Images via Guzman y Gomez
Situated in Tapachula, Mexico’s bustling southernmost city, is a small children’s refuge known as Misión México. Started by a couple from Australia’s Sunshine Coast, the orphanage provides children with backgrounds of abuse, neglect and poverty with a loving and safe environment to grow up in. Their story has captured the heart of the Guzman y Gomez team in Australia who have made it their personal mission to help fund the orphanage and change the lives of hundreds of kids. And their latest campaign is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Can you tell us about the Australian-run Misión México children’s refuge?
It started almost 15 years ago when Pam & Alan Skuse went to Tapachula to volunteer at an orphanage after their youngest child had finished school. While they were there, the orphanage closed down. They had to make a heart wrenching decision to either essentially save these orphaned children by starting their own refuge, or return home to the Sunshine Coast and their own large family comprising of six children. Bless their noble hearts, they started their own refuge, Misión México, and cared for these kids, many who have suffered unspeakable abuse and neglect, and have since gone on to give love, life, hope and an education to over 250 others. Wow!
And their refuge is special. It resembles a family home rather than an institution, where the children feel loved and secure. The children attend school, something most of them had not experienced before. They also have tutors and therapists as many of the children find it difficult to learn due to their abuse and background.
One unique thing that Pam & Alan have introduced is a swim and surf program. Their children are the only surfers in Tapachula. The program has allowed the children to find confidence in themselves and a belief that they can achieve anything they want.
How have you been able to use your business to support their work?
We try and help raise funds for them whenever we can. Principally, it’s via gold coin donations when we open a new restaurant on each Free Burrito Day. There are also ongoing collection boxes in each restaurant. But this year we are also trying to raise awareness and funds by holding a silent auction and donation drive via galabid.com/mexico and ending in a party, Misión Posible, in Sydney, at Barrio Chino on October 22nd.
We are also helping them build a surf school and social compound to teach the kids other life skills and continue to build on their self-esteem.
I think it’s important to let our customers know that we have a heart that stretches far beyond our love of our amazing food.
So you’ve come up with a pretty exciting way for people to support the future of Misión México through Misión Posible, tell us about it!
We wanted to try something different to your average fundraiser luncheon or dinner, so we decided to open a silent auction and donation page to the world. We have some once in a lifetime experience up for grabs; for example, an acoustic performance and time with Joel and Benji Madden in their private studio in LA for 4 people; tennis session for 2 people with Pat Rafter; a unique surfing experience with legendary Joel Parkinson; an AFL grand final weekend for 2016 for 4 people; a day with the Channel 9 commentary team at an SCG cricket match for 4 people.
In addition, everyone and anyone has the opportunity to make a donation. You can donate to medical expenses, swim classes, therapy (physical or emotional), dental care, optical care or, just make a general donation from $5 upwards. We are hoping to raise $200,000. That doesn’t even cover the cost of running the refuge for a year, but it’s a great start. Plus we can assure people that these funds are going STRAIGHT to Misión México and to improve the wellbeing of the children.
The silent auction and donations end in a Latin themed party on October 22nd in Sydney at Barrio Chino which anyone can attend.
What advice and insights can you offer businesses wanting to get involved with charities?
It’s important to get involved with a charity that resonates with the business and that you feel aligned with. Misión México isn’t our charity but one we readily support. It was established by such incredibly humble and loving Australians and their story is unique and extraordinary. I think that’s the Australian way… to back each other and to help where we can whether here or afar. We love that. And the results are amazing. Some of the children that they have “rescued” are now in medical school for example. We love that we can help them really changing children’s lives in ways they could never have dreamed of.