Author Archives: misionmexico

About misionmexico

This post is created from people worldwide behind the scenes at Misión México

Working Towards a Sustainable Community

Misión México (UK) Trustee Laura Vanessa Muñoz reflects on how Pam and Alan Skuse are working towards a sustainable community in Tapachula, Mexico by providing a loving, secure family home for abused and severely disadvantaged children.

Critical to this direction towards a sustainable community has been Misión México’s young adults becoming independent and self-sufficient. A number of them are now at a stage in their lives where they need to establish life skills that are difficult to develop in the current Misión México system. Their Youth Transition Program will enable the teenagers in their transition to adulthood, whilst continuing their education, and will provide them with life skills that they would not have otherwise.

The full article is featured in the Mexican Chamber of Commerce  Mexico Weekly.

To support our Youth Transition Program please visit our program donation page or donate here.

Cooking dinner for the girls

Cooking dinner for the girls

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Riding the Monster Waves – our UK surf ambassador Andrew Cotton talks to 60 Minutes Australia

Not the surf break at Mision Mexico!  Andrew Cotton big wave riding

Our UK surf ambassador, Devon born Andrew Cotton, talks to 60 Minutes Australia’s Tara Brown about mastering the world’s biggest waves on Sunday night 8pm Sydney local time.

Andrew hit the headlines surfing a monster 8oft wave last October at Nazare, Portugal.

Andrew Cotton was born in Plymouth and grew up on the North Devon Coast where he first started surfing at the age of seven. Ever since then, catching waves and being in and around the ocean has been his life.
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When he left school he worked in a local surfboard factory until the age of twenty-five. He then re-trained as a plumber, but along the way began to realise that his real passion lay in big wave surfing. Initially Andrew focussed on helping to pioneer big wave spots in Ireland, and more recently he turned his attention to Nazare, Portugal. Numerous Billabong XXL entries followed and he came to wider attention in 2012 when he towed American surfer Garrett McNamara into what the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed as the biggest wave ever surfed.

Since then Andrew has a number of indisputably big waves under his belt, one or two of which have caused debate in the press as to whether they are even bigger than Garret’s record. With the national and global media coverage that followed, it might be said that he has been helping to push the boundaries as to what was thought possible and put Great Britain firmly on the surfing map.

Andrew became our UK surf ambassador in 2012 after the UK charity was established to raise funds for the children in Tapachula.

Andrew also said it was the passion for surfing and the great story behind Misión México that enticed him to get involved with us:

“Seeing the video Somewhere near Tapachula about the kids at Misión México and what Alan and Pamela Skuse were doing there really inspired me. Surfing has brought so much happiness into my life and seeing it do the same for these kids was amazing,? said the big wave professional surfer.

Andre’s sponsors include Tiki Surf Company Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport SunGod Sunglasses Bay Fitness Lifedge @dryrobe Mercedes-Benz South West and Island Tribe UK


Andrew and Katie Cotton with their children

Andrew’s wife, and mother of their two children, is not a surfing fan; “surfing doesn’t float my boat?. But she understands Andrew’s approach to what he does:
It’s a strong drive that he’s got and a fierce passion. And that’s admirable – he’s a good role model,? she said.

We’re delighted to have Andrew representing our surfing programme and supporting our efforts in the UK.

Our new Mision Mexico Surf Board

How to survive as a small charity in the UK

The UK is often held up as a very generous nation. The UK was announced the sixth most charitable nation in the World Giving Index 2013 published by the Charity Aid Foundation.

It isn’t surprising, therefore, that small charities have popped up all over the country with the tenacity of a garden weed. Of course, rather than being a scourge on our landscape, they are often the very fabric that hold our communities together and have affected individual lives profoundly. The UK’s Small Charity Week, is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges these small charities face and to ask ourselves how they ensure their work is recognised and understood.

The Misión México UK team, headed up by Deborah Grossman, supported by five Trustees, and a trusted team of volunteers, set up Misión México UK in 2012 to raise awareness of the refuge in Tapachula and support the programmes run for the children; namely the Education Programme, Surf Programme, Working Training Programme and Youth Transition Programme.  Here are some of the things we have learned so far.

board meeting June 2013

board meeting June 2013

Don’t try to compete with the ‘big boys’

Misión México is different to the bigger charities who support children. We stand for the same issues (education, empowering young girls and women, reducing poverty, supporting the recovery of children who have suffered physical and emotional abuse), but the Misión México vision and our purpose is unique to us. Furthermore, we simply do not have the same resources as the bigger organisations. We therefore, do not try to compete with larger charities for attention or space. We tailor our fundraising activities to our vision and the resources at our disposal. We share the Misión Mexico story amongst and through our colleagues, friends and family. We ask them to tell our balance toddler

Investing in volunteers

Misión México, like many small charities, would simply not exist without the time, expertise and support given to us by our volunteers. Whether this be helping us to run the Misión México website, holding fundraising events, taking photos and making videos for us, or whether it be going to Mexico to teach music, to help the children with homework, to spend time surfing, we rely on people giving us their time. We are constantly trying to improve our mechanisms for recruiting volunteers and ensuring that we are investing in them and supporting them in their own development when we can. We truly believe that you should invest in your volunteers.

