Our founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, tells the story of his visit to a school in Malawi.
“We had already been driving for more than an hour on a dirt track when we reached a sign that told us we had reached ‘Far Away District’. The name made us laugh. The children on the sides of the road were also laughing and shouting as they made their way to school.
“Each one had a shiny new colourful mug suspended from a string necklace. This is Neno, a remote rural area of Malawi, well known for its extreme poverty, and where rain often fails to fall and a place where children are all too often hungry. Four days before our visit, Mary’s Meals was served here for the very first time in 13 primary schools.
“At each school the community has built a temporary kitchen of poles and thatched roofs so that the cooking of Mary’s Meals could begin even before the construction of the permanent buildings (and the bricks for these have also already been made by the eager local community and are stacked ready in each school playground).
“At each of the schools we visit we are surrounded by singing, dancing ladies, and hundreds of happy children waving their mugs in the air. There is an overwhelming mood of celebration and profound thanksgiving. Each head teacher has a similar story to tell us. ‘My enrolment has increased from 395 to 465 this week’ said the beaming head at Chigona Primary. ‘So many have enrolled in standard one for the first time. We will let them spend the remainder of this school year with us, getting used to the school, but then after the summer they will start standard one officially. Some of them are walking from up to 5km away. And we expect many more to come.’
“As the expansion of Mary’s Meals in Malawi takes us more and more into the most rural areas, we see that the impact of Mary’s Meals becomes even greater. More children tend to be missing out on school in these desperately poor communities and so the introduction of Mary’s Meals causes even greater leaps in enrolment.
“Often these remote communities feel neglected by governments and other organisations. That is perhaps why the welcome here seemed particularly special and the sense of heartfelt joy in the communities seems even more overwhelming than normal. The good people of Far Away District do not feel far away at all to me now. Not even as I write this back in Scotland. Now they are close to all of us as new members of the Mary’s Meals family.”