Category Archives: Success stories

I Lost My Dream

I Lost My Dream – Trailer from Stefan Hunt on Vimeo.

We are so proud to share the trailer for Stefan Hunt’s (Somewhere Near Tapachula) new short film I Lost My Dream which follows the true story of our very own Moacir Zeledon. And trust us when we say, it is another beautifully filmed and extremely moving piece of art I Lost My Dream premiered at the Heart Of Gold Film Festival (Australia) AND picked up a.n award at the DC Adventure Film Festival (USA) this month! Further screenings are taking place at the following film festivals prior to release:

Grab your amigos and come and be inspired! Watch the full length movie of I Lost My Dream

Congrats Stefan Hunt on creating another masterpiece, and to his super talented crew behind this production including Campbell Brown, Jonny Higgins, Matt Fehrenbach, Robbie Warden, Joel Russell, Mark Blondel, Jonno Durrant, Moacir Zeledon, Pamela Skuse, and the kids of Mision Mexico.

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

Mother’s day – Mum’s inspiring change

This past month we have been celebrating International Women’s Day at Mision México. We have interviewed three of our incredible young ladies, explored the role of men in inspiring change for women, and now on Mother’s Day we turn our attention to mums.

International mum movements

The role of educated, empowered, equipped mothers in the development of their families, communities and nations is widely documented and underpins the push behind many campaigns aimed at young girls such as The Girl Effect led by Nike Foundation, in collaboration with the NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and Coalition for Adolescent Girls. The idea behind many of these international movements is to “leverage the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families, their communities, their countries and the world.?

The international community is united in their desire to end the suffering of women for whom motherhood has been forced upon them too early or has caused them great suffering due to a lack of access to maternal health care. Furthermore, there is a recognition that young girls who become mothers too early leave school, are unable to work or generate an income, which not only leaves themselves and their children in a hugely vulnerable position, but means they are not contributing to the economic growth of their country. In fact, in India, adolescent pregnancy results in nearly $10billion in lost potential income per year! It is also well documented that children of mothers who have been forced into motherhood too early are likely to repeat the pattern and so the cycle of poverty continues.

Pamela Skuse’s effect at Mision Mexico

 At Mision México we have seen the powerful effect a strong, compassionate, loving mother can have on young girls (and boys). Pamela Skuse has become a source of inspiration, comfort and advice for all her children and her determination that they should be educated, compassionate and driven can be seen in the choices they make and the self believe they exhibit.

She is an example of how when we invest in young girls, they grow up to be well equipped mothers, who break the cycle of poverty for their children. Pam’s children have come from a wide range of backgrounds, some poor, some abusive, some neglectful. She changed their lives, with the help of our sponsors, by giving them an education and instilling in them determination, self believe, and a desire to follow their dreams. We have already seen the effect this has had on Maria, Katherine and Dulce and we can’t wait to see how they, and all the children at the refuge, change the world for themselves, their future families and their communities.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May we wish a Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers out there working hard to give their children the childhood they deserve and may we thank those investing in young girls all over the world so they may reach their full potential and inspire change in their own lives and the lives of others if they choose to become mothers. May you have a restful day surrounded by those who love you most.

Inspiring Change for Women – is it a Man’s Job?

This International Women’s Day we have celebrated many women all over the world such as Katherine, Maria and Dulce, who have inspired change in their own lives and in the lives of others. We have taken stock of the huge amount of work still needed to be done to end violence against women, to give them access to education and health care, to break glass ceilings in the work place and provide them with access to political power so that their voices may be heard.  We have talked, and rightly so, about what women can instigate, what women can create and what women can change. However, there is one slightly uncomfortable, yet important truth, we haven’t spoken much about:

“Inspiring change for women is a man’s issue?

This controversial proposition is dealt with eloquently by Jackson Katz where he speaks about Gender Violence in the United States. He refutes the position that gender violence is a “women’s issue which some good men help out with? arguing that by calling it a “women’s issue? we give men an excuse not to pay attention, which prevents introspective thinking by men about their dominance and thus the power systems women dispute go unchallenged by those maintaining them.

Mision Mexico’s Alan Skuse

Therefore, while it is imperative that we empower women to inspire lasting change in their own lives and in the lives of others, if we ignore men we will get nowhere. Men like Alan Skuse, who is a key instigator of change for the young girls living at Misión México. In fact, his very identity is defined firstly by the relationships he has with women.

“I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a worker, a director (of the refuge), a surfer and a sportsman.?

He is a firm believer that two approaches to inspiring change need to take place. Firstly, we need to help young girls and women to “believe in themselves; to become confident that they are equal and have a valued place in society” and secondly, we need to “educate young boys and men so that they see women as equal and not there for the convenience of men.?

Alan giving a lesson on condensation

Alan giving a lesson on condensation

This is not an easy task, especially in Tapachula where “it appears that men think that they have more rights simply because they are men.? As a father to a large number of young boys, he struggles against a culture where “men here feel they have a right to have a wife and a family and more often than not a mistress or two and children to them also.? He worries about the “example are they setting for their sons? which undermines the progress women are making in fostering an equal society.

