Life in China

So, I’m officially more than 6 months in to my latest adventure of living back in China and life is flying by. Some days it feels like I’ve just stepped off the plane, and others it feels like I’ve never left. China can be a crazy country, that’s for sure, and I still see things that make me mutter ‘wtf’ under my breath, but let’s be real, coming from a small town in the countryside of England, most places around the world will seem daunting and strange!

 

          People ask me, “Why China?”, and to most people back at home, it seems like a ridiculous choice where everyone eats dog and the government watches your every move. But actually, China is a fairly easy country to live in (once you get the hang of chopsticks and you get past the visa process all you brits). And for the first time in a while, I feel pretty settled.

 

 

But what’s life really like? Here she goes…

  1. I’m surrounded by cheeky little monkeys

Chinese babies and the children in general are of course, the first things that come to mind when I think of China. THEY SO CUTE. The kids are potty trained by the special pants that they wear, so you’ll see lots of little chubby children walking around with their saggy baby butts out, and it’s SO CUTE. The kids I work with are cheeky, funny and pretty darn clever. Their lives as Chinese children aren’t always easy and there’s lots of societal and family pressures, which is why I admire them every day for learning a second language that’s so different to their own. Something I can’t manage to do….

 

  1. I’ve fallen back in love with my hobbies!

China is full of surprises and life in the mega city of Shenzhen is completely different to my village life when I was here 4 years ago. There’s a huge art area, as well as a huge mix of cultures and different events, which has meant painting classes, salsa and dance lessons and meeting people from all around the world who all have similar interests as me. Having the time to do the things I love and being around like-minded people makes me happy and is so good for ma creative soul.

  1. It’s super safe

There’s not many places that I can walk around at 4am, home from the club with my headphones in, phone out and not be looking over my shoulder, but here in China. It’s one of the safest places I have ever been. Overall, crime levels are quite low as repercussions are so severe. Which great news for us girl travellers where safety is always a concern! The Chinese sense of community and culture has meant that I’ve never felt threatened or even uneasy around pretty much anyone.

  1. I ❤ people

Culturally (and in many other ways), the Chinese are quite different to us Brits, and people still do things on a daily basis to shock/annoy me. BUT when you get to know each other, they’re some of the most hospitable and welcoming people who just want to help you, feed you and make you happy. I even have my regulars! Regular dumpling man, regular bread guy, regular BBQ couple, friends behind the bar, you get the jist, it’s the little comforts that make you feel at home! Shenzhen also has a big international community, which has meant that I’ve made some great friends from all over the world, including here in China. And they all love KTV. They’re not a bad bunch.

 

 

  1. My diet of dog…

Not gonna lie, I miss Chinese takeaway and lots of other food because, believe it or not, Chinese food in actual China is so different to Chinese food back at home. The things I’d do for a chicken ball…. It’s not all bad though, they do eat some bizarre things here, but overall it’s generally healthy, there’s an abundance of fresh fruit and veg, and in my city, there’s a tonne of Mexicans, Italians, Indians and delivery places to eat from. And I found good cheese and chocolate! What more could you need?

  1. Learning Chinese is hard but it’s okay

It’s not a language you pick up quickly, actually, it takes a lot of practice and learning, especially when you don’t really need to use it so often. I get by with the use of hand gestures, minimal language and all my fab apps like translator, maps and translator. HURRAH TO 21st CENTURY LAZY LIVIN. But I love living in a country where no one understands you and where you don’t always understand them either.

  1. Shenzhen is fab

The city itself is only around 30 years old, and home to over 10 million people already. It’s super green, clean and modern, and just across the border from Hong Kong! Travel is super cheap, you can ride the metro for like 30p and the buses for 20p. Amazing. You can buy dinner for £1 and there’s mountains here, the sea, huge skyscrapers, you can bike everywhere and there’s so much to see and do. It’s a nice place to live fo sho.

