Day 4: Mision Mexico Easter Beach Day

pre futbol match, everyone was in one 15 passenger van!

pre futbol match, everyone was in one 15 passenger van!


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A handful of the kids images!  Its amazing what can happen when you give a kid a little inspiration to go out and shoot!



Shane and the lady shredders

Shane and the lady shredders and mini grom!


Day 4 was Easter Sunday!  At Mision Mexico that means beach day!  In the morning the house was bustling with movement as everyone prepares for the beach.  Snacks and water were loaded along with tents, more surfboards than I could count and lots of happy smiling faces, atleast 50 of us including the volunteers were in three vans.  This part of the week, (which hasn’t been happening because one of the vans was broken down) is where the kids really get to experience the ocean and learn to surf.  Many have been surfing for years now and are charges on anything, no fear and others like Cesar, that just arrived at the orphanage might have his first experience with the ocean at 2!  Jake, Shane and I were stoked to have  some quality hang time with everyone at the beach!  We also still had to take a handful of kids out to shoot that hadn’t gotten to.  The waves were small but great for the kids to have fun in.  We pushed kids in on all types of boards while every wave was a party wave complete with carnage.  These are the moments where the kids are all at their happy place.  Its also a time where Pam can also somewhat let her guard down and relax, just a little.  Just imagine having 45 kids to look after….
After an awesome sesh at the beach we all headed back to the compound and the older kids got ready for the big afternoon futbol (soccer) match, traditional after beach day.  The rest help prepare the big dinner for later on.  Shane, Jake and I went to the soccer match and Shane was the only gringo to play as Jake and I were still whipped from the 5k the day before.  We also took another round of kids out for a photo session around the soccer field area.  Soccer is serious business in Mexico they all played until darkness.  It was a good time by all and when we were done, 2 full soccer teams and the 3 gringos all packed into 1 van and headed back where a feast of food was awaiting.  Props to all the cooks as it was by far the best meal we had during our time there.   After dinner I was super stoked to show the kids some of their images they had taken during the week.  We all gathered in the large chapel/viewing room and I went through a handful of about 70 images that the kids had created on the big screen tv.  I was super proud of all of them to be able to produce some truly awesome images.  I thanked them all for participating and most of all for letting us experience a bit of their life.  It was getting late by that time and we all had to say our good byes.  Our flight was leaving at dawn.  We will be taking back so many great memories and the awesome experience of teaching some bright minds the art of photography!  A handful of images will be printed and put up for auction to benefit Mision Mexico at Compound Boardshops fundraiser on April 20 from 6-10 p.m. in Sarasota, Florida.  You can also bid on some of my images taken from around the world in 2012 printed on large canvases.

Ben Hicks

Day 3: A “mission” in Mexico with a new turn around every corner

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Each has story behind the face and represents who they are and what they deserve.  These are a series of portraits I did for the project we are working on that will be on display in a few weeks at the Compound Boardshop Photo show.

Day 3

Today we rose to all the kids amped about a 5k running race that many will participate in.  Easter and good Friday has created a lot of celebrations and events with this being one of the many in the area.   Some the kids were nervous and others were just wanting to have some fun but still beat the gringos.  Jake, Shane and I decided we would go for it and were all curious of what the outcome would be.  It was pretty official with numbers, timing and everything.  Very hot and dry though but along the course there were plenty of people for me to make laugh as I was the large blonde gringo running this random race.  Many of the kids did really well, including smoking us, which didn’t mean much!  We all had a blast but when I was done I felt sprinting a random 5k without ever running in a while wasn’t the best for my knees or ankles.  Regardless we still carried on with smiles and followed that up with a quick surf joining the older kids.  The running race was one way so we all had to pile in the large (15 passenger) van to get back to the start before continuing on to the surf break.  There were nearly 30 sweaty bodies in the van, car pooling at its best.  Waves were a bit smaller, though we still made the most of the waist to chest conditions.  After a good hour session and a nice slice to my ankle from a fin we headed back to to town for a few more photo sessions with the kids for the day.  In between that we did a series of photo interviews and portraits with the kids for the photo show in a few weeks at the Compound Boardshop in Sarasota, Florida.  Getting the kids to pronounce the names of businesses and people provided a good laugh for all.  Throughout I was constantly uploading, charging and editing photos from my cameras and all the kids along with giving small bits of attention whenever I could to anyone that approached!  Eventually we had a chance to go get some dinner, where Pam told us more stories about the kids.  I learned a bit more than I had ever imagined about the train riders of Mexico.  Many parts of the world including the US, people travel on cargo trains as a means of transportation.  In Mexico and Central America its a means of escaping their home country or area for many reasons including a chance to eventually attempt to make it into the United States.  Its an extremely dangerous journey that can often even lead to death.  When the train leaves its station they run alongside and jump on and then must hold on between train cars, often for hours and hours.  According to Pam, some fall asleep and fall off, often getting run over by the train, surviving with lost limbs.  Others are shot by gangs.  There is a refuge in Tapachula that helps these train people with severe injuries and poverty that Pam is in contact with.  The train once passed through Tapachula at one time where she would often see hundreds of people clinging to the trains.  The train no longer comes through the area but people are still brought to the refuge.  Its one of the amazing stories of life in Mexico.

Ben Hicks


Day 3: Exploring with the kids and cameras


Market seller

Day 3 began bright and early with the first group of kids going to the market at the town square to start off with a vibrant market photo session.  No shortage of Chicken feet or animal liver here!  The market provided a great place for the kids to explore with their cameras.  The people, colors and architecture provided a great canvas to teach their fresh minds.  After we returned to the orphanage we took another group out to a park and also explored a small section of shacks where the poverty was very high.

Another group shot with Pam (mom) on the end!

Another group shot with Pam (mom) on the end!

Documenting and seeing the results in these different conditions should give all the kids a variety of results at the end of the week!  They seemed to be all very intrigued by the dead dog on the side of the road.  What do you say to that?  Not the same challenges I face teaching to kids in the US!

The dry heat of over 95 degrees wears you out very quickly here and it made the photo sessions even more challenging to concentrate and continue to push the kids.  Returning back home we took a break and went for some lunch at a pretty nice place.  Most importantly was the air conditioning.  Sitting there to eat for one hour recharged us and Jake, Shane, Momo and I were ready for the next group to explore another section of town where we got to explore one of the former Orphange kids homes.



Joselin had been at Mission Mexico and got pregnant when she was 18.  She originally was sent up the Puerto Escondido to have the baby and get away from the area.  The father was not wanted in the situation and like many was nothing but trouble.  She eventually returned to Tapachula and Pam ( mom ) really wanted to help here to one day make something of herself.  Showing an example is one of the most important things in raising 45 kids at a time, so she had to be very aware not to show the kids that if they get pregnant they won’t just be supported by MM and that its not a good thing to do!  Currently Joselin rents a small room in a shack area of town with her little two year old and we were able to bring a small group of kids there to see and photograph her living situation.  Pam has given her a job at the orphanage to help her pay for school.  This is one of the many harsh situations that so many of the kids go through.  Joselin has been through so much, things you really don’t want to hear and most likely can’t even imagine.  Seeing her smile and still do her best to make something really inspires the rest of us.  This is just one of the many stories I have learned about while visiting and makes you really want to be involved in helping these kids.  I can’t thank Jake enough for providing me the opportunity to teach and inspire these kids and also create ways for them to raise money for them to go to school and create the life that they deserve!


Me and the girls, they had to have a pic.  I think Luce grabbed my camera camera for the shot


Delmar and Alex

Day 2: Living the life, learning about the love and seeing the hope at Mission Mexico

Rising to the songs of the peacock wasn’t what I had planned for the morning at 5 am but I was wide awake from the 2 hour time change to begin with.  I was quickly being introduced to all the kids as they would come up to see who the new guest was.  Jake and Shane are kinda rockstars here so as soon as the kids came out to the common areas they ran over and pursued hugs and laughs.  They kids have all bonded to them from past visits and it was really interesting to see how the connection inside Mission Mexico was so strong.  After the morning greeting and questions from all the kids who I was it was decided that we would be traveling with a couple of the older kids by van out to the property on the beach to drop the workers off.  Mission Mexico has a piece of property that they are building to eventually house a surf camp to raise money.  Jake and his awesome crew have come down numerous times to help in the entire process in many ways, including building the house that will one day be the camp, and raising a lot money for the orphanage.  Today we were just driving by to drop some workers off to continue the work and then we were able to surf with about 6 of the older teenagers for almost two hours afterwards!!  What a great time in some really  waist to chest waves!  All smiles!  I shot just a little but really wanted to engage in doing an activity with the kids.


