They deliver food and hope. Mary’s Meals daily feeds 1 million hungry children across the globe
In a world where there is enough food for everybody, hunger is still the biggest threat to health. Children are particularly vulnerable- there are 300 million chronically hungry children in the world. Hunger kills millions of them each year. It also stunts their growth and their dreams.
Hungry children can think about survival, not about going to school. Around 67 million of the world’s hungriest children do not attend school. Instead, in order to survive, they have to work, whether in the fields or on the streets. Even if they do make it into the classroom, hunger will affect their ability to learn. Mary’s Meals is a global movement that sets up school feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities, where poverty and hunger avert children from gaining education.
Mary’s Meals is a Scottish charity that was started in 1992, and since then it has grown from a small organization to a global movement. It all grew from a simple response to the suffering of the refugees caught up in the horror of the Balkans war in 1992. Since then the work has grown and expanded and today, over hundreds of thousands of children receive daily meals in schools.
The charity provides one daily meal in a place of learning in order to attract chronically hungry children to the classroom, where they receive education that can, in the future, be their ladder to be out of poverty. The charity’s work is named after Mary, the mother of Jesus, who brought up her child in poverty. Today, Mary’s Meals provides daily life changing meals to 923,572 hungry children all across the globe. The charity is able to feed a child in a school for a year for £12.20.
Child 31 is a beautiful movie, produced by award-winning New York based production company, Grassroots Films, which tells the remarkable story of Mary’s Meals and the children they are reaching through their work.
The story behind the foundation of Mary’s Meals
The man behind Mary’s Meals is Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. Born in Aberdeen in 1968, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow moved to rural Argyll, in Scotland with his family when he was six. Magnus started his career as a fish farmer, but when the Balkan conflict began, he and Fergus, his brother, were so moved by the scenes on television that in 1992 they gathered a jeep loaded with aid and joined a convoy travelling to Medjugorje in Bosnia to distribute it.
On his return home, Magnus expected to resume his job, however, he came back to discover that the public had carried on donating, filling his parents’ garage in Dalmally with goods. Magnus decided to give up his job for a year to drive the aid for as long as it was needed. The donations did not stop and it soon became necessary to set it up as a registered charity, then known as Scottish International Relief (SIR).
Soon after, Magnus met Julie, a nurse, who volunteered to help him deliver aid, and became committed to the charity and its founder and later became his wife.
“With around 57 million children still out of school because of hunger and poverty, I hope this event will bring our vision to more hearts and minds so that we can continue to walk together, unified by our belief that no child in this world of plenty should go hungry or miss school because of poverty.” – Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.
In the following years, the work of SIR took Magnus across Europe to Romania, where he founded a children’s home, and to war-torn Liberia. In 2002 it led him to Malawi, where he met a family whose situation had altered the course of his work. Lying on the floor of a hut was a mother named Emma, who was dying from AIDS. Her six children were gathered around her and Magnus asked the eldest son what it was that he hoped for from life. ‘To have enough to eat and to go to school one day,’ he said. This was a key part of the inspiration that led to the Mary’s Meals campaign.
Mary’s Meals is a simple idea that works by providing a daily meal in a place of education and chronically poor children are attracted to the classroom where they can gain basic education that provides a route to escape from poverty. The movement started in 2002, supporting a handful of orphans in southern Malawi. As the simple idea took hold and evidence showed its positive impact on school enrolment, attendance and performance, school feeding grew to become the main focus of Scottish International Relief’s work, leading to the evolution of the charity Mary’s Meals, as it is today.
Awards and recognitions
Magnus was named one of 2010’s ‘Top Ten Heroes’ by broadcaster CNN and received an OBE in the 2011 New Years Honors list. Recently Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was awarded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize at the eleventh National Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, London.
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