Volunteers helping out at Mexican Independence Day celebrations 2031 in London

Volunteers helping out at Mexican Independence Day celebrations 2031 in London

Making your story relevant

Misión México faces a big challenge of making our story relevant in the UK. We are small, and the reason we exist is to support children in Mexico. Making our story relevant to people here has been a challenge. However, some things in life cross boundaries. The suffering of children is one of these. No matter who you are or where you live, we all believe in taking care of children. Therefore by sharing our children’s stories and showing that there are some things all children have in common, we are building trust and gaining traction in the UK.

Learning from, and sharing with, small charities

We have learned a great deal from other incredible charities such as New Life Mexico and International Refugee Trust who have a similar set up to ourselves. We would like to collaborate more with other small charities to network, share ideas, and support each other. Often small charities perceive themselves as being in competition with each other for people’s attention, time, and money but we believe that more can be gained through sharing learning and resources and through collaboration. We have found the networking opportunities afforded to us by Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS), the Institute of Funding and the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) very useful.

Understanding your impact

Cristian, Alex y Jennifer

Cristian, Alex y Jennifer

Understanding the difference you are making is vital for small charities and yet is notoriously difficult. Often collecting robust statistical data is just not possible and so we are often left wondering what impact our work is having. We at Misión México are very lucky to be able to see the effect our work is having on the children we support every day. For us, the most effective means of showing those who support us just what their time and money is contributing towards, is by telling stories. We ask the children at the refuge what their life is like at the refuge, how things have changed, what their dreams are, what their passions are. This allows our audience to build a type of relationship with them and thus see what a difference we are making. Our children are writing their own blog posts now and sharing their lives with us on Facebook.

While the past two years has been full of challenges and we are very proud of how much we have learned so far. It is our hope that we will be able to continue to learn from and work alongside other small charities to ensure we are can continue to help the most vulnerable in our society.

Debs, Marli, Marie Ester, Junior, Jennifer & Pam

Debs, Marli, Marie Ester, Junior, Jennifer & Pam

Father’s Day – reminding us that not all men are bad!

One of life’s strangest paradoxes is that despite holding the dominant position in the professional, social and often private arena, men have a really bad reputation. It could be argued that this is justified to a certain degree by the seemingly endless stories we see in the media or hear through the proverbial grape vine of men who have used their physical stature, positions of power or the cultural conveniences into which they are born to hurt those within their reach. Of course, we should not deny, nor ignore those stories. However, we should remember that there are many men to celebrate and Father’s Day is the perfect day to do that.

As we did in our post Inspiring Change for Women. Is it a man’s job? father’s day is another   occasion to celebrate men who commit themselves to being good fathers, husbands, neighbours, teachers and friends.  One of these men is Alan Skuse, a self-confessed: ‘“husband, father, grandfather, worker, director (of the orphanage),  surfer and  sportsman.? So how is he getting on with the ‘father’ bit? We asked his children!

Griselda, 19 years.
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Griselda, studying in last year of school

“Fathers are there to teach us the meaning of love, respect, honesty, humility, patience, friendship, but above all to never give up. Papa taught me that when people fall they need to learn to get up. He showed me that surfing could be a way to overcome my past. I never knew that passion for something could be so strong to help you rebuild and now I understand that my life is important. More important than anything, within a few weeks of arriving at Mission Mexico he gained my trust and became my father. He has shown me that a father is someone who is there for you every day.”

Maria, 18 years.

Maria, studying at hgh school

Maria, studying at hgh school

“It is a fathers job to love and take care of us. Papa teaches me to be a great person  and that you need to behave well and be a good person in everything you do. He tells us to follow our dreams. I love it when he spends time with us on Sundays playing football.”

Delmar, 19 years.

Delmar, skateboarding and surfing are favoutire past times

Delmar, skateboarding and surfing are favoutire past times

“Father’s are there to take care of their children. When he realised that I had gone through difficult times he taught me to give up drugs and follow a good path. What I like about him is that he gives me advice.”