 

 

  1. China has it all

They have cheap buses, high speed rails and cheap flights which means travelling is so easy and you can see and do so much around the country. From huge modern cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, to rural rice terraces in Guilin, pandas in Chengdu, fishing villages, the Avatar mountains and Inner Mongolia, you literally can get sun, snow, mountains and beaches, and everything in between! The country is pretty impressive.

  1. Life is sweet

The Western media and outside views on China are as usual, mostly skewed. It’s not all bad air, over-populated spaces and scary harsh laws. In fact, I live really comfortably here, the skies are blue most days (with the exception of typhoons lol) and although there are many rules, people here make their own, and you know what? It works. China, thanks to modern day technology and apps, is one of the easiest and most comfortable places I’ve ever lived and been in. Sure, it’s a culture shock if you’ve never been to Asia, but generally speaking, life here is pretty sweet.

 

       Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing, but nothing worthwhile ever is, right? It’s far from home and always a risky decision to just up and leave. It’s not where I want to spend the rest of my life but I’m definitely happy here at the moment and that’s worth something. If you’re thinking of packing your bags, I’d say, GO. What’s the worst that could happen? That you hate it and decide to head back home? Be brave and live wildly wherever you may be my huns. And if I still haven’t persuaded you, then at least come and visit me here in China!

 

Get in touch if you have any questions about travelling, living abroad or China!

And catch my adventures on IG @vanishamay

祝你有美好的一天

Vanisha

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Tips for living in China:

  • Download A VPN before you arrive. China’s Government blocks most things that we use (IG, Facebook, Google), so be sure to unlock your phone and get a VPN. I use ExpressVPN 🙂
  • Do your research and don’t get scammed whether it’s with your visa, housing or shopping.
  • Use WeChat for everything. It’s the Chinese version of WhatsApp but 10x better. I pay my rent, find out about events and talk to my friends all in the same app. They’re one step ahead of us.
  • Salaries can be higher and cost of living is lower which means China is a good place to save money if you’re smart about it.
  • Make use of the places around you within China and visit the countries around too! Flights and transport is pretty cheap, and you have to try a sleeper train!
  • Have fun, eat the street food, prepare for squat toilets and don’t drink from the tap huns.

 

For more travel related blogs, check out what it’s like dating in china, my top 10 fave countries ever and many many more in that travel section up the top! Enjoy!

 

A lonely girls guide to being alone

“I like drinking coffee alone and reading alone. I like riding the bus alone and walking home alone. It gives me time to think and set my mind free. I like eating alone and listening to music alone. But when I see a mother with her child, a girl with her lover, or a friend laughing with their best friend, I realize that even though I like being alone, I don’t fancy being lonely.

You see, there’s a BIG difference between being alone and being lonely.

Being alone is power. A power that not everyone is capable of. It’s a state of being. Being alone is something you can enjoy, it’s something you own, it’s something you choose. You can be by yourself and find ways to make yourself smile. You connect with yourself hard. Being alone can bring you so much happiness.

Being lonely is the opposite. It’s an emotion. It’s not positive, it’s silence that hurts and the thought of all the things that you’re missing out from hovers like a black cloud. It’s not enjoyable at all. You can be in a room full of people but feel completely alone. You feel disconnected, and it’s not something you always choose. Being lonely brings you anything but happiness.

I know people that are terrified of being alone, they jump from relationship to relationship and would never imagine going to the movies, or travelling, or eating dinner alone. And I know people that have spent most of their lives in different states of loneliness, being with the wrong partner, spending years of their life alone or even people who travel, moving from city to city with no real roots.

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Sometimes, I am both. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve lived away from home, I’ve been single for a long time and I’m fiercely independent. Most days, I look back at the life I’ve had so far and I’m so proud of everything that I’ve achieved, mostly by myself. I’ll come home from work, back to my little flat in China and close the door behind me. I’ll come home to silence and I look around my room, everything I own is mine and everything I do is for me. Most days I cherish this and am SO grateful for it all. But some days it feels empty and I wonder when I’ll close the door behind me and someone will be so happy to have me home, someone who’ll stick around to share it all with me (read about why travel is ruining my dating life here).

