

x

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

8 Steps to healing by Vanisha May

My 8 steps for healing.

It’s funny, when I think about the person that I was one year ago, it’s as if I’m thinking about someone that I used to know very well. And six months ago, I had never felt so lost and far away from everything that I thought I was. But today, when I look in the mirror I see someone going through growth and change, and I’m really grateful and excited to know that I’m becoming someone different. But the change and growth can be super scary, extremely personal and uncomfortable too. Piecing together the parts of your life that have caused pain and hurt whilst trying to understand how to make peace with it all can be overwhelming and messy. It’s easy to bury it all under a rock, but I’ll tell you now that it will come back to haunt you one day. Embracing the vulnerability and finding ways to overcome all the heaviness in your heart is brave, and the most honest thing you can do for yourself and your life. And trust me, it will all be worth it.

 

So, in classic Vin style, I’ve been doing lots of research, reading and self-therapy, and here are my 8 steps for healing;

  1. Conversation

This sounds simple but talking about what you’re going through is really difficult and brave. You’re probably thinking that people don’t care or won’t understand, but it’s usually quite the opposite and extremely crucial for you. You have to talk about what you’re going through because it helps bring understanding, different views and even answers for you and those around you It’s definitely the first and biggest step. Talk to a friend, family member, counsellor or even braver, the person who might be involved in your hurt. “Those who keep silence hurt more” – C.S. Lewis. Be honest with yourself. You got this.

  1. Be open to change and necessary pain

Sometimes things hurt and it feels like you’re stuck in a black hole that you’ll never get out of. To heal and grow, you have to get to the root of the problem and you might dig deep into things that you thought you’d got rid of and buried. But this is great. Those who experience pain more, experience growth more and love more. Be open to feelings of sadness and hurt for that means you can see it and understand it, and know that you’ll get through it. Life never gives us anything we can’t handle.

  1. Welcome your ghosts then wave them goodbye

Understand that without darkness, there’d be no light. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. People and experiences can cause both pain and happiness. And understand that just like you, things grow and change and nothing ever stays the same. So, make a note on paper or in your head of the things causing you pain and the lessons you think you learnt. That ghost that is ruining your present should be left in your past. You experienced it, you learnt from it and now make peace with it. Let it all go.

  1. Surround yourself with love and joy

Basically stop engaging in negativity and remove yourself from anything that threatens to disrupt your peace. Humans need other humans so, find your people and love them hard. Do things that you love, with the good people that you love and choose positivity and happiness every goddamn day. Because you deserve it and you can have it.

  1. Mindfulness

Live completely in the now and practise mindfulness. If you’re not sure what that even means then do some research in google! But basically pay attention to every single thought and feeling you may have, and just accept it all with no bad or good judgements. There are exercises you can practise that help get rid of anxieties and help balance your mind. Meditation, breathing exercises and appreciation all help. Check out this little list here and try it https://www.developgoodhabits.com/mindfulness-exercises/

  1. Invent and invest

You are the main character in your life ALWAYS. Take a second away from all that energy you give to other people and focus on you. What do you want from life? Who are you? And what do you love? Be creative, explore every option and find your meaning in life. Then bloody go for it! You can be whoever you want to be right now. Invent yourself and invest in yourself.

  1. Do good to feel good

This is a straight forward step and really helps you move away from your comfort zone as well as literally helping yourself and others. Doing good really does make you feel good. So do something good today, for someone else, without reason or agenda. Not only will you feel of use and happier, but karma will love you and bring you more good.

  1. Healthy body = healthy mind

This is so important! Everyone’s on their vegan or veggie tings, and the “hey let’s juice all our foods and lift weights with joe wicks” stages, but there is some sense in it all and it’s great to see so many people eating clean and binning society’s disgusting habits of fast food and dangerous health risks. Eating well and exercising really does lead to a healthier life and mind. I personally love Pilates and have really enjoyed HIIT too, try new classes and see what works for you. Aim for ya 5-a-day too, it’s not a myth, but will genuinely make a difference. There’s so much online – ideas, recipes, weekly routines. Just go for it all.

 

And, that’s it lovers! Below is a little reading list that I’ve put together, check them out. And of course, everyone is different and you’ll find your own ways through whatever it is you might be feeling. But growth is great! It means that you’re changing, developing and not stuck in the same person that you have been. You’re learning and accepting things don’t stay the same, including yourself. Love the flow of life and embrace every growth you experience. This will be the first of many! Enjoy it.

