Saturday, 2 August 2014

Mexico: Two Weeks In

It's been exactly two weeks since I landed in Mexico for my month adventure volunteering at various projects along the Western Coast and I've learnt more about myself and my abilities during that time than in my entire time at University so far. Quite simply; it's been amazing. 

Everyone always says that you should go traveling to 'find yourself' and I had never realised how true that was until I came here. This past academic year has been one of the hardest but most amazing of my life, and although I felt a sense of achivement overcoming all those obstacles during that period, I felt lost with where I was meant to go next with my life. I was questioning how I felt about myself, my relationships with others, my future. I didn't know myself anymore. But now I really think I'm starting to.

For anyone who is not aware I am volunteering here in Mexico with the charity 'The Seaver Foundation' for four weeks at four seperate non-profit projects: A children's refuge, a street project, a children's summer sports club and a disability day care centre . All four projects support children who have been abandoned, abused or orphaned. Many have traumatic pasts and suffer disabilities, social and behavioural difficulties, meaning they need more support than other children. The projects are all extremely short-staffed, but manage during school time when the children are out during the day however, throughout the Summer holidays, the volunteer team flies in to offer a range of wellbeing enhancing activities. My main base has been the day care centre where I have been helping with physio and massage as well as running activities such as decorating canvas bags and music and dance. I've also been putting my degree to use and doing some child centred evaluations at the orphanage. This involves asking the children their opinions on the volunteer experience using basic psychological testing, as well as conducting observations during activities or play, something that really sets this organisation apart! You could tell the children love sharing their views and enjoy the one-on-one time.

So with so much going on what have I learnt so far? I'm a lot more able than I think: I really worry about my abilities. I'm often putting myself down and saying 'Oh no I could never do that!' But when I put my mind to achieving something I can do it, even if it takes a little longer than I hoped. And with that all in mind... It's okay to be wrong: if you don't ever try you'll never know all the amazing things you are capable of and for some people the fact that you even tried is more than enough. I want to travel: I always knew I did. But I have never been more determined than now. Hearing stories from other travellers in the hostel has ignited the fire in me to really get up and do something about it this year. I'm finally going to make plans to see all of those things I wanted to see. And whereas before I would never have even dared consider going alone, now I feel really confident in my ability to make friends and be independent. Something I never thought would EVER happen. It's okay not to do what you expected: I am a planner. I make plans. And when I stray from those plans I get confused and stressed and don't know how to react. But working in the environment I do is all about being able to adapt and create an activity then and there, or even forget the one you have and use your time to help wherever necessary. And even in a much broader sense it's okay not to have your life planned out. I set an expectation for myself of where I thought I would be by the time I'm thirty and before this trip the idea of not reaching that goal frightened me. But now I can see all the other goals I can achieve even if I have to push that one back a few years. And you know what... that's okay. Any progress is good progress: It can be so fraustrating to come back to work after a few days off to see that a child you've been working with is almost as stiff as when you first started or has a complete lack of concentration again after working on it for a week. But it's so important to remember that even if their arm can stretch an extra 1inch than when we first started or they can concentrate 30 second longer, then that is progress. It's those little steps that make the difference.  The littlest things can make you happiest: You will never believe this more than the look on a child's face when they make a nice drawing or when somone really makes progress with their physio. They are just so happy. Those little things: creating something to be proud of, learning something new, getting to sit and learn something new about someone...  Those are the things that should make you happy and create a positive life. Small things can have a big impact and it's important to remember that.

I left the UK with a little apprehension and I'll be honest, I wasn't really sure what to expect. The thought of living with 12 other people you don't know that well for a month is daunting in itself. And when you throw in how you'll be feeling after working each day and the effects of the sun and heat it can become a bit overwhelming but I can honestly say although I am exhausted it has been one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing the children's faces light up when we go to visit is unlike anything else and seeing the progress made by everyone at the daycare centre, not only physically but their confidence and watching them open up to us has truly been a blessing.  We only have a month to make as much of a difference in these people's lifes as possible and with so much planned I feel confident in our abilities and enthusiasm. And even if I can't meet all my goals, if I leave here having left one person with a positive memory to cherise it will be worth it. I can only hope I am positively affecting these people's lives as much as they are affecting mine.

Big ♥,

PS. If you want to hear exactly what I've been doing each day then have a look over on my Instagram (@VousSouriez) where I have been doing daily updates 
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