But my point is, I’m not alone, am I? Surveys are finding that more and more people are feeling lonely. And in a time where we’re more ‘connected’ than ever, loneliness is not something we talk about enough, especially if you’re male, a mother, a boss, or anything that might ‘weaken’ your image. But it’s okay to feel like this, I think most of us will at some point of our lives, and I hope you’ll find someone to talk to or a way to get out of it before it drags you down deeper. It’s a dangerous road but there are paths to overcome it all.

“I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I’m afraid of having no one to miss, of having no one to love.”

6 ways to conquer being alone and the feelings of loneliness:

  1. Firstly, it’s a basic tool but I’ve recently fell in love with this chatroom. Of course, I meet people from all around the world and I have a great support system back at home, but this thing is fab! It’s a safe space with controlled and positive communications. Use it regardless of how you’re feeling, send it to your loved ones and share the hell out of it… https://chat.itskoko.com/
  2. Make plans and find new connections/relationships. Be brave and embrace the good people around you. Human connection is meant to be the key to a happy and long life! Be kinder, love harder and smile bigger. Make plans so you stick to something and so you have something to look forward to. It really is the little things that can make a big difference.
  3. Find positives out of your situation. Like, yeah, I might be single AF (and therefore sometimes lonely) but I get to travel the world, do what I want every day AND starfish every night with no one judging my Netflix choices… just an example. And also, remove anything that triggers your feelings of loneliness like songs from your ex, old photos, you get me, just until you’re stronger.
  4. Find things you enjoy doing, whether it be alone or to meet new people. You have all this freedom, so use it! Discover new hobbies, do things you love and make your life about you. Join classes, the gym, venture out of the house and go for walks alone! It’ll all make you feel better, especially a bit of exercise (this is me convincing myself too)….
  5. Self-love. I’m not sure how many times I’ve used that word in my blogs, but I don’t give myself enough of it and I’m sure if you’re still reading this then you need a reminder too! You are not unwanted, unloved or unworthy. You deserve everything good in this life and this feeling won’t last forever. Remember this. You are your longest relationship, and you have to spend the rest of your life with you! Forgive yourself, love yourself and promise to do better for yourself.
  6. I also recommend reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’. It’s my favourite book in the world. If you’re still reading, you’ll need it. Read it, share it and remember it. He’s a genius.

So, embrace being alone and seek for something different if you’re feeling lonely. And one more thing, be kind, to each other and to yourself. You never know what battle people are fighting, what they must go home to every day or how hard their life has been. Call your mum more often, take your Nanna out for lunch and tell your best friend you love them. You’ll never regret being kinder.

Sending lots of love,

V

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For more reads check out my My 8 steps for healing.Mental health and me: bringing back my power.Mental health and me., and Thoughts of a single gal

Education in Mexico

Today, four million children in Mexico will not go to school, with another two million children at risk of dropping out to join the second largest child labour force in Latin America. In developing, low-income countries, like Mexico, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future and income by an average of 10%.

But thanks to your help, we’re able to provide the opportunity and choice of schooling, higher education and extra-curricular activities to every child that walks through our doors. Thanks to you, we’re able to offer home-school options, vocational courses, work training programs and all sorts of varieties of education according to our kids interests and levels! Thanks to you, we’ve seen some of our first generation of girls graduate, our young men are giving back to the community and working alongside founders Pam and Alan, and our youngest children have much brighter futures because of their access to education. Absolutely incredible!

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And as graduation season is coming to an end and our brilliant bunch start getting ready to go back to school, we want to celebrate, recognise and highlight their amazing achievements, all of which would never have happened without you guys!

Our university graduates

Our first generation are incredible examples of how education has broken their cycle of poverty and filled their lives with hope, opportunity and choice. Starting from day one of Mision Mexico, this inspirational bunch have come out the other end, through our education programmes and became our first lot of university graduates! We’re super proud of them and can’t wait to see what their futures hold!