V

X

  • The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama
  • Everything I know about love, Dolly Alderton
  • You can heal your life, Louise Hay
  • Becoming: Sex, second chances and figuring out who the hell I am, Laura Jane Williams

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 😊

img_2846

  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.

aa69759c8eb0dbaa839326603df40806--summer-goals-life-motto

  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.

download

  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

Cf0zcuJUMAAVvfj

  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.

CQfVqKSUYAAKw2N

  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.

do-one-thing-every-day-that-scares-you-22

  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.

images

  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

X

Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

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.

img_9970img_9969img_9971

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.

img_8966

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.

img_9601img_9606-1

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
X

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**

Angelina Jolie, Netflix and the Rohingya

So, my favourite gal ever has just released her newly directed movie-documentary ‘First they killed my father’ on Netflix. Angelina Jolie’s new film is based on the memoirs of Loung Ung and her life and escape of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. For those hearing about the Khmer Rouge genocide for the first time, know that in the space of four years, an estimated quarter of the Cambodian population were murdered, as well as many others still living with the after effects and consequences of their reign. That’s an estimated of just over 2 million people.

Cambodia Refugees

The Khmer Rouge took control of the population and enforced ideas of a farming utopia, where no one would be educated, no one had ‘foreign’ influences and everyone was ‘equal’. Their four-year plan would eventually lead to extreme famine, deaths from exhaustion and a country filled with landmines and mass graves. Anyone with skills, educations, certificate, religious backgrounds and those from ethnic minorities were prosecuted and murdered usually to a blow of the head as the Khmer Rouge had a shortage of bullets. The country had barely any doctors, lawyers, teachers or nurses, so those who were dying, had no help.

c164101a8d0666672a1fbd9151d6180d

 

Ung’s story

Now, I’ve read Ung’s book and cried almost all the way through it. Her story is heart-breaking and is just one of many. The Netflix movie however, is filmed from a different perspective and is only a snippet of the book. There’s minimal dialogue and could probably be a bit confusing for someone learning about the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia for the first time. I would definitely give the book a read first or do a bit of research prior to watching! At first, I wasn’t 100% sure about Jolie’s remake but once the credits rolled up, I was almost clapping. She’s an amazing woman for sharing the story and making Ung’s story known. So many people are unaware of the horrors that occurred, and it’s not something we would know about otherwise so kudos to Jolie for raising awareness about a topic so close to so many people’s hearts. Her extensive charity work and adoption of her Cambodian son, as well as his own presence and role in the making of the film goes against accusations that her ‘western’ perspective and influence on the story could be negative in any way. She uses her platform and skills to bring important matters to light. A-mazing I tell ya!

angelina-jolie-and-loung-ung

 

Cambodia today

Cambodia was one of my favourite South-East Asian countries that I’ve visited. It’s full of culture, beauty and religion but at the same time you can feel the history, pain and hurt that the country felt and still feel today. Only five people were ever bought to justice for the horrific crimes, and Cambodians continues to live alongside their executioners for years after. The Khmer Rouge’s attempt to reboot society meant that generations of people grew up learning how to fight and kill rather than to teach, heal and help. Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries with 30% pf the population surviving one less than $1 a day. The poverty and effects of the genocide is visible all over the country. Psychiatrists estimate that almost half the population are living with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with 50% of babies born to survivors also developing mental health disorders although they haven’t been physically exposed to such traumas. Slanzi is right when she says that in this case “the simple passage of time does not heal everything” (Slanzi, 2013).

13924843_10153826722973201_918385805263363232_n

The relevance today with the Rohingya refugees

Although it’s amazing and inspiring to raise the awareness and importance of the Cambodian history, it’s also extremely relevant today. The Rohingya refugee crisis is the now the fastest refugee crisis of our time with over 500,000 refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar within the space of just over one month. UN high commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the situation is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Systematic violence includes severe beatings, gang rape, mass killings and extreme sexual violence. We cannot sit back and watch this happen, learning from the Cambodia atrocities, we must do more to help people facing persecution. Ayesha, a Rohingya refugee who has now fled to Bangladesh said she was raped by twelve soldiers whilst she was held at knifepoint and her family were in the house. It took her eight days to be able to walk again. Her sisters who were also raped, were so badly weakened that they died. They’re in desperate need of aid, food and shelter as well as provisions in the camos in Bangladesh that many have fled to. Their identities have been destroyed, they live in absolute fear and the trauma that they have faced is unimaginable.

Below are some links where you can find some more information on both crisis’s as well as ways you can help and donate. Give the documentary a watch and the book a read! Let’s raise awareness and make a difference in this world 😊

 

Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge:

 

The Rohingya refugee crisis:

 

How to help:

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

X

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.

International day of the girl child - Mexico
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

X

 

Instagram: @vanishamay

 

Mision Mexico

http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**