Life in China

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

 

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

 

 

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

  1. I’m surrounded by cheeky little monkeys

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

 

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

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

  1. It’s super safe

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

  1. I ❤ people

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

 

 

  1. My diet of dog…

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

  1. Learning Chinese is hard but it’s okay

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

  1. Shenzhen is fab

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

 

 

  1. China has it all

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

  1. Life is sweet

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

 

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

 

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

And catch my adventures on IG @vanishamay

祝你有美好的一天

Vanisha

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Tips for living in China:

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

 

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

 

Who made your clothes?

So, I’m starting this blog with an exercise. I want you to look down your body. Run your hands over every item of clothing that you’re wearing, every layer and feel right down to your shoes. Feel that material and look close at the stitches. Now, think about all the other hands that have touched your clothes too. Do you know how many? Now, check the labels. Made in where? Vietnam? China? Bangladesh? And made by who?

Did you know that, if you’re reading this, you have 4x the amount of clothes in your wardrobe than your parents did? Did you know that 1 in 4 people around the world work in the fashion industry as we know it, with 98% of those people living below the poverty line, and 80% of those people being women? And is any of this making any of us happier? Hell to the no. Far from it.

I want you to meet Nazma, who at 13 years old, started work in a Bangladeshi garment factory; earning a wage equivalent to £2 a month. Nazma’s life has been extremely difficult, because not only has she worked in conditions, that some consider as modern-day slavery since she was 13 years old, but she’s also seen the hardships and inequalities of hundreds just like her.

I saw Nazma last year. She was angry with the world and asking for change.

“Women are earning £50 a month. They make your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings. The multi-national and retailers come to where the labour markets are cheap. And when clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world, nothing is discount, women pay with their blood and their sweat… Women are not respected. Women should be safe in all workplaces, everywhere.” – Nazma Akter, London, 2017

And above is Laboni and her husband, who moved to Bangladesh to find work and a new life. Laboni, alongside 1,137 others died when her factory collapsed five years ago.  The Rana Plaza story still hits me hard because it’s a story so common and a story that is never taken seriously enough. A story where workers rights and concerns were ignored, and the clothes that now fill our wardrobes were made at a human cost, just like so many others.

Most of my wardrobe, and yours, would have started in the hands of girls like Laboni and Nazma. They then end up in shops worth billions of pounds. Worth enough money to pay these women and men fair living wages. Worth enough money for their CEO’s and management to actually make time and visit the hands that are making their goods. Worth enough money to ensure that no human is working in these unsafe and inhumane conditions, yet alone a 13-year-old child. Worth enough money to make a change.

You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not empowerment. That’s not freedom, or love, or anything positive in fact.

But we’re greedy, right? And at least they’ve got jobs, right?

Yeah in deathly conditions. You know in the UK when it hits over 25 degrees, and everyone starts banging on about ‘safe working conditions’ and workers’ rights in that godforsaken heat? Well imagine that, plus another 10 degrees, plus 10-hour working days, plus seeing your family twice a year, plus dirty living conditions, plus gruelling work environments that are unsafe and the air is filled with chemicals, plus very little choice so you’re trapped and taken advantage of. Workers in Cambodia faint daily from the heat, starvation and pure exhaustion. Who do they work for? Suppliers to Nike and Puma. For how much? £120 a month.

And that’s just a snippet of the effect it has on the people of our planet, but the fashion industry is harming our planet in extraordinary ways too.

As the consumers, we are the cause of this. We are the cause of a 500% increase in consumption. Because of us, the consumers, the factory industry is now the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the second biggest energy consumer and the biggest producer of the non-bio gradable material that is polyester. Click here for my last blog to read more about the effects that fashion has on our planet. 

 

What are the solutions?

The solutions are in our hands, and there are so many of them! As a consumer (and human being!), I love to shop, I like my clothes, and I love getting dressed up. And I’m not saying we should stop, that we should boycott and throw tomatoes at the doors of Zara, but we can shop with a conscience, with more care and with more heart. This is easier said than done, when every time you flick on to Instagram you see girls earning big bucks for promoting these labels hard. I get the pressures of society. But think, is it worth it? What’s going to really matter 10 years from now?

  • Repair, re-wear and reuse your clothes

Don’t buy anything with the thought of chucking it away. Buy things that you love and wear them with love, repeatedly. Repair them, learn to sew things up and customise!

  • Engage with and challenge current suppliers

Shop ethically and challenge the fashion industry. If a company doesn’t have transparency regarding their suppliers and production makers, then the likelihood that they either have no idea who is making their clothes or that they’re in unsuitable, unethical conditions is highly likely. Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops

Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Who’s winning now?!