Yuri

Yuri is our third female graduate, who has just finished her degree in Biotechnology! She’s an extremely intelligent, caring and focused young lady, who was one of our first ever YTP females and one of the first girls to make the successful transition into independent. Yuri is now part of our Adult Independent Program (AIP), so she lives independently but received financial help with her university costs. Her dream is to go on to do her Masters!

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Jossalin

Jossalin came to Mision Mexico in 2007, along with her brother and sister. She’s since become a loving mother, wife and is now a graduate with a degree in Business Administration! This makes her our fourth female graduate! J stays close to the family and even had founder and Mom, Pamela, walk her down the aisle.

Lalo

Lalo is one of our first male university graduates! Him and his brother lived with us from an early age, making him one of our successful first-generation adults! Lalo was part of our working training scheme, learning construction and helping to build Misión Surf. Alongside his employment at Misión Surf, he moved into our Adult Independent Program (AIP) which provides education scholarships for our young adults whilst they live independently.

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Katherine

Katherine’s journey through education and Mision Mexico is an extremely incredible and inspirational story. You can read our blog here about her life, her achievements and her journey as a doctor! She’s doing truly amazing stuff!

Dulce

D came to live with us as a teen and worked incredibly hard to achieve her biological mums dream for her to gain an education and have a life full of opportunities and options. D was one of our original YTP females and our first ever female graduate!! AND recently received her first promotion at work. D’s beautiful wedding took place in our home of MM with our current and past MM kids and young adults as guests! It was a huge family affair! Papa Alan walked her down the aisle (which was our red path!) and they had their wedding ceremony in our family chapel.

Our second generation

This summer we’ve also said huge congratulations to our Prepa School graduates who are all in our YTP and AIP programmes! You’re hardworking, ambitious and an inspiration to everyone. We’re so proud of you all!

Ricky, Candy and Yessica

Ricky is currently applying to study languages and teaching at university! Candy is going to Chef college in May to fulfil her culinary dreams! Yessica is currently exploring her options between university and vocational courses, we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!

Our Maria’s

Congratulations to our two Maria’s for graduating Prepa too! Both have plans to enrol in university this year with hopes to study ciudado y desarrollo infantil and technico en informatica administrativa! Well done to our brains and beauties!

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The future generations

And here’s to our future generations! This wonderful bunch have just graduated secondary school and made the big move into Prepa School! Congratulations dear Maria Esther, Ali, Antonio, Luis, and Dani. We’re so proud of all of our children, those who are smashing our home-school program, those who are thriving in their after school programs and each every one of them for waking up every morning (even if it’s a struggle!) and trying and learning.


“It was only a few years ago that L was struggling to advance in the public-school system and his education. Watching him step up on stage to receive his secondary certificate and seeing how happy he was amongst his peers was one of my Mision Mexico highlights of this year. You go kiddo!” – Melissa

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Thank you

Hats off to and special thanks to our wonderful education sponsors! You make the world a better place, thank you for all that you’re doing!

How can you help?

At Mision Mexico, we rely solely on donations, sponsors and outside help. Which is why we literally couldn’t do it without you! These stories are positive reminders of the incredible and life-changing effects that our education program and sponsors have on our kids. And as our children grow up, and as many are approaching our YTP programmes (read about that here) and further education stages, we will start seeing an increase in cost as their dreams of university and college start creeping up alongside with them! In addition to this, we’ve welcomed five new lovely faces who were all in need and are now searching for sponsors to start their educational journeys!

It costs $25.00 USD to send a child to school for one month.

It costs $50.00 USD to send a child to school, complete with books and uniforms for one month.

It costs $75.00 USD to send a child to attend school with a full uniform, books, school excursions and additional school supplies for a month.

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Please contact us at info@lovelifehope.com with ‘Education Sponsorship Program’ in the subject line and advise us how you would like to help. We will send you information on how best to donate and then you can begin sending donations to the education fund at any time.

Volunteer! Run projects! And visit us in Tapachula! We’re currently recruiting for November 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com. And You can read about life as a volunteer here!

Muchas gracias!