A firm believer that “actions speak louder than words? and acutely aware of his responsibility to be a good role model, he takes his role as a father and grandfather very seriously:

Papa and the girls

Papa and the girls

“I try to show respect to all the women in my life; my wife, my daughters, and all the girls placed in our care. I encourage the girls to challenge themselves and strive for higher levels in their education and sporting activities so that they develop a strong belief in themselves.  I am also constantly telling the boys to show respect to the girls. They have grown up in an underprivileged society where they haven’t had good role models.?

Therefore, while it could be argued that inspiring change for women should be led by women, we shouldn’t ostracize men. Rather we should challenge them to make women’s empowerment their issue and we should celebrate those that have already done so. At Misión México we are very proud to know men all over the world who challenge existing power systems and ideologies that discriminate against women just by being themselves; men whose very nature it is to treat women as equal; men who commit themselves to being good fathers, husbands, neighbours, teachers and friends.

lan and the kids enjoying a family day at the beach

Alan and the kids enjoying a family day at the beach

Maria’s Story – Inspiring change for International Women’s Day

In the run up to International Women’s day 2014, we at Mision México have decided to interview three exceptional young ladies from our family. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring change’ and these girls certainly do that! So far we have spoken to Katherine and Dulce and last, but certainly not least, it’s Maria!

Maria

Maria at her Christmas Concert 2014

If Maria was a Spice Girl, she would be sporty spice! She is a keen surfer and football player and is currently studying dance. Her dream is to run her own dance studio and help children overcome trauma through dance. Like all the young ladies at Mision México she is talented, intelligent and highly motivated to build on the change she has seen in her life and become a successful young lady!

What strikes you most when you speak to Maria is her sheer determination to “be the best I can be in everything I do.?  Her can-do attitude to life is mirrored on that of her sporting hero Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer, who lost an arm after being attacked by a shark. “She showed women that, even when missing a part of ourselves, we can do amazing things, and that we deserve to be treated equally? she told me.

Maria’s call for change

Maria is adamant that things need to change for women all over the world: “men can treat us as if we are cheaper when we are not. Being a woman in Mexico is tough.? Maria certainly speaks from experience. Her ‘womanhood’ was forced upon her far too early when, aged three, her mother died. Aged 5 she was forced into domestic slavery by her family who sent her to live with a stranger after her grandfather tried to sexually abuse her. You can see her full story below in an MTV documentary “Invisible Slaves? where she tells her own “Cinderella? story of domestic servitude, sleeping on a cardboard sheet, and being beaten with a cord when she hadn’t sold enough in the street. Her story begins at 8.07mins

Thankfully, her life changed “completely?, when aged 8 she found the courage to run away from where she was living and seek the help of a lady she often sold to. Once they believed her story she was referred to the social services and eventually Mision México  where “I had two parents who showed me what it was like to have unconditional love, and I had a big family to show me what it was like to be united.?  This changed her life; she became proud of who she was.

Maria teaching dancing at Mision Mexico

Maria teaching dancing at Mision Mexico

For Maria, change needs to occur in every aspect of women’s lives in every corner of the world – they need greater access to education, to jobs, to political power, but perhaps most importantly, to hope, to safety and to acceptance. When I asked her what advice she had for young girls all over the world she told me “things need to change so that all women everywhere can be proud of who they are, and are not scared of being women. They need to be who they really are, to be the very best they can be and to never give up.?

On International Women’s day, we often celebrate how concrete development initiatives such as education programmes, maternal health initiatives and micro finance projects change the lives of women and their communities as it is easy to evidence. What is more difficult to understand, yet just as important to consider, is how “softer? interventions such as how providing a young girl with community, safety and love can change her life immeasurably.

Pam Skuse and Maria flying high

Pam and Maria flying high

Dulce’s story – Inspiring change for International Women’s day

In the run up to International Women’s day 2014, we at Mision México have decided to interview three exceptional young ladies from our family. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring change’ and these girls certainly do that! Last week, we interviewed Katherine. Next up, it’s Dulce,

Dulce Surfing

Dulce Surfing

Dulce is another of Mision México’s bright, compassionate young ladies who has overcome a very difficult childhood. Now a keen surfer, a passion she inherited from her father Alan Skuse, she inspires the younger girls in her family to surf without fear and to hold their own with the boys! She loves music and, like Katherine, has chosen to pursue a career that allows her to help others: social work. She is currently in university and describes the purpose of social work as  “letting people know that, as human beings, we all have the same rights – women as much as men.?  When asked why she chose to study social work she told me:

Decision to pursue Social Work

“Mum (Pam Skuse) had such a good life in Australia and she left it behind and changed everything so she could help all of us. She’s been a real inspiration and continues to help even when being incredibly challenged with the children at the refuge. That’s why I’m studying to be a Social Worker, because Mum inspires me to help others.?

