Mary’s Meals serves nutritious school meals to children living in some of the world’s poorest countries. The promise of a good meal attracts these hungry children into the classroom, giving them the energy to learn and hope for a better future.
Angela Chipeta-Khonje is the country director for Malawi at Mary’s Meals. This is her story.
Mary’s Meals is a global school feeding charity which is based on a simple yet effective idea. With our promise to provide a daily meal in a place of education, children are encouraged into the classroom and given hope for a brighter future.
Twenty years ago, we started by serving 200 school meals in Malawi. Today, we are feeding 2,279,941 little ones across 20 of the world’s poorest countries! And every school day, I wake up knowing that more than one million children in Malawi will eat Mary’s Meals. That is a truly amazing thing!
As the country director in Malawi – where the charity has its largest school feeding programme – I oversee 150 members of staff and 50,000 dedicated community volunteers, all working tirelessly to reach the next child with a life-changing school meal.
Malawi is a country that faces many challenges in education, access to healthcare and widespread child malnutrition. Almost half of primary school children drop out of school early as they are faced with these difficulties every day.
‘We have a huge army of committed volunteers’
We have a huge army of committed volunteers in Malawi who prepare and serve our likuni phala [porridge], which is a blend of soya and corn. Say ‘likuni phala’ to any child and they will respond with the biggest smile as they know exactly what you mean!
Our volunteers rise early to prepare the meals so that their children, and children in their community, have the energy to learn. It is thanks to their determination that we are now reaching more than 30% of primary school aged children across Malawi.
When I first joined the charity, I asked what motivates people to volunteer for us. They tell me: “These are our children. If we don’t do it, who is going to? Mary’s Meals is bringing the food – the least we can do is prepare it.”
It warms my heart to be able to work with so many individuals who are passionate about giving children the chance of a better life through nutritious meals which help them to learn. To know that we are bringing education, food and joy to these children – who show such hope in the face of adversity – makes me more determined to reach the next hungry child.
‘Our meals fill their often-empty tummies’
I am always humbled by stories of the little ones I meet who eat Mary’s Meals. Our meals fill their often-empty tummies, and for many children it is the only food they will eat that day.
I hold onto the memory of a little girl I met one morning. As volunteers were preparing the porridge which we serve to children at her school, I saw her sitting patiently alone under a tree, holding a Mary’s Meals mug.
She had her eyes fixed in the direction of the kitchen where the food was being prepared. When I asked her what she was doing there all by herself she replied: “I am looking forward to the porridge. I can smell it from here and I know it is ready, so I will wait.”
Thanks to the promise of Mary’s Meals, this little girl waits with the hope of a better tomorrow.
This image of her waiting for her nutritious meal is what drives me forward. There are more many children in Malawi and other parts of the world who are waiting for Mary’s Meals to come to their school – and, together, we will reach them. I always say to people that I have two of my own daughters, but I also have one million children that are receiving a daily meal in Malawi. And they are my babies too!
Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and, of course, we are a country where the greater part of our year is warm, but it most definitely is the people who make it such a warm place.
I can see the love and devotion that shines through our volunteers, who serve our meals to those little ones, with such joy, knowing that this one meal has the power to change young lives.
Inspired to act?
For more information on Mary’s Meals, please visit marysmeals.org.uk.
Get involved and support through their Hope Conquers Fear campaign. It costs £15.90 to feed a child for a year with Mary’s Meals.
If you can’t afford to donate at this time, there are many other ways to get involved.