Love Vanisha and Mision Mexico

Follow, share and support us on social media

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

https://twitter.com/mision_mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

Watch “Education at Mision Mexico” on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/121235797?ref=em-share

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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/

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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

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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;

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Our Global Family – Part Uno

Aside from our gorgeous children and our vision for a better future, the third thing on my list of things I love most about Misión Mexico are our amazing supporters.

Most charities and NGO’s are lucky enough to have global supporters and donors, but I truly believe that Misión Mexico is quite unique when it comes to the loyalty and longevity of our supporters, sponsors and donors. I’ll always refer to these people as ‘Our Global Family’. These are the people based in countries all around the globe who share one thing in common; their dedication, investment and love for our children and their journeys through life at Misión Mexico and beyond.

Our global family is a small but dedicated group of people from all walks of life, whom without, we would not be able to survive. They may not be physically here with us in Tapachula or working with our kids on a day-to-day basis, but they help to ensure that our work and our programs are sustainable. They are a part of our huge, crazy, and complicated family and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them!

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People always ask me if I get tired of constantly worrying about where our next funding stream will come from, or if I feel bad about always asking people for more money, more support, more advocating. Some days the answer to both those questions is yes, yes, I do, but then I remind myself that our supporters want to help because so many are invested in our children as much as I am, and they experience joy and pride when they share in the accomplishments and progression of each one of our children. Be it through knowing they have helped to put fresh fruit and vegetables on the table for 30 kids every day for a month, or they have contributed to one of our girls learning to read and write, or one of our young adults gaining the skills and confidence to step independently into the world and towards their exciting future. They’re a part and a huge reason for all of our small and big successes.
It is no surprise to anyone that our children are the people who motivate and inspire me to do more, raise more and love more, but what a lot of people do not know is that it is often Our Global Family who help to keep me inspired on a weekly basis. The lengths that some of these people go to in order to raise funds and awareness for us and the kids is incredible. Our Global Family are the people who help keep me positive and lift me up when things get tough.
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Introducing our global family…
It’s Jacob & Rachel Shields from Compound who have literally managed to get the entire community of Sarasota to stand behind Mision Mexico, our dreams and our kids. They are two of the most generous and dedicated people I have ever met and we are so blessed to have them so invested in our lives and our work.

It’s superstar businessman Steven Marks, Founder of Guzman y Gomez who throughout his own growth and success, has never forgotten us. His support over the years has built projects, programs and futures for our children and young adults.

It is John Mather who has stood by Pam and Alan for years and always stepped up at the exact moment that we are most in need.

It’s Caroline, Jill and Mara who volunteer their time to make up our Melbourne Fundraising Committee spending hours upon hours planning and running events and advocating for us throughout Melbourne.

It’s the amazing people who have ran 251 km across the Sahara Desert, completed marathons, swam across the ocean, rode a rickshaw across India, rode a push bike through Central America, shaved their heads, climbed volcanoes or simply held social events in aid of our children.

It’s Dom & Melody who returned to Tapachula for 5 months to run the Chido Project using street art as a tool for empowerment and expression whilst filling our kids’ lives with creativity. It’s Dom’s dad, Len who became one of our Education Sponsors and often reminds me to love, accept and support our children’s choices as they navigate into adulthood.

It’s the Fleetwood family who sponsor five our children through their education. And our other 45 Education Sponsors who have each stood by one of our children, funding their education costs for years and believing in their potential and their future. It’s our past volunteers – Winnie, the Owen’s, Michelle, James, Lucy, Woo, Gigi, Sophie, Jesse, Scott, Denise, Mike, Mel, Anne, Alan, Andrew, Anna and Larissa who all instantly stepped up and stood behind our new $1 per day Extra Curricular sponsorship when I asked for help.

It’s our other past volunteers who still contact me years after they have left Tapachula, to pass on happy birthday and Feliz Navidad messages to the kids. Or just check in to see if Jennifer is managing her meltdowns better, or if anyone has managed to beat Sammy at chess, or if Alex is still playing the same songs on repeat in the music room, or if we’ve managed to convince Marli and Cesar that brushing their teeth is a non-negotiable daily action (FYI we STILL play the tooth brushing song and do the timer)!

