Hola Amigos! I have had the extreme fortune to travel these past few years, and while I may have seen centuries old buildings, gone swimming in pristine beaches, and witnessed extreme poverty and extreme wealth, nothing stays with me quite like the memories I have from my time volunteering in Mexico.
I spent 6 weeks in a town called Tapachula in June/July 2014 at Mision Mexico with my boyfriend and I WISH we could have stayed longer. This orphanage is run by two Australians who literally gave up their lives in Australia to help the children of an orphanage after it closed down due to lack of funds. You can read about the orphanage Mision Mexico here, but the clincher for me was their dedication to creating a safe environment for the kids. No volunteer can stay for less than 6 weeks, limiting the ‘revolving door’ aspect of many South East Asian orphanages. You are also required to produce a current police clearance and 2 written character references. (If you plan to volunteer somewhere else, please consider whether you are really helping the children, or simply feeding voluntourism of the country!)
These children are such beautiful souls, that I will never be able to forget. Long after leaving Mexico, I find small things reminding me of them, and wondering how they might be going. A quick scan of the Facebook and Instagram pages or the website helps me to feel connected, for now.
We found out about Mision Mexico via a Facebook post from a friend. At the time we were on a working holiday in Canada, and were studying to teach English as a foreign language. We were very low on funds, and were saving to move to China to teach and start earning better money than the minimum wage we were on. The only problem was; I had a huge desire to revisit Latin America. I loved the language, the music and the food on my previous travels. The thought of leaving North America without another trip down there was killing me! BUT we had very little money to justify a holiday.
Cue very informative Facebook post. I clicked on the link and researched the orphanage, where they were, what they did, and the very important- how much it would cost to become a Volunteer there. What I found was a very affordable volunteer program, in which program fees would go to the Mision Mexico directly rather than towards extensive marketing. It would also provide us with an opportunity to gain experience with kids- invaluable for our future teaching careers.
With all of this information, I was easily able to sell the idea to my boyfriend. We completed the application form (in fact I think I completed his for him before even talking to him about it!) and arranged an Australian Police Clearance online. Six months later we were on a trip to Mexico we never would have thought we could budget for.
Volunteering as a couple, Mision looked after us, scheduling our volunteer shifts together, and at the time they were even able offer us an apartment down the street from the green house- ‘La Casa Verde’ as we came to know the Orphanage. This was very cheap and allowed us a double bed, however we decided to stay in the volunteer apartment onsite; which is comfortable, secure, clean, and most importantly it is close to all the action!
The thing is- 40 children don’t just look after themselves! And two people aren’t enough to take on the challenge of meals, supervision and the all-important entertainment for 40 children.
The orphanage just does NOT run without people like you and I. Everyday people who know how to cook some rice and can learn to change a nappy (it’s easy, even my boyfriend managed it!). You may have some special skills, and that’s great, they will be gratefully received; but it’s not essential that you have some talent or wisdom to share. Just being you, and being there is all it takes!
It is hard work at times; the kids need discipline just like you or I did growing up. They can get up to all sorts of mischief if you’re not on the ball. Then the endless games of basketball, football, ballet practice and even just running around after toddlers, who may or may not end up doing explosive poops (!) will definitely take it out of you.
So here’s what you will get out of this situation; because let’s be honest, not many of us are so completely selfless that we don’t expect to benefit from the things we do. And that’s OK!
Doing good things- makes you feel good! That’s a fact.
Laughing children- make you feel happy!
Mischievous children- will make you laugh!
You will make new friends from all over the world! It’s impossible not to share these experiences with fellow volunteers and not form a bond.
Watching children perform at a ballet concert, or in a play, or in an orchestra, when you know they were once so close to being forgotten on the streets, or perhaps even killed by the abuse they lived have through- This makes you feel proud.
Proud of the kids, for working so hard at those things. And proud of the work Mision Mexico does every day; which is the work YOU are doing today! Being a part of something bigger than yourself is the biggest reward you’ll find.
Remember, this was work not a holiday. You are expected to be responsible and present whenever you are scheduled. However, you will be lucky enough to experience working in a Tropical country with a deserted, world class surf break half an hour away ($6 Australian dollars and some local know-how will get you there by Taxi and Tricycle).
As well as countless Mexican and Foreign restaurants and pubs nearby to spend your down time; if you are that way inclined (ask about Marinni’s and La Jefa!).
I hope this helps inspire you to take on the challenge, I know from experience how rewarding it can be. I hope to return one day; and who knows maybe we will meet at Mision Mexico in the future!
For more information on volunteering at Mision Mexico contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
or send me a comment with any questions about my experience!
Visit their website here to get involved!