  • Realise change starts with you

Nazma is now a human rights activist who spends her days fighting for justice, safe working conditions and fair pay for factory workers. We can do the same. Follow ethical brands on Instagram, shop from ethical brands and support these people hard! Move away from the stereotype that ethical fashion is expensive and exclusive. Imagine if every brand was ethical? It would all be affordable and sustainable.

 

In fact, only 1-3% of the final cost goes to the hands that actually made them, so realistically speaking, we just need to shift the money from the hands of the super rich CEO’s and into the hands of these women. This way, costs wouldn’t even go up for us…

The makers of our clothing, those who are so often invisible and marginalised, are worth celebrating and given safety and quality of life too. No-one’s life, and the future of our planet is worth losing over the latest material trends. Let’s call on the UK fashion brands to protect the women who make our clothes and the planet that we live on.

And next time you change your outfit or purchase a new item of clothing, I dare you to look at the label and ask; Who made my clothes? Is she getting paid? Is she safe? Who is she?

Thanks for reading you lovely lot!

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

Things to follow:

Things to watch:

 

Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad

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

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

  1. Start with the basics

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

  1. My first solo trip

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

Where? Morocco.

What? Mostly working with children.

Who? Original Volunteers

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

  1. Exchanges

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

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

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

Who? Literally anyone and everyone.

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

  1. The internet

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

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

Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What? Teaching

Who? School for refugees

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

  1. Mexico

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

Where? Tapachula, Mexico

What? Working with children

Who? About 40 incredible kids and teens!

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely day folks

V

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

Below is a list of sites and people to follow;

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Finding home.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a fab day and follow my IG adventures @vanishamay

V

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p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

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

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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

Making a difference made easy.

So, as Christmas gets closer and we’re all in giving mode, I want to shed light on a super important cause and how you could do something different this year at Christmas time.  Not sure what to get your family for Christmas this year? Want to make an impact and do something positive for the world? Let me tell you all about Mision Mexico and how your effort could help…

Who are Mision Mexico?

Pamela and Alan Skuse visited Tapachula, Chiapas in 2000 to help care for 7 children. Passionate about making a difference and wanting to do more, the couple have spent the last 17 years caring for over 250 children.

Thanks to donations and dedicated people like you, Pam and Alan were able to build a home for their new family as well as their recent project in the poorer community of Puerto Chiapas; Mision Surf. Every school lesson, every pair of shoes, every bed, and every single achievement has been made possible thanks to you.

There are so many ways to get involved, and we’d love you to join to help us carry on with our Mexican mission!

“Giving is not just about making a donation. It’s about making a difference” – Kathy Calvin

So, how can you make a difference today?

1. Sponsor our teens big volcano climb!

This Christmas, our teens are climbing Central America’s 2nd largest volcano in order to raise funds for a new van which will help transport all of our children with more ease (and more seats so we’re not all sitting on each other’s laps!). This is our main Christmas fundraising event and one of our most exciting as the kids get involved themselves.

You can start the giving by clicking this link if you’re in Australia… https://misionmexico-gdg-j731n.raisely.com/volcano2017 

Or this link if you’re giving from the UK… https://mydonate.bt.com/events/volcano2017

If you are giving from Australia, you will receive a tax deductible receipt for all donations over $2. If you are giving from the UK and are a UK tax payer, you can opt into the Gift Aid scheme and increase the value of your donation by 25% – at no extra cost to you.

2. Create your own fundraiser!

Fundraising is a fantastic way to help raise large amounts of money from multiple people for a special cause like Mision Mexico. But if you’re unsure about what to do, or where to start, or how you can make your fundraiser as fun as possible, then look no further. This is all about how we can help you to help us!

Below are my fave top 10 ideas for starting your own fundraiser today!

  1. Skydive, white water raft, bungee jump – this is for all the adrenaline junkies out there! Why not go absolutely crazy and tick off your bucket list whilst raising for charity?!
  2. A cake sale. It’s simple, quick and yummy.
  3. Sponsored sports. You could run a marathon, swim the local river or even hold a trampolining event!
  4. For all of them bad habits, and one of the hardest to do in my opinion(!) – give up something you love. Like, alcohol, chocolate, smoking, biting your nails, or you could even give up your voice!
  5. Go carol singing!
  6. Hold an event at your workplace, church or in your community. We recently had an wonderful donation from Tango Embrace’s Day of the Dead Milonga event. Food, dance and a fundraiser all in one event. Amazing!
  7. You could get creative and host a ‘Come dine with me’ night, or even break a world record!
  8. Of course, the hairy ideas made it to my top ten just for comical/bravery reasons. Shave your hair off? Grow your beard out? Have a full body wax? Just throwing it out there guys…
  9. Get ya pets involved. Start dog walking, do a dog jog,
  10. Do a year of good deeds. This one was my favourite and one that I’d never heard of before. You, along with your friends and family can spend a year or as long as you like doing good deeds and sharing them! Feeding the homeless, helping the elderly, reading at the local library, there’s definitely a heap of good to do whilst raising money for something good!

3. Got a talent or skill to share? Get involved!

We accept volunteers all year round but we’re especially looking for people who have special skills or talents and wouldn’t mind sharing them in a workshop for our children. Yoga, surfing, dance, calligraphy, vetting, chefs, footballers, you name it, we want it! Our kids have an array of interests and passions, so we’d love you to come stay with us and help to explore, enhance and expand on their abilities.

 4. Follow, share and donate

Last but not least, you can always donate a one-off or monthly donation by visiting this link… and helping us raise awareness by telling your friends about us, sharing our social media and liking our posts. We heavily rely on you guys for donations, and even more so on our social media for even reaching you guys in the first place! Click this link to make a donation today… http://lovelifehope.com/donate/

See something you like? Got a different idea? Want to get involved? For further enquiries, applications and questions please message us via facebook, instagram, twitter or email at volunteer@lovelifehope.com.

Mision Mexico wouldn’t be where it is today without your suppport and donations. We’re forever grateful to all our past, present and future supporters. Let’s make this a Christmas to remember and start the new year full of love, life and hope. We can’t wait to hear from you all!

Gracias and Feliz Navidad!

Vanisha

X

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

Why should I give my money to charity?

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.”
― Chinua AchebeAnthills of the Savannah

So, a few days ago my friend showed me this…

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It’s been circulating the internet and people are obviously all riled up from it (including me!). Although it’s clearly from a credible source, and Facebook is rarely full of fake news, I thought I’d help put some things into perspective and try to justify it for all those who were so bothered by these stats (including me!). This might be a bit more ranty than usual but the whole thing has been driving me bonkers even if the statistics are completely made up. I did some research, I did some reading, and here are my 5 points explaining why these stats deserve more thought…

  1. Steve Jobs had a net worth of $10.2 billion. That’s 793 times more than Christian Aids CEO salary. Doesn’t make you question every time you buy a new £700 mobile phone though does it?
  2. Stockbrokers in the UK earn an average of £133,868 a year. So, put that into perspective when you think about how much the CEO of Oxfam should earn. The top dog of Oxfam who has a worldwide team who help support, manage and run the organisation that fights for equality and the reduction of poverty, actually gets paid less than a stockbroker from London.highc
  3. It might be surprising that Save the Children who work in 160 countries, have 160 offices with thousands of people working worldwide for them and for the millions of children that they help every day. So, although they are charities, they are also organisations who provide much needed jobs for people, who believe it or not, deserve to get paid for their extremely hard and much needed work. And it’s not easy, they don’t just spend all your money on themselves. That’s why people like me, who want to help change lives and work with these amazing charities too, must spend years in education followed by years of unpaid volunteering before my CV will even be looked at when applying for a lower-level paid job with UNICEF. Do you have to volunteer unpaid at EE for three years before working with Apple? Nah, yet here we are buying £15 chargers off a man who is getting paid £8.87 in that starting position, and questioning whether we’re gonna give £10 to the British Red Cross.
  4. Why are we even questioning about the money we give to charities? Of course, not every single penny is going to go directly in to the mouth of a hungry refugee child in South Sudan, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. But when people are suffering even slightly, when even a penny from a pound might change someone’s life, why would we, us people in the western world who don’t question our £45 dress from Topshop, question donating cash to charity?
  5. And you know what? If you still have a problem with it, don’t give money. Go out and make a physical difference with your own hands. 

I know it seems like a lot of money, and to most of us, we’ll never earn £240,00 a year, but when you consider the facts, the work involved and compare it to other high-earning jobs then it’s not so shocking at all. In an ideal world, the pay gap wouldn’t be so outrageous, and charities wouldn’t even exist because no-one would be starving, or suffering with cancer. But here we are, with the world’s top 8 richest men earning more than half of the world’s earnings put together, and Wayne Rooney kicking his ball around whilst raking in £250,000 per week.