It’s my own friends and family who never fail to support me in supporting the kids. And my friend’s kids who have given up their own pocket money, or fundraised to pay for cinema tickets, birthday cakes and outing for our MM kids (thank you Isla, Jamie, Beckham, Siena). It’s the small, local businesses across the UK, Australia and USA who stand behind us and our dream to break the cycle of abuse and poverty that our kids were born into. Always donating a percentage of their annual profit, despite the fact that they themselves are struggling to make their way in a world full of large, corporate competition.

Fleetwood

Pam always tells me that it takes a village to raise a child, meaning that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for children to experience and grow in a safe environment. I don’t think I ever really understood the truth behind that proverb until I became part of our Mision Mexico Global Family and watched the ripple effect of that Global Family growing, and the impact and positive change that it can make. When you have 50 children to raise, you need more than a village, you need a support network that spans the globe and stands strong, through the celebrations, the joy, the tears and the tough times. I will be forever thankful to, and inspired by Our Global Family. They have taught me that small choices can have huge impacts, that a strength of a community which comes together has a force like nothing I have seen before, and that the simple decision to do something for others can change the course of a life.

 

Love always, Melissa Biggerstaff,

Fundraising & Projects Manager at Mision Mexico

 

Join our global family today!

  • Volunteer! We’re currently recruiting for the Summer holidays and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com! We’d especially love people with skills or talents that can hold workshops and programs over the holidays!
  • You can also donate by clicking this link:   https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/misionmexicouk
  • Or if you’d like to become a sponsor, donate regularly or donate to a specific program then email Melissa at events@lovelifehope.com.
  • Or you can email me about joining our new ambassador program which will help support and raise awareness > support@lovelifehope.com.
  • And the easiest one! You can share this blog and support our social media by clicking these links…
  • https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/
  • https://twitter.com/mision_mexico
  • https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

Gracias x

Chido Project (1)

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 ♥️

My Top 10 Favourite Countries Ever

“To land in foreign worlds, where everything is new and exciting and scary, where you communicate through smiles and hand gestures, where you taste amazing foods and discover new smells, where you make the most life-changing experiences and learn the biggest life lessons.”

As many of you know, I LOVE to travel. And by travelling, I mean backpacking, exploring, fully immersing yourself into new cultures, countries and experiences. Reminiscing through these adventures for this blog has made me feel super lucky and grateful for my life of travel. I’ve worked hard and am super proud of my travel accomplishments and experiences. This world is incredible. And people always ask, “what’s your favourite place?!” which is the most impossible question to answer ever! So, in no particular order, I have managed to roughly give you guys my top 10 favourite places (so far) in the world!

1. Philippines

The Philippines was a dream. The islands were some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen and there are hundreds of them! The people were super friendly and there was so much to see and do. I’d definitely consider going back soon as it’s probably in my top 5 and I feel like there’s much more to explore! One thing in particular that I loved was the lack of tourism and tourists, and because of this the Philippines had so much beauty and authenticity still. It was also pretty cheap!

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2. Mexico

Mexico holds some of my most personal and best memories. It’s full of beauty, colour and great food. People seem hesitant to visit certain areas but I would encourage everyone to visit the country. Every place has it’s dodgy areas but as long as you’re reasonably cautious and vigilant, you’ll probably be fine! Cancun was great if you like resorts and package holidays but because of this and the over-westernisation, it was my least favourite. Tulum was a gem but slightly overpriced, Playa Del Carmen was full of fun, Mexico City was incredible and I loved the city but of course, my favourite was Tapachula; the home to some of my favourite people and Misión México. If you’d like to volunteer, donate or have any enquiries about the refuge then please don’t hesitate to message me 🙂

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3. Italy

Italy will always remain one of my favourite European countries and I’ve loved every city and town that I’ve visited. The food and wine is obviously a winner in itself, but it’s the romantic vibes that make the country a winner. Some of my silliest memories with my fave gal are here, like the time we stayed in an old monk’s monastery, the time we nearly died because we accidentally hiked onto a ski slope, when we bought items rhyming with Pisa for our photo-shoot at the famous tower… I won’t go on.