Lupita, 16 years

Lupita has been with Alan and Pam since she was a little girl

“It is a father’s job to take care and give us the support when we need it. He helps us understand how to behave well in order to be a better person in the future and has taught me how to be a good example to the younger children and to respect the volunteers, I love it when he spends time with us and we enjoy ourselves.”

Happy Father’s Day Alan and thank you for reminding us that many men have a lot to be proud of!

Mama, Papa and kids

What will you wax for Misión México?

JuniorWax on, wax off!

Have you got some hair that should probably be removed? Yes? Great! No? Well do it anyway!

We’re pleased to announce Misión México is tearing ourselves off our boards as we’re being featured on the Big Wax Wednesday, a new fundraising challenge helping to raise money for great causes.

In order to get involved, all you have to do is nominate a part of your body you’ll wax, start raising money, then take part in the Big Wax on Wednesday, 25 June!

Andrew Cotton, professional big wave surfer and Mision Mexico ambassador, is supporting this campaign;

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can participate from where ever you like!”

What are the Big Wax Wednesday rules?

Want to learn the rules? You can find out all you need to know on the Big Wax Wednesday site.

And if you participate and have a hairy friend, you shouldn’t forget to ‘Wax & Nominate’. It’s the right thing to do… because it’s for charity! Make sure you take some photos to share with friends to help raise money. Read more on Mision Mexico’s fundraising tips.

Tell us here what you intend to wax and we look forward to seeing some silky smooth skin all over the globe on Wednesday, 25 June.

So go on, wax on, wax off!

Papa on his surf board...what will he wax?!

Papa on his surf board…what will he wax?!

Women’s t-shirt – Military Green

This long-sleeved, sheer (T-shirt) provides a subtle peek of skin at the sleeves, with an extra-long and slim-fitting cut throughout the torso. Ideally tailored to hug and flatter your curves, this shirt can be worn alone with a cami, tank or bandeau underneath, or as an undershirt to provide an extra layer and pop of color. Try it underneath a vest, short-sleeved shirt or sleeveless dress. The small, round neckline is soft and feminine — ideal for good neck and facial lines — and the mesh fabric is breathable, comfortable and totally en vogue. Shirt comes in S, M, L and XL; 78 cm long. Choose from military green, cherry red or sophisticated black. (via dresshead)

Where’s your Sombrero mate? Mexican culture in Victoria


Where’s your Sombrero Mate Coffee Book

We at Misión Méxio love stories. We love telling them, we love listening to them and we love sharing them with the world. In fact, we don’t just love stories; we believe that they are hugely powerful. Story telling has been the way in which humans have communicated with each other since time began; we use them to pass on wisdom, to travel to other times and places, to entertain and to explore who we are in relation to this big bad world we live in. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of story telling is how you tell it using words, photography, art, music and dance.

You can imagine how excited we are then, to be working with Mexican born photographer, Sergio Villasenor Ramirez, the mind behind Smoking Mirror Photography. A fellow story teller and advocate for Mexican culture, he has created a beautiful coffee book with the support of the Mexican Social and Cultural Association in Victoria entitled Where’s your Sombrero mate? to tell the story of Mexican people living in Melbourne, Australia. Not only that, he is donating all proceeds to Misión México!

We asked Sergio why he decided to support us:

“Being a Mexican living in Australia I felt compelled to support Misión México as it felt like I was giving back a little bit to both countries at the same time. Chiapas is a beautiful but one of the poorest places in Mexico; crime and violence run rampant.  The fact that (Australian born) Pam and Alan decided to stay there for good and endure all kind of problems and risks in order to support these kids says a lot about them.  And that is what I like about Misión México: it is an act of love.?

And he has decided to support this act of love with a labour of love. We are incredibly proud to be working with creative story tellers such as Sergio. Please do have a look at his beautiful website: and his fantastic book Where is your Sombrero mate?. If you do nothing else today, tell someone a story!


Winter Magic Festival fundraiser in the Blue Mountains

Misión México will be represented at The Winter Magic Festival. The Winter Magic Festival is a free, annual community event, celebrated around the Winter solstice in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia.

Winter Magic is the Blue Mountains highest profile and most anticipated annual event. It is the weekend when artists, musicians, dancers, drummers, choirs, stalls and community take over one of Australia’s most famous towns.

The mother of one of Misión México’s volunteers, Dominic Attard, is fundraising for Misión México by selling a selection of vegetarian food at one of the stalls of the festival.

In addition to this the Katoomba/Leura Senior citizens group are graciously lending us their cafe kitchen to prepare the food and will also be making a donation.

If you are attending the Winter Magic Festival be sure to stop by the Misión México fundraiser stall to try some of the delicious food and let us know how it was! Winter in the Blue Mountains is a special time and this festival always proves a great day out.

Got a fundraising idea? Let us know!

Winter magic festival logo

Dominic Attard at Mision Mexico in Tapachula.

Dominic Attard at Mision Mexico in Tapachula.


Hey grown ups – you have a lot to learn from us kids!

Today is Children’s Day in Mexico, and to celebrate we decided to hand over this blog to Marie Ester, eight years old (nine next month!), she lives with Pam and Alan at the refuge in Tapachula, Mexico and despite not having the easiest start to life she loves being a kid. In fact she believes that adults have a lot to learn from them.

We asked her to tell her what it is like to be a child at Misión México. This is what she told us.

Marie Esther in her Easter Bonnet

“Sharing my life with the other children of Misión México is the best thing.  I have a big family and I am never alone. Here I have everything and everything I have is thanks to Mum and Dad. The opportunities I have make me work harder.

The things I like about Misión México  is that I have friends with me. I hope that when I finish school I will be able to work and be able to help by giving back to Misión México.?

One of the best things about being a child according to Marie Esther is that they get to have fun and play games. She loves being creative and using her imagination; currently she is learning how to hand-stitch dresses for her dolls.

“When I play I am able to have fun and express myself. I learn to dance, to have fun, to surf, to skate, to sing, to play piano and to draw. Of all these things my favourite thing is drawing and reading books that are really interesting.”

Wise beyond her years, Marie Esther has a lot to teach us ‘grown ups’. Not yet blinded by never ending work loads, peer pressure, mortgages or expensive things she knows what is truly important.

Marie Esther and Ali with their eggs at Easter

Marie Esther and Ali with their eggs at Easter

“The things I love most in my life is that I have a big family, lots of friends and that I have everything I need that my Mother and Father have given me. I am not looking to have too much in life at this moment as I am happy just to have fun – life is short!!?

This Children’s Day, we at Misión México are thankful to have so many intelligent, creative and loving children in our midst who can remind us to make sure have fun no matter what we do. Please don’t let us forget it!

To help Misión México provide happy childhoods to children like Marie Esther please consider sponsoring a child today.

Ruben y Marie Esther at the beach

Ruben and Marie Esther having fun in the water

Childhood – it’s a risky business!

Contrary to what fairy tales and cartoons tell us, in most parts of the world being a child is a risky business. According to UNICEF, 7.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year. Of the 200 million that survive, their formative years are often spent overcoming obstacles and expectations placed on them according to their family’s income, where they are born, their ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Some children then face the further challenges of disability, learning difficulties or behavioural issues. This is before you begin considering children who are exposed to physical, emotional or mental abuse, extreme poverty, slavery, prostitution, natural disasters, civil wars, substance abuse and so on. This is something we at Misión México cannot ignore, especially on Children’s Day.

The importance of ‘childhood’ is undisputed: it is a time when children develop self-concept which affects the way they approach any situation, task or relationship; it is a time for them to explore, gain confidence and take risks in a safe environment; and it is a time to learn how to succeed and, perhaps more importantly, learn how to fail.

Having fun at the beach!

The devastating emotional and behavioural effects negative experiences and relationships during early childhood development have on children, and the adults they become is not only felt at an individual level but effects the communities they are a part of. This partly explains cycles of poverty and highlights the importance of taking care of children so they can grow into successful adults that contribute to the economic and social development of their communities.

At Misión México, we are determined to invest in all our children at the earliest stage possible by providing good nutrition, health care, education, and a loving and encouraging environment where everyone has the safety and space they need to learn about themselves and what they are capable of, to learn resilience and how to bounce back from failure, and to learn about the world around them.

Cristian, Alex y Jennifer

Cristian, Alex y Jennifer

The introduction of our The Youth Transition Program (YTP) which focuses on those young people at Misión México reaching adulthood, shows our children are growing into  inspiring, clever, ambitious teenagers and young adults. Every day we see first-hand the colossal difference taking a child out of an unsafe environment and giving them their childhood back can have. Moacir, one of the first children Pam and Alan Skuse took under their wing is now living, studying and working in Australia. Another of Misión México’s success stories is Dulce who described the moment she arrived at Misión México,

“Suddenly I didn’t have to work, I didn’t have to worry, all I had to do was study?

Children’s Day in Mexico is about celebrating children and learning from them. Our children at Misión México have taught us how important it is to have a childhood and how resilient children can be when it is taken away from them too soon. It is our mission to give back to our children, the fun, adventure and carelessness of childhood by providing them with safe base from which to explore. We do this by giving them good food, love, safety and education.  In return they remind us every day to be more childlike – to explore, to learn and to have fun no matter what!

Ballet students

Ballet students