And although there are many arguments (some of which I question also) regarding the ethics of charities and how well their work is actually implemented, the chances are that unless you’re attempting to change things yourself, the only option left for you is to do nothing and not give. Not giving at all is much worse than giving a tenner and hoping that at least half of it goes to someone in need. If you’re having second thoughts, then do your research. Look in to the different charities, look in to where your money is best invested, and look in to how they actually aim to make a difference. You can keep that all in mind next time you’re giving your hard-earned cash to charities.

a useful link about how to give donations more wisely >>>> http://time.com/money/4118017/charity-donations-giving/

Rant over, deep breaths, go do some good in this world.

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

X

Follow me on IG @vanishamay

25 things I’ve learned in 25 years

So, while you’re all sleeping, or partying or whatever it is you get up to on a Friday night, I’ll be turning 25 (yay!?). And although it seems like I’ve truly hit my quarter-life-crisis stage, there’s no denying that I have had a wild and very interesting 25 years so far!

 

From moving countries, to graduating with a first and realising my passions, to living by myself, and volunteering around the world, to passing my driving test, and experiencing so much of the planet and the people on it. I’ve had such amazing highlights considering the first few years I was in nappies!

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But of course, there have been not-so-fun times like bad jobs, bad travel experiences, a sad childhood and meeting a good handful of bad people! So, after 25 years of living, walking and talking, here are my 25 things I’ve learned in 25 years…

 

  1. Fortunes favours the bold and the brave

Doing things that scare you will benefit you. Netflix and chill is great but you’ll have nothing to look back on if you just sit indoors doing the same old. Do something that scares you once in a while. My best experiences have been my biggest life changes, they were risky, scary and completely new to me, but they changed my life for the good. Take that risk. Be bold. Be brave.

  1. On love…

5 things under my life lessons on boys… (and I’m still learning, and I could go on!) 1. Actions speak louder than words. If he says he likes you but only makes the effort to see you once a month on a night-out, then get rid and do better. 2. Love doesn’t last forever and neither do the sad times. 3. Find someone who loves your mind just as much as they love your body. 4. Most boys aren’t worth your tears. Learn to let go and realise when things aren’t meant to be. Don’t text back and don’t text him. There’s better to come! 5. Always have hope. I’ve had my fair share of absolute jokers, but I do believe (just about!) that there is such a thing as a good, and single man. Wherever he might be.

 

  1. Be an enthusiast!

There were a few times I doubted how much I loved everything but talks with my best friend made me realise how special it is that we just love everything! The littlest things make me so happy and it takes a lot to bring me down or make me even slightly sad. Being negative and hating everything isn’t cool and actually affects your outlook on life. Life is full of exciting things! Live positively. Celebrate it. And don’t be afraid to show it.

 

  1. Travel

The world is an incredible place full of beauty and wonder and non-stop exploring. I’ve had no regrets about spending most of my adult life savings and spending time on travelling. It opens your mind, heart and life to life-changing experiences and people. Travel is always a clever idea.

  1. Trust yourself and your abilities.

When I was at school, I never thought I was smart enough or capable of going to university or even doing A-Levels. So, I didn’t until 4 years later when I was braver and more hopeful. And I graduated with a first-class honours degree with 3 years of high marks and good assignments. Trust yourself more. You are capable, and you can do almost anything if you just put your mind to it.

  1. Always be grateful.

We are extremely fortunate for the lives we have. If you’re reading this, that means you too. Cherish it all, the ups, the downs, the bad and the good. Life is an absolute gift.

 

  1. Be open to anything

Live life with open arms, an open mind and an open heart. Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or bad. Just because you’ve been hurt before, doesn’t mean you’ll get hurt again. Be open to the unknown, you’ll miss out otherwise!

 

  1. Giving is better than receiving

“True compassion lies in what you can do for someone else” (Olivia Benjamin). You never know the impact you might make on somebody and their life. There’s always room to give and ways to give. You can give your time, spare change or a smile. Knowing that I can help people and give my love and life to them in so many different ways, brings me an abundance of happiness and purpose.

  1. Love

Life is all about love. The times I had the least love and gave out the least love were my unhappiest times. So, learn to love yourself, love this life and seriously, ‘love thy neighbour’. We all need love and the world needs more of it!

 

  1. Be kind always

People appreciate my kindness. And I remember when people are kind to me too. It makes a huge difference to a soul, to receive kindness, no matter how undeserving that soul might be. I’m leaving this now to Roy…

 

“A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.”

 

“Treat everyone with politeness and kindness, not because they are nice, but because you are.”

 

“Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

 

  1. The importance of following your dreams/ doing things that matter

Find your passion and fully go for it. Finding your purpose and doing something that matters with your life is the best feeling ever. Even if it could take years to fully achieve that dream, it’s so good to know that you’re on the right path. I’m fortunate to have a dream that could really make a difference to the world and to have the opportunities to pursue it. Never give that up.

  1. Have patience

Patience truly is a virtue. There’s going to be times in life where you want to lash out or where you have little time for the person in the queue in front of you, but being patient is one of my best learnt attributes and has helped me so much in life. Luckily, it takes a lot to test my patience and because of that, I can put up with an awful lot without it affecting me!

 

  1. Be good to you

Mentally, physically and emotionally. Be good to your mind and your body. And if things aren’t okay, that’s okay too. It’s okay to be sad and down in the dumps sometimes. Relax. Stop and take time for yourself. I definitely learned that one this year!

 

  1. You are who your friends are

Every friend brings something different to your life. I’ve recently learned that. I’ve got a great bunch of gals that really bring out the best in me and make me realise what’s important, and who I am. If you don’t have good friends, then bun them and go make some better ones. Good friends are good for the soul.

 

  1. Educate yourself at every opportunity

“Everyone knows something that you don’t” and whether you’re 7, 25 or 89, there will always be something to learn about. Education changes lives and minds over and over again. For westerners reading this, it may seem trivial, but my education is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’m so blessed to know all that I do even if my maths skills are still pretty shocking.

 

  1. Quit

I spent almost two years in a job that I hated every single day. My biggest lesson from that was that I should have quit. Hate your job? Quit. Don’t like where you live? Move. Not happy with life? Change. Unhappy in love? Leave. Things change, feelings change, and life goes on. That includes yours. It’s okay to quit if it’s not right.

 

  1. Be curious and ask questions

You’ll never know unless you ask! And never be afraid to ask. Asking questions expands your mind, gives knowledge and gives power. Ask that guy for his number, ask your mum for help and ask for a bigger promotion. Just ask.

 

  1. Being authentic

Social media is a small snippet of highlights in people’s lives and the example I’m gonna use for now. Don’t compare, don’t feel pressure and be true to you always. Trickier today with the role of social media etc, but a big lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to admire other people, however, they are not you and you are not them. And you are amazing so just stick with you.

  1. Read more books

There’s an endless amount of knowledge and excitement that comes from sheets of paper. I barely read until about five years ago and some of the books that I’ve read since have made me laugh, cry, hope and change the way I think completely. Seriously, go to the library or click on amazon and get a book today.

 

  1. Unplug and switch off

Put your phone down and look at the world around. Or read a book. Or have a real conversation. It’s so easy to get hooked on our electronics that sometimes we miss what’s happening around us. Scrolling through Instagram all night won’t improve your life. Go get inspired.

 

  1. Work hard

It’s good for your employer, it’s good for you and it’s good for your bank account. If you hate your job and you cba every day, then quit. Go find a job that you love then work hard at that. And stay humble about it too.

 

  1. It’s okay to say no/ stop saying sorry

I’ve learned to say, “thank you so much for waiting” rather than “sorry I kept you for so long” because there’s just no need to apologise for every little hiccup in my life. Plus, I’m not always sorry! Similarly, I’ve learned to say no more often. Not because I’m a mean person, but because it’s okay to not say yes and do everything all the time for everyone. In fact, I could probably say no more!

 

  1. Be as wild as you want, but be wild

Life is short. Tell your loved ones you love them often. Go skinny dipping in the Philippines. Order that double cheeseburger. And jump out of that bloody plane. I know too many people who regret the things they haven’t done in life. I have no regrets, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted so far and intend to carry on that way. Dare to be wild. YOLO.

 

  1. Be conscious

Before you speak, before you buy, before you do lots of things, ask yourself; will this improve my life? Will this benefit others? Think of the planet, consider people’s feelings and think of the consequences of your actions. I could definitely improve some things in my life still, but I hope I leave a more positive mark on the planet than a negative one!

 

  1. Smile! And be happy

Do whatever it takes to live a life that you’re proud of. Do things that make you happy. And if you find that you’re not happy, change it. And always smile. Smile for your exes, smile to a stranger, and smile because you’re alive.

Thanks for reading as always guys! My blog is another big achievement and something I used to be scared about, but I love writing and I love you all for reading it!

So, thank you!

Vanisha

X

 

Follow me on instagram @vanishamay

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.

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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**