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4. India

Obviously on my list because of my heritage but also because it’s an incredible and insane country. It has absolute manic and diverse city scopes along with some of the most extreme poverty that I’ve ever seen, alongside absolute beauty, beaches and tropical landscapes. The culture and religion here is deep and adds to all of the beauty. Plus the food is obvs amazing too, which seems to be a running theme here in my top ten!

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4. Malaysia

Malaysia had it all! Beautiful islands, clear waters, culture, great foods, jungles and big cities. It had an incredible vibe and mix of cultures which was just beautiful. I’d definitely recommend visiting Penang, trekking in the Taman Negara jungle, volunteering a couple of your days with these munchkins and visiting some of the islands too.

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6. Peru

Peru was a country like no other. One of the worst bus journeys I’d ever experienced but some of the most incredible adventures. Trekking Machu Picchu, the salt mines, alpacas, the colourful culture and the mega cities, me and B both fell in love with the place. And Cusco was just magical! Literally, it felt like there was just magic in the air at times. We also felt pretty safe here which I know is an important factor if you’re travelling as a girl or alone. You can read more about this trip here.

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7. Brazil

Full of colour, happiness and beauty, Brazil was fun from the get go. Me and B visited a good mixture of places and loved them all. The cities, the islands, it all just got better and better. And there are black beans on every corner! My fave. We went to Rio, Sao Paolo and the heavenly island of Ilha Grande. Safety here is obviously a slight issue, be sure to stay in the touristy areas and don’t just wander accidentally into a favela. Common sense really people…!

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8. Indonesia

Indonesia was a right little adventure. Me and the girls did the usual Bali, Gili T islands, got our diving certificates and did yoga in Ubud, but we also visited some of the non-tourist islands like Sulawesi. Me and Ana did a work exchange there for two weeks, where we stayed with a Muslim family in their traditional home and were really immersed into their ways of life. I learnt so much on this trip. There’s also a place nearby called Tana Toraja which still remains to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It felt like I was an extra in a movie, it was so surreal. You can read more about that trip here!

 

9. Vietnam and Cambodia

Okay, I know technically these are two countries but I feel very similar for both so I’ve grouped them. I also visited both very briefly and at the same time, we managed to get a cheap coach across the border and back! Both countries are beautiful with fascinating and very recent dark histories. The countries are both re-building themselves but you can feel the pain of the past like no other countries that I’ve been to. They both really moved me. And they’re both really beautiful! Cambodia has Angkor Wat and Vietnam is full of beaches, beautiful mountain scenes and pretty little towns. The culture and religion is deep and that’s one of my favourite things to see and feel.

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10. China

China holds a big place in my heart because it was my first solo adventure, and my first working/living experience abroad. As a travel destination, it compares to no other. It’s full of variety, full of unusual sights and a one-of-a-kind culture (which will always surprise you and also make you think wtf on a daily basis!).  There’s so much to see and do, with the North being completely different to the South, plus everything in between. The country is so huge, you could spend a while visiting even the main sights, and that’s on their sleeper/fast trains! Also, you know what else bangs? The food. And of course, I’m back here again, because it’s a great country to live and work too.

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Pretty tricky to come up with just 10 because there’s been so many places that I’ve loved and every place leaves you with a different feeling for different reasons. Travel is one of the only things that I’ve ever been truly sure about and there’s not one moment that I regret. It brings you highs, lows, the biggest life lessons, the best experiences and all sorts of people. Think you aren’t lucky enough to travel? Think again (read more here… ). I encourage anyone to jump on that plane, do not be afraid to leave your hotel room and truly travel and immerse yourself as much as you can! It’ll always be worth it. The world is incredible.

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Special thanks to every single person who has made every single moment in my journeys so special. You da best for crossing ma path.

 

Thanks for reading guys! Give me a shout if you have any questions! Go book that ticket, live ya life to the bestest.

V

x

And follow me and my adventures here on instagram! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/