As an Australian, currently living in Mexico and interested in Latin America, I am also very interested in the growing relationships between Australian and various countries in the region.
I have recently discovered a series of columns that Australian ambassador to Mexico, Tim George, has written in the Mexican newspaper Excelsior. Most of the columns focus on links between Australia and Mexico. Here is my translation of a recent column. The original in Spanish is here.
AUSTRALIANS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN MEXICO
Since its foundation, the organisation has helped to transform the lives of more than 250 boys and girls
In my column this week I would like to tell you about Misión México, a shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas that offers a loving and stable home, in a time that they need it, to boys and girls at risk.
It pleases me exceedingly that there are strong links between Misión México and Australia. These ties go back to the year 2000, when an Australian couple Alan and Pamela Skuse left their home in the Australian state of Queensland to work as volunteers at a Tapachula shelter for a year. When the organisation that they were supporting closed its doors six months later, the couple felt obliged to make a decision that would change their lives for ever: return to Australia or take on the challenge of taking care of seven children who had nowhere to live and needed full-time care and attention.
Alan and Pamela decided to stay in Mexico and Misión México was born. The organisation provides a safe and loving home for minors of all ages that have suffered from abuse and neglect and for children who are orphans or have been abandoned. The number of children in Misión México constantly changes, but on average Misión México cares for between 40 and 50 children on a permanent basis. Since its foundation, Misión México has helped to transform the lives of more than 250 boys and girls.
When they arrive at Misión México, frequently the children have lost their confidence and faith in the world. Alan and Pamela have found a unique and very Australian way to restore their faith and confidence: through surfing. The surfing program at Misíon México started in 2003, when the Sunshine Beach Surf Life Saving Club in Australia made a donation of rescue and life-saving boards. Alan and two of his sons began to teach the kids to surf and the program really began to take off when volunteers organised more surfboards and they started to give proper classes.
Since then, through generous donations from Australia (including from Norm Innes, the former head of the acclaimed and famous surf brand Quiksilver) and the rest of the world, the boys and girls at Misión México have begun to surf the waves off the coast of Chiapas. They have even received lessons from professional American surfers Cheyne Cottrell and Brian Noell and some of the students have travelled to Australia on scholarships to take English classes and swimming and life-saving classes on surf beaches.
The Australian Embassy in Mexico is enormously proud of having assisted Misión México over the years through the Direct Aid Program. This year the embassy will provide funds to replace the roof in the dining area and the veranda. Last year the embassy provided Misión México with shade awnings so that the boys and girls could do sporting activities outside while being protected from the sun or rain. Recently, the Association of Diplomatic Spouses in Mexico has also supported Misión México by providing roof solar panels.
I invite you to visit the website of Misión México at http://lovelifehope.com to find out more about the organisation and the work they do.