During a trip to Malawi, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was taken to see a woman called Emma. “She was lying on the floor of her mud hut surrounded by her six young children, and was dying of AIDS,” he recounts. “I asked her eldest son, Edward, what he hoped for in life and he said ‘I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day’.”
This was the moment MacFarlane-Barrow, a former salmon farmer from Argyll, Scotland, was inspired to found Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides meals for children in places of learning in some of the world’s poorest communities.
That was in 2002, and the next year Mary’s Meals provided meals for 200 children in one Malawian primary school. Today over one million children, in 12 countries across four continents, receive Mary’s Meals every school day. In Malawi, 27 per cent of the primary school population benefits from the charity’s daily meals.
The idea is that by providing a meal in a place of education, chronically hungry children will not only be fed, but also encouraged into education, which Magnus says is “the first step on the ladder out of poverty”. He explains that there are an estimated 59 million children around the world who remain out of school due to hunger and poverty.
The largest feeding programme is in Malawi, which was recently ranked the poorest country in the world by the World Bank. The country contains a huge number of children who have been orphaned, as well as many who are HIV positive and need regular and nutritious meals in order for their medication to work.
Mary’s Meals is also working in others areas where there is great need amongst children due to a variety of factors. In India, for example, where low caste children and girls are not traditionally entitled to an education; in Liberia, where civil war meant a whole generation of children missed out on an education; and in South Sudan, where there is violent unrest today.
The full interview with Mary’s Meals’ Magnus will be in our third issue, out on 1 September.
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