Chloe Melrose, Communications Officer, Mary’s Meals, reflects on Charlie Doherty’s visit to Malawi. Charlie, 13, has refused birthday presents since the age of six so the money could be donated to Mary’s Meals.
Sheltered from the scorching hot mid-morning sun, beneath the shady cashew nut trees, sