Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad

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

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

  1. Start with the basics

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

  1. My first solo trip

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

Where? Morocco.

What? Mostly working with children.

Who? Original Volunteers

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

  1. Exchanges

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

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

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

Who? Literally anyone and everyone.

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

  1. The internet

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

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

Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What? Teaching

Who? School for refugees

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

  1. Mexico

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

Where? Tapachula, Mexico

What? Working with children

Who? About 40 incredible kids and teens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely day folks

V

X

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

Below is a list of sites and people to follow;

16429_10151301719433201_380832897_n

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!

P5050264.JPG

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.
JacobRachel

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)

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.

IMG_8116.JPG

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?

IMG_8131

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…

Congratulations-1

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.

2017-graduation.jpg

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

 

img_3641

Life beyond Misión México

Preparing young adults for life beyond Misión Mexico…

Our #1 goal at Misión Mexico is to provide the option of shelter and on-going education for all of the children that walk through our doors. We aim to help break the cycle of poverty that exists for 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico, by providing opportunity, chances and choices for our young people, which includes our final program, YTP. Our Youth Transition Program (YTP) focuses on supporting our young people at Misión Mexico through the transition into adulthood, independent living and higher education.

The focus is to empower these young people in a bid to break the cycle of poverty and abuse, and further create confident, competent young adults and positive role models who can successfully live independently.” – Luke, YTP Coordinator

A History of YTP

  1. Rewind back to 2014 when YTP was first piloted with our first female transition house! Four of our young ladies, aged 19-22 years old, moved into the house with our full-time YTP coordinator and mentor. With the support of the coordinator, our young adults develop skills such as independent and practical living, health and nutrition, positive role modelling, financial planning and budgeting, and practical support sourcing employment. Personal development is also a critical element of the program which aims to improve confidence, interpersonal and negotiation skills, and self-motivation.
  2. The next exciting branch of YTP was our youth cooking program and girls’ youth groups, which were implemented for our children aged 13 years and over. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent and life skills, whilst residing at our main refuge.
  3. 18 months later, the program extended to include our first male transition house and boys’ youth groups!
  4. After four years, 9 of our young adults have moved through our two transition houses and into independent living with 7 more currently living in our YTP today!

Why is YTP so important?

YTP brings opportunity and support for those first tricky years of adulthood as they leave our main family home at 18 years old. Some of you may be thinking that it’s kind of unnecessary and comparing it to your own lives, however life in Tapachula is extremely different and difficult, and our young adults would not have as many opportunities or choices if it wasn’t for Misión Mexico and programs such as YTP. YTP enables our young adults to have the opportunity to grow and reach their full potential, transitioning them to independent living whilst allowing them to continue with their higher education and offering multiple avenues and choices for their futures.

  • In developing, low-income countries, like Mexico, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future income by an average of 10%.
  • 6 million Mexican children and adolescents dropped out of school in 2012, to join the second largest child labour force in Latin America. These young people probably had very limed choices. This labour force includes children who have traded classrooms and pencils for their families, farming and crime. This labour force included some of our own children at Misión Mexico.
  • In 2012, 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico were living in poverty, with more than six million children aged 3-17 out of school. The lack of formal education in childhood often limits the available opportunities and choices in adulthood, which in turn continues the cycle of poverty and crime.

Where are they now?

We have seen some great successes with our young adults who have transitioned through YTP and into independent living! We’re excited to say that we’ve had our first ever female university graduate who quickly secured full-time employment and recently received her first promotion (amazing)! Whilst four are living independently whilst continuing with their higher education and university degrees. We’ve celebrated marriages, first homes, full-time employment, and a number of our YTP young adults are even putting their life skills to use whilst exploring the big wide world outside of Tapachula! YTP has truly been life-changing.

The Future of YTP

There are currently 20 young people living in the main Misión Mexico house in addition to the 6 young adults living in our two gendered transition houses. Over 70% of Misión Mexico youth are involved in some aspect of the YTP as our program starts from 13 years old. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent skills through cooking and small group classes. Currently 23% of the current household are over 18 years old and within the next three years, 58% of them will be over 18 years old which means that YTP is essential and growing rapidly!

