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A parishioner in Doncaster brings to our attention the charitable organisation, Mary’s Meals, which provides a nutritious meal and also an education for primary school children in some of the poorest countries in the world.

The cost per academic year to feed and educate these children is £12.20, which equates to £1 per month.

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Volunteers prepare food for the children

It’s so inexpensive because they source the food locally from the farmers. Also, the schools are encouraged to grow crops and plant fruit trees and, where possible, rice fields and fish farms.

Mary’s Meals provide the vehicles which collect the produce from the farmers. They provide cooking facilities and equipment, along with a comprehensive training programme for the volunteers to ensure they are fully conversant and capable in all aspects of the feeding programme.

The vast majority of these volunteers are the local people living in the villages, therefore the parents, relatives and neighbours of the starving children. The volunteers are guided so as to manage and run the feeding programmes themselves in order to take ownership and responsibility.  Site visits by Mary’s Meals monitoring officers are carried out at least twice per week.  They check that the programmes are running efficiently and that hygiene and stocks are well maintained, thus bringing the whole community together, restoring dignity and giving hope of a future free from poverty.  During the school holidays the community pulls together to feed the children.

The meals provided are analysed to ensure there are sufficient nutriments to sustain each child for the day; otherwise a measure of vitamin supplement is added to the cooking pots. Meals usually consist of rice with vegetables or beans, or a kind of porridge and fish where possible.

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Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals, at the headquarters of the charity

The countries in the project so far are Haiti, South Sudan, Uganda, India, Burma, Ecuador, Liberia, Benin, Zambia, Kenya, Thailand and Malawi (where 25% of all primary school children are fed by Mary’s Meals). Currently, 1,035,000 children between the ages of 4 to 11 years old are saved from starvation.  Estimates suggest a further 57 million children are in desperate need of food and an education.

For every £1 donated to Mary’s Meals, 93 pence goes directly to charitable activities. There are very few paid staff.  They rely on an army of volunteers.

The founder and chief executive officer is a Scotsman called Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow. In 2011 his charitable works earned him an OBE.  In 2015 he was named by Time Magazine as one of the hundred most influential people in the world, alongside Pope Francis.  Magnus believes our Holy Mother planted the seed in his heart to feed the starving children, regardless of their faith group, or being of no faith.  Magnus continues his vocation, with the help of his wife and seven children.

Mary’s Meals headquarters: Craig Lodge, Dalmally. Argyll, Scotland, PA33 1AR, tel: 01838 200605, email: info@marysmeals.org, website: www.marysmeals.org.

The Backpack Project

Many children receiving Mary’s Meals don’t have basic learning tools, such as pencils and notepads.

You can support them to get the most out of their lessons by donating a backpack full of the things they need. For many, a Mary’s Meals backpack will be the only gift they’ll have ever had.

Mary's meals 5 sAnyone can take part in the Backpack Project. It’s a fun activity for schools, clubs and families to get involved in.  If you’d like more information call 0141 3367094 or email info@marysmeals.org.

Handy hints for filling a backpack

Clothing for children aged between 4 and 12 years is suitable.

Second hand items are fine if they are in good condition.

Please label the backpack to indicate whether it is suitable for a boy or a girl, and suggest what age.

Please don’t include any liquids and don’t be tempted to add any other gifts, such as toys or sweets, as these can cause problems with Customs during delivery.

Items to include

Notepads, pens, pencils, crayons, eraser, ruler, sharpener, pencil case, towel, shorts or skirt, t-shirt or dress, flip-flops or sandals, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, small ball, spoon.

Mary's meals 3 sDiocesan School Supports Mary’s Meals

St John Fisher Catholic Primary School, Hackenthorpe is a supporter of Mary’s Meals. The school says of the charity, “Mary’s Meals is a no frills charity with a simple idea that works to provide one good meal in a place of learning in countries that are less developed than our own.”

The community of St John Fisher have been raising money for the charity and they were also involved in the Mary’s Meals Backpack Project. Backpacks were filled with stationery, a plastic spoon, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a small ball and a towel.  The backpacks were then sent out to the children.Mary's meals 2 s