Scottish charity Mary’s Meals has added 211 schools to its global programme during the past year as it expands its operation in Africa.
Much of the additional help has come in Malawi and Zambia, where a state of emergency has been declared because of worsening food shortages following last year’s devastatingly poor harvest.
Mary’s Meals is also preparing to increase school feeding in South Sudan in response to the ongoing crisis there.
The charity began a three-year project in April 2016 to strengthen its work in Malawi and Zambia, bolstered by huge public support for its UK Aid Match backed campaign at the end of 2015. Match funding from the UK government is covering the annual feeding costs of 61,116 children in 103 of the new schools.
UK Aid Match funding is also being used to cover the annual feeding costs of more than 160,000 children who were already relying on Mary’s Meals in Malawi and Zambia, and to provide additional training for volunteer cooks in both countries.
One such cook is 52-year- old Esme, who volunteers her time to prepare likuni phala (vitamin-enriched maize porridge) for the children at Mudi Primary School in Malawi. Both of Esme’s own children died in childhood, but she is determined to help ensure that others from her community have the chance to learn.
She says: “I felt it necessary to do my part in developing the community, already the sponsors have done their part by sponsoring the feeding, so I feel it is my duty and within my capacity to do so too by doing my part and volunteering to cook the phala.
“I love the community spirit the volunteering has created between the women from different villages and the porridge is making the children look healthy.”
The mug of porridge the children receive from Mary’s Meals volunteers every day they attend school provides vital nourishment, especially at a time when many families have run out of food at home.
Fyness Mdala, 14, is a confident, articulate girl who lives with her grandmother, having lost both of her parents when she was just six. Her grandmother owns a small piece of land, which would usually yield maize, millet and pigeon peas, but they harvested nothing at all in 2016.
She said: “My grandmother has been going begging for food. We depend on what she receives from well-wishers and if we can’t find any food we go hungry for one or two days. At those times, the phala is the only meal I will eat.”
Fyness (above) is open about the fact she would not be in school if Mary’s Meals weren’t providing food there. She said: “If the porridge wasn’t here, I would have quit school. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate in class on an empty stomach. I’m grateful, because if it wasn’t for the porridge I wouldn’t have a chance of achieving my dreams.
“I want to be a bank manager. It’s fascinating for me just watching a bank manager and I want to be like that.”
Mary’s Meals is currently supporting more than 1.1 million of the world’s poorest children with nutritious meals every day they attend school. It costs just £13.90 to feed a child with Mary’s Meals for a whole school year.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder and chief executive of Mary’s Meals, said: “In the challenging times we are facing today, school feeding is more important than ever to provide children with essential sustenance, stability, and hope for a better future.
“The generosity of Mary’s Meals supporters and the wider public, combined with UK Aid Match funding, has enabled us to reach many more children who, without Mary’s Meals, would be out of school today.”
For more information on Mary’s Meals, go here