Our goal at Misión México is to provide support, love, options and choice to all the children that come into our home. Not all our young adults choose the root of university, higher education or even YTP living, and instead choose to follow other paths beyond their lives at Mision Mexico. But, that’s what this is ultimately all about; choice.

YTP is one of our most vital and ever-expanding programs, and we wouldn’t be anywhere without your help. We are so grateful for the years of support, love and hope that you’ve shown to us and can’t wait to continue the journey for our next bunch of YTP-ers over the coming years!

Make some small choices today!

  • For as little as $10 per month you can become one of our Youth Transition Program Sponsors and help our young adults become the best they can be! You can email events@lovelifehope.com if you’re interested in becoming a YTP sponsors
  • Volunteer! 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!
  • Share this blog and our #YTPWednesdays campaigns via below…
  • You can follow and support our social media by clicking these links…
  • https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/
  • https://twitter.com/mision_mexico
  • https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

We can’t wait to meet you all!

Vanisha

With big help from Luke Owen, Melissa Biggerstaff and Founder, Pamela Skuse

X

Reads and resources:

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/kids-at-work-there-are-3-6-million-in-mexico/

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/americas/2016/01/mexico-child-labour-perils-lost-education-160127055528295.html

https://probdes.iiec.unam.mx/en/revistas/v45n178/body/v45n178a5_1.php

Mexico: Día De Los Muertos. Spooky or spectacular? 

Dia De Los Meurtos (or Day of the Dead) is known worldwide as the one of the biggest celebrations of the dead. Festivals, food, flowers and a tonne of skulls and make-up turn the taboo subject of death as we know it in the West into a fun, colourful and completely opposite method of dealing with loss. But is the traditional celebration spectacular or just plain spooky? This year with the children at Mision Mexico, we’ll find out!

 

Four fun facts that you didn’t know about Día de los Muertos:

  1. Día de los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd November, not on 31st October! Although the theme is death and it’s closely celebrated near Halloween, the traditions and customs are extremely different. Mexicans create altars (la ofrenda) in their homes and cemeteries to invite their lost ones back down to earth for a huge celebration of their lives! There’s no mourning, fear or sadness, just love, joy and laughter! This is incredibly important for our children also and a lovely way to help with trauma and loss.
  2. Who knows what the food is like in Heaven? Just in case the departed might be missing out on their favourite meals, families make sure to provide heaps of food, drinks and all their loved ones’ favourite things as an offering. It’s also believed that the food will help with the tiredness of travelling from the heavens and back. Pan de meurto and pan dulce (bread of the dead and sweet bread) is usually offered along with atole (sweet porridge) and sugar skulls.
  3. Cemeteries are filled with families, flowers and candles which sounds similar to ours in the west, but you’ll find the atmosphere and behaviour to be in extreme contrast. Children run around playing and families laugh as they share fond memories together. People are at one with death. Life and death come together in the most colourful and uplifting way.
  4. As well as being a fun activity for the day (for the kids and us!), the popular sugar skull face painting has real meaning behind it. Calaveras and Careinas were originally worn and painted on to warn off death. And the holiday itself is an indigenous tradition and recognised by UNESCO.

 

At Mision Mexico, we encourage and celebrate these important traditions and celebrations. “Our altar is still up, and every morning the kids light the candles and have a moment to think about those who have passed. They also spend the day trying to set fire to sticks and paper, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a countrywide tradition!” – Melissa, Fundraising and Events Manager

 

So, spooky or spectacular? I think… Spectacular! How incredible and beautiful to be so at peace with one of the most natural things on the planet. It’s perfect for family time and bringing each other closer to celebrate and remember those we once walked the earth with. And also, a magical time to visit the spectacular country of Mexico!

 

Interested in the dead like I am?

Read my blog about living with the dead in Indonesia. Another fascinating but amazing way of coping with loss and celebrating loved ones along with being one of my most unforgettable travel experiences! https://vanishamay.com/2017/04/28/living-with-the-dead-could-you-do-it/

 

Interested in volunteering at Mision Mexico?

You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’d love to hear from you! 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! https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

 

 

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

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

Mision Mexico’s Magic

A day in the life of a volunteer

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

 

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

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

img_9970img_9969img_9971

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

 

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

img_8966

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

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

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

img_9601img_9606-1

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

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

 

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

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

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
X

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

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

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**