Dulce’s story

Dulce ready for class

Dulce ready for class

Dulce’s journey to University, however, has by no means been smooth. When I asked her what the biggest challenge in her life has been, it wasn’t losing her mother to a terminal illness aged 7 or being forced to beg on the streets for money aged 12 that she quotes. It was her grandmother telling her that she didn’t need to study and that a women’s place was at home to look after men that caused the most damage. A firm believer in education from a very young age, Dulce looked to the social services for help who referred her to Mision México. Once there Pam confirmed what Dulce already knew: that she should study.

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

However, her studies where further interrupted by her worry for her younger brother who she supported through rehab to help him beat this drug addiction. Unsurprising the emotional strain affected her progress at school.  “I kept asking myself ‘why is this happening to me?’ It is so hard to concentrate in school when you are so sad and I began to doubt myself and think maybe my grandmother was right.?

Mision Mexico inspiring change

However, thanks to her own strength of character, bolstered by Pam and Alan’s continual encouragement, she completed high school and is now flourishing at university. While she recognises that it is hard being a woman, she is proud to be one and admires them for being mentally strong, caring and acutely aware of what is going on around them. This year’s International Women’s Day is important to Dulce: “Change needs to occur, so women are finally equal,? she told me, “all girls should have access to education; they need to show the world that jobs are not only for men!?

Dulce

Dulce Surfing

Dulce represents the self-starters of this world; those of us who know that they possess the intelligence, determination and compassion needed to succeed. Those of us who challenge the status quo and strive for change at all costs. Those of us with self–belief even when circumstance and loved ones tell us we shouldn’t. Not all girls are lucky enough to possess this self-belief, and never have access to the tools to find it – Dulce believes education, family and compassion are what is needed.

Katherine’s story – Inspiring change for International Women’s Day

In the run up to International Women’s day 2014, we at Mision México have decided to interview three exceptional young ladies from our family. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring change’ and these girls certainly do that! First up, Katherine. Also read Dulce and Maria’s stories

Katherine's story

Katherine

I, Clare McBrien, was lucky enough to interview Katherine in early February. Now 22, she is an intelligent, articulate, passionate young lady studying to be a doctor. She enjoys playing basketball with her dad Alan, (when they play on the same team they always win) and her favourite singer is Shakira. She studies incredibly hard and has the world at her feet!  Thanks to the bravery of her mothers, (she has two) and her own determination, her life has seen a dramatic change.

Originally from El Salvador, the word she used most frequently to describe her experience there was ‘nada’ or nothing. “There was no food, no school, no house, nothing. There everyone is very poor.?  Her childhood was punctuated by experiences of an abusive father, prison-like refuges, sexual harassment and immigrating to Mexico with her mother where continues to fight to get a permanent residency. She moved into Mision México after running away from home and stayed there for 5 years where she thrived.

Now living with her biological family, I asked her what it meant to be a woman in Mexico. She told me it is “a way of life; an opportunity, a blessing and a challenge.? She believes women are “brave, strong, intelligent and loving?; qualities she has seen in both her mothers – Ana, her biological mother, and Pam, her mother at Mision México. “My mothers are my inspiration; they are two completely different women, both with very hard lives.  They have shown me how to overcome difficulties. They cry, and then they get up and keep going.? 

Katherine y Pam 2012

Katherine and Pam in 2012

Katherine on education and faith

Katherine has had to learn this lesson quickly and has done so with remarkable tenacity. When speaking to her it quickly became clear that her life is based upon two core pillars: education and faith.

Katherine and mother Ana

Katherine and mother Ana

Very aware of how lucky she is to live in a country where women are “free?, Katherine studies 6 days a week from 6.30 until 11am and then works is in hospital from 12pm until 10pm. “I am really happy to do it,? she told me “it is great to feel that people trust me.? She learned the value of education from her mother Pam who told her to forget about boys until she had finished school.  In fact, when asked how we can inspire change for the lives of women, it is education she turns to. “Ever since I was a little girl I have seen how intelligent girls are, then I see them fall in love, fall pregnant and leave school. This has to change; they could have a life full of success. Out of all the girls in my high school year, only 5 of us are still in education!? She firmly believes that “education is the most important thing to change the lives of women?.

The second thing that comes across is her faith; faith in God and faith in herself. “Believing is everything?, she told me when I asked her what advice she had for women and girls on International Women’s Day. “You have to have dreams, you have to follow your dreams, and you have to have faith in yourself. Life isn’t easy, there will always be difficult times, but if you believe you can do it then you will.?

Katherine is a young woman that encompasses this year’s International Women’s Day theme. She has overcome great difficulty and experienced profound change in her life thanks to two very special mentors, her own self belief, and education. Three things that we need to insure all young girls have access to if they are to change the world.

Katherine and friend Adrian

Katherine and friend Adrian at medical school