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

Chido Project (1)

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; 

Dear Susan-1

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

Mision Mexico’s Magic

A day in the life of a volunteer

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
X

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

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

A day in the life of a volunteer in Mexico

Life’s a beach!

A day in the life of a volunteer

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
X

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

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

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

Dear girls of Mexico, 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Thank you for your time!

Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

Vanisha

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Instagram: @vanishamay

 

Mision Mexico

http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

Dreams of Tapachula

Day one in the life of a volunteer!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

 

Mision Mexico,

Tapachula,

Mexico,

http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

If you were a refugee, what would you do? This is my story

If you were a refugee, what would you do? This is my story.

Refugee. A word loved by the media and the fascinating groups like the EDL. But do you  know what that word means? Or what it means to be that word? For those that don’t know me, my name is Vanisha. And I come from a family of refugees.

What is a refugee? Where are they going?

A refugee is “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Considering there’s 65 million refugees worldwide, we’ve taken in a pathetic amount over recent years (there are an estimated 117,234 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.18 per cent of the total population). 86% of all refugees are currently placed in developing countries including Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ethiopia. So are we doing enough as a developed, western, capable country? No, nowhere near enough. Are they all flooding in to take our homes and jobs? No, evidently not.

 

These are people who never imagined that they would be in these circumstances. People who were in education, people with homes and jobs as teachers, doctors and engineers. People like you, people like me, and people like my own family.

My Beautiful Mum and Me

Why would anyone choose to be a refugee?

Over the last few years I’ve seen a number of narrow-minded, heartless and misunderstood comments and questions assuming that people make the choice to become refugees. No one chooses to leave their home and livelihood in fear of their lives. No one chooses to jump into a boat or to run across borders because the unknown is safer than home. No one chooses to have their title of ‘doctor’ or ‘teacher’ scrapped to ‘refugee’ and a statistic. And if I popped you in the middle of war torn Syria or famine struck South Sudan, you’d want to run a thousand miles too. You’d want a better life, a second chance, safety and food to eat.

So why am I here and what’s this got to do with me? 

Originally, my family had emigrated to Uganda from India in hope for work and a better life. Succeeding like many other Indian Asians, and helping the Ugandan economy to thrive, my family had a home, an income and security. But everything changed in the summer of 1972 when the brutal Ugandan president and dictator, Idi Amin, ordered for the expulsion of all citizens without a Ugandan passport, and all Asians. An idea that apparently came to him in a dream. Over 35,000 Indian Asians were given 60 days to leave. Using extreme violence and placing curfews throughout his reign, my family along with many others were forced to rethink their lives. After seeing people hanging from trees, seeing their businesses burn, my family fled leaving their whole lives behind.

http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/asset652055_13567-.html
Ugandan Asians arriving at Stansted Airport 1972
As British nationals, my family sought refuge in England. It was winter here and they’d never seen snow before. They were homeless, jobless and knew no English. Could you even imagine? They were put in refugee camps near where I grew up, were given work, a home and have stayed ever since. They were hard, manual jobs in the local factories, and very different to their old professions, but still they stuck with it and both my grandmother and grandfather stayed in them same jobs until they retired and until my grandfather passed away. Another family member works in a job centre, coincidentally instead of ‘taking our jobs’, is giving out help and opportunities to others for work.

Contrary to popular belief, my family like many have fully integrated without fully forgetting their traditions, religion and culture. And what a blessing it is to have the best of both worlds. A life full of culture, religion, tradition with a mix of fish and chip Fridays and paneer, all thanks to my Indian mum and English dad.

 

Though life sounds simple and quite happy now, there’s nothing simple or happy about fleeing your lives in fear to a country where not everyone accepts you and everything is alien. It’s terrifying. Although there are happy endings, no one would choose to flee. No one is choosing to put their children in boats that sink. No one chooses to be a refugee. No one chooses to have their education, careers and families being torn apart. Where is the choice in staying in a war torn country or in a home where you’re life could end at any minute? Where is the choice when you’ve lost all family members, there’s no safe drinking water and bombs fly over your head everyday? People don’t have a choice when it’s a matter of life or death. People don’t have a choice. 

My life is a complete blessing thanks to a time where a country opened its arms to a family in need of safety. We must do the same to those living in unimaginable situations today. We are not entitled to this country any more than anyone else on this planet. It’s just plain luck that we’re born on lands that give us safety, comfort and lives of luxury in comparison to lands like Syria and Somalia where people die everyday from things completely curable and non-existent in England.

 

The refugee crisis is bigger than ever before. 50% of all displaced people are children.
Here you can learn more, volunteer or donate:

 

Thanks for reading this fairly deep piece. Any feedback, questions or comments are welcome.
Vanisha

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For lighter stuff, you can follow me and my south american adventure here on Instagram @vanishamay with blogs to follow!