After the surf we headed back to the orphanage in the Town of Tapachula about 30 mins away to get to work on the days photo workshop and presentation of the art of photography and what I do for a living.  We gathered everyone in a room and hooked up a laptop to a tv and I presented my work and taught the kids the basics of photography and about cameras.  From there we took our first group out into the field with the donated cameras!  The “field” was the streets of Tapachula.  A colorful town in southern Mexico filled with culture, old buildings and smiling locals!  A perfect pallet for young budding photographers!  We would take 5-6 kids at a time for 1-2 hours.  Each would have a camera and we would journey from one spot to the next testing and honing the skills needed to become a photographer.  The kids were so intrigued and interested!  Instantly it made my trip to see all these kids so stoked on picking up a camera!  I was out there shooting alongside, tipping them off for spots to shoot, angles and of course, reminding them to always have fun!!

The first photo group we took out.
Darkness came after our first two groups and I was one happy teacher, to be able to spread the stoke of photography into the fresh minds of these awesome kids!  Once we trekked back to the orphanage Jake, Shane, Pam (mom), Momo, and myself joined as we drove to an eatery.  We had to of been there a couple hours as Pam filled us in and told some crazy stories about the latest at Mission Mexico.  The entire time I was happier and happier that I was here with an awesome opportunity provided by Jake and The Compound to share my knowledge with these amazing kids!


Day 2

Day 1: Photography and Surfing brought to Mission Mexico. Live Love Hope


Welcome to another series of blogs to start off 2013!  This trip like many others is derived around surfing but in a whole different perspective.  Perspective is what this trip is all about.  Surfing is a unique sport that brings people together around the world and this is a prime example where it has not only accomplished that and so many others things.

We are in Southern Mexico in a place called Tapachula, a small town near the ocean with a very special orphanage called Mission Mexico residing within.  Mission Mexico has been around for a while but 12 years ago an Australian couple,  Allen and Pam came to volunteer and never left.  It was nearing a shut down and they just couldn’t let that happen.  Fast forward 10 years later and that is when I learned about it through my good friend Jacob Shields who runs The Compound Boardshop on the West coast of Florida where I grew up.  Jake is one of those guys that doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and of course is a surfer.  He has been coming down to help the orphanage for years now, building, spending time with the kids, donating and putting in lots of time and effort to help make a difference in a kids life.  These kids have pretty horrific stories.  Stories you and I can’t even imagine.  They land here and have an opportunity to have a life.  Every Sunday is surfing day and they take the kids surfing……all 50 of them!  You think your life is tough taking your two kids to the beach?  Allen and Pam are heros.

Mission Mexico has about 40-50 kids at any time run by just a handful of dedicated volunteers that come in and out except Allen and Pam which sometimes are nearly taking care of 40 kids by them selves.  Jake called me up a few years ago to ask if I was interested in having a few pieces of my work in a little photo show at his shop.  I was happy to hear his support of the photographic world and even more to find out all the sales from the show would go to and orphanage in Mexico.  In April the photo show will be in its 3rd year and we are here to make it a little more special and try and raise a bit more money in an effort to support Mission Mexico.  His idea to bring me hear was to show the kids the world of photography and get them involved in the show as well as the awesome art of taking pictures.  Jake and I got a handful of cameras donated by some awesome people ( Andy Shear, Sara Gomez, Nate Hamler, Lauren Guzzi and Christy Mari )  for the kids to use and keep.  During my trip I will be introducing them to the cameras, how to use them and explore their area with them and their new camera.  We plan on then taking some of the images the kids take, printing them and then involving them directly into their own fundraiser back in Florida alongside some of my images and other great surf photographers.  Sounds pretty rad?

I am writing this in our bunks stacked 3 high, sass we are staying at the orphanage, listening to the peacock call somewhere nearby.  Along with us on the trip is another friend of Jake’s and huge supporter of MM, Shane also from Sarasota, Florida.  He is directly involved in a lot of the construction of the work they are doing building on a piece of property the orphanage has on the ocean.  They have both been here many times, up to two weeks at a time doing hard labor helping to build the surf camp building at the beach.  The orphanage is in the town which is a short drive from the beach.  They are striving to extend to the beach.  Shane will be here working on that and also teaching the kids some art as well.  Look for more as Day 1 is promising to have a start to this enlightening experience.

Learn more about where I am at:

Ben Hicks