We all have our own special memories of Christmas, whether it was singing carols, being in the school nativity play or lying awake in the dark in the hope of hearing reindeer feet on the roof. The 54 children who live in the Misión México ins Tapachula in Southern Mexico have very different memories however, as they only have memories of gang violence, abandonment and sexual abuse.
Instead of cuddling up on the sofa watching The Snowman, 10 year old José spent Christmas sleeping on the street as a drug addict, 3 year old Alex was being burned by cigarettes and 13 year old Moacir never took his eyes off the door hoping his mum was going to come back to him.
Indeed too many children never experience the magic of Christmas. In November 2000, Pam and Alan Skuse left their home in Australia to spend a year volunteering at an orphanage in Tapachula. After six months, it was closed down which left them with an incredible decision to make; to return to Australia, or take on the challenge of caring for the remaining seven children full time. The thought of leaving the children to return to life on the streets, and lives of abuse, was not an option; so despite the lack of resources and support, Misión México was established. Since then the Skuse’s have been mum and dad to over 300 abused and abandoned children.
From the moment they wake the children up in the morning, Pam and Alan, along with volunteers, work tirelessly to provide the children in their care with a loving family home, the opportunity to go to school and lots of bedtime stories.
Pam and Alan said “…other than being able to provide for them all the basic needs, to give them the opportunity for an education and then see the positive results of this, is wonderful.”
As well as an education, one of the most precious things Pam and Alan have given their children is a passion for surfing. ‘Supporting our children in surfing is a means of restoring their self esteem and hope for all the possibilities that life has to offer them’
Every weekend the whole family piles into two minibuses and make their way down to the beach to play, to learn and to heal. José, like his brothers and sisters have found a new love for life thanks to his family and to surfing.
José said “Surfing is something special; it’s not just a sport its part of my life. I feel like I don’t need anything more. I don’t need to take drugs. There is nothing better than surfing.”
It is stories such as Pam and Alan’s that remind us to take a break from the ‘Commercial Christmas’ and remember the original story behind the holiday. All of us can empathise with the tale of a young family with nowhere to go and we can admire the charity shown by a certain innkeeper who took them in when nobody else would.
However, Pam and Alan are not simply innkeepers for these children. They are a mother and father and have made it their mission to provide a loving, secure home for their extraordinary family; somewhere they can feel safe, where they can create new Christmas memories.
While it has been difficult to take care of a big family, two of the oldest children – Moacir and José – have grown into passionate, successful, energetic big brothers to over 50 siblings. Moacir gained his diploma in Business Management in Surfing Studies whilst José is currently excelling at University. Together, with Pam and Alan, they are in the process of setting up Tapachula’s very first surf school, Missionsurf.
Christmas may look very different at Misión México. The children may not receive hundreds of presents, they may not have the biggest Christmas tree or the need for a fancy Christmas wardrobe, but they now share with us what matters; love, life and hope. Therefore, amidst all the tissue paper and overeating, fairy lights and turkey, let’s remember the love and kindness shown by the innkeepers of this world; those who provide a home for people when no one else will.
This unique and extraordinary family relies on the generosity of people to continue to make a difference in the lives of their children and those who are yet to come. Please visit www.lovelifehope.com to sponsor a child this Christmas and help them to create more happy memories for their futures.