A Q&A with Skye and Moacir from Cielo Collective

Introducing Moacir and Skye, the Cielo Collective and the wonderful refuge of Mision Mexico in Tapachula! What do they all have in common? They bring love, life and hope to so many men, women and especially children from Mexico and its surrounding countries. But why is the connection so important? And why are Moacir and Skye such a big part of our family and life here in Tapachula today? For those who can’t wait to hear more, for those who love ethical and sustainable fashion, and for those who just want to give back to the world; we’ve put together a small Q&A about our wonderful Moacir and Skye’s story and their inspiring Cielo Collective! Enjoy!

Hola Moacir and Skye! Firstly, tell us what’s new! How are you? Where are you both? 

Hola!! We are both very well, thank you. We are currently living in Australia, in a beautiful beach side town on the Sunshine Coast called Mudjimba. Skye grew up not far from here and it is close to where I lived when I first came to Australia for a high school exchange all those years ago. It is a wonderful community!

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So, what is Cielo Collective? Where did it all start and why?

Cielo Collective started just 2 years ago, in 2016. When Skye first visited Misión Mexico in 2011, I took her to some local markets in Tapachula. We wandered through the markets for hours talking to the artisans and small business owners there. Skye fell in love with the textiles, hearing about the artistic processes and learning about the traditions behind each piece. It really opened my eyes up to the incredible artistry of my home country. We agreed then that one day we would like to start a business that would allow us to support Mexican artisans but also give back to Misión Mexico.

In 2016 after many years of thinking about it, we made it happen! We flew to Mexico City and travelled down to various artisan communities throughout Mexico and Guatemala. During that trip we met some incredibly humble, inspirational and creative artisans. We were lucky enough to partner with 3 women’s cooperative groups and 1 small family business. We sourced and developed so many beautiful designs that we couldn’t wait to share with the world. Pam also accompanied us on parts of the trip and it was amazing to share the experience with her.

In July we arrived back in Australia with our handcrafted products and launched our online store www.cielocollective.com.au in October. Since then we have been working with each artisan group from afar to develop new designs and perfect old ones and have also connected with more artisan groups that we now work with. We also attend local markets in our area and love sharing the stories of each piece and artisan group with people in Australia and throughout the world.

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What’s the big dream for it all? 

Our dream is to provide our artisan partners with a sustainable partnership so that we can continue working with them and support them into the future. We are growing bit by bit and have been proudly creating more and more designs each year.

We want to share the beauty, skill, spirit and traditions of our artisan partners with the world, so that people all over develop a deeper appreciation for their craft and culture. We also want to continue growing our brand, so that we can not only continue working creatively on something we love, but also increase our donation to Misión Mexico year by year.

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What is the connection with Mision Mexico and why is it so important to keep the connection?

I was rescued by Misión Mexico in 2004. Pam and Alan (mum and dad) gave me a home, a family, an education and a brighter future. Because of them, my life is filled with opportunity, happiness and purpose. Not only did they put me on the right track, but they also gave me the most incredible (and large) family who continue to support me to this day. I am so grateful for everything Misión Mexico has done for me and that is why it is so important for us to give back through Cielo Collective.

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How can we check out your pieces, donate or find out more about Cielo Collective? 

You can check out our pieces online at www.cielocollective.com.au. Here you can read more information about our story, Misión Mexico and our artisan partners as well as blog posts from our travels. We are also on Facebook and Instagram as Cielo Collective.

If you live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, you can see us at the Peregian Beach Markets every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month and at the Sunshine Coast Collective Markets every 4th Sunday of the month. We also have a range of clutches available at The Travelling Kimono store in the Noosa Junction. Our home studio is also open by appointment, so you can get in touch through our website or social media channels if you would like to visit.

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And tell us about you two! The big wedding this year? We can’t wait!

Yes!! After 8 years together, we are finally tying the knot! We are so excited that both our families will be together to celebrate, which is so rare. Mum and dad (Pam and Alan) have touched down in Australia and Maria, Lupita and Sammy from MM will be there to celebrate with us too! It is going to be an amazing day filled with love and happiness. We can’t wait to finally be Mr and Mrs and hopefully we can honeymoon in Mexico and celebrate with the kids in Tapachula sometime in the future!

Thank you so much to our wonderful Moacir and Skye for all the great they do, not only for us, but for so many others too! We want to congratulate them again on their wedding, because they’ve since got married! We can’t wait to see them soon! Wishing them all the best for the future and all the love in the world!

Love the Mision Mexico family

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You can watch Moacir’s story here; 

And support Cielo Collective here; 

And support Mision Mexico with these links; 

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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/

Katherine’s story for International Women’s Day 2018

 

For International Women’s Day, we celebrate the women who have helped shape our past, those who fight for our future, and those who press for present day progress. At Misión México, we recognise and celebrate the women behind the scenes, the women who fill our home with love, life and hope, the woman who started it all and the young women that are still rising. This real-life story is dedicated to all of the work that is achieved thanks to these women and the work of Misión México, and to one woman in particular, Katherine. This is her story.

 

Who is Katherine?

A story that is important, unique and inspiring for all individuals, especially those from difficult backgrounds and especially for women like Katherine. Katherine is from Tapachula in Chiapas, one of the poorest regions of Mexico. Like many others, Katherine and her family had little options. As a teenager, Katherine’s education came under threat when it was felt that her joining the workforce would be more beneficial for her family, financially and because the importance of education for females was misunderstood.

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Second chances

Luckily, a teacher at school recognised her talents and helped support Katherine by seeking out ways for her to not only continue her studies, but to make plans for higher education. This is where Misión México comes in! Misión México is a refuge for children that provides education, safety and opportunity whilst bringing love, life and hope back into their lives. Katherine joined our Misión Mexico family as a teenager where she was supported financially, emotionally and practically so she was able to continue her studies and move forward to Prepa. Every year she would finish amongst the top n her class, and along with her grades, Katherine’s confidence and self-belief flourished too.

 

Katherine’s dream

As her confidence and knowledge grew, so did her dreams. Katherine wanted to go to university, study medicine and become a doctor so that she could give back to the people of Mexico and help the poorer communities. How incredible is that?

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Breaking the cycle of poverty

The incredible twist to this story is the ripple that her education caused. Founders of Misión México. Pam and Alan Skuse helped Katherine maintain a healthy relationship with her biological family whilst naturally becoming her second Mum and Dad. At Katherine’s prepa graduation, Katherine’s biological and new-found Mum sat side by side and watched her stand on stage, receive her higher education certificate (one of the top on the class) and prepared for her next step – medical school. Katherine’s mum turned to Pam and said “I am so thankful you, Alan and Mision Mexico came into my family’s life. You have shown me that girls in Tapachula can get an education and how important that is. You have helped my daughter achieve her dream and shown me that all my daughters should dream”.

You can read Pam and Alan’s graduation letter to Katherine here…

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Where is Katherine today?

A few years ago Katherine returned to live with her biological family so that she could support and encourage her sisters to remain in school and focus on their education, but would often return to Misión Mexico to visit her second family and to help, inspire and tutor other children in our home.

Thanks to support from donations and education sponsors, Misión México is able to continue to financially support Katherine’s dreams and was also able to support her family’s education. Katherine´s Education Sponsor, Susan has been sponsoring Katherine throughout her medical degree, and it’s thanks to people like Susan that we can continue our mission. You can read Katherine´s heartfelt letter to Susan here; 

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Katherine graduated university in December 2017, remaining one of the top students in her class. She is currently completing an internship in a San Cristobel hospital, and continues to be supported by Misión Mexico and her sponsor, Susan through our Adult Independent Program scholarship.

Katherine’s mum, who never believed that a female in Tapachula needed an education, returned to school part time and is studying her own secondary qualifications.

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How can you help?

Katherine and her family have made incredible steps that are changing their lives. But so many women and children will never receive these opportunities. Mexico itself is a dangerous place to be a woman, where every day roughly six women are murdered in gender-related cases. 781 million adults are illiterate worldwide, two-thirds of these are women. And although girls are achieving higher academic rates at school in many countries, many will not complete their education fully, many will end up working in unpaid labour at home and with their family, and many will not receive the same wages as their male colleagues.

  • You can get involved by becoming an Education Sponsor for one of our girls, or by sending donations today! Contact events@lovelifehope.com for more information.
  • Volunteer! Run projects! And visit us in Tapachula! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com
  • Follow, share and support us on social media

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

https://twitter.com/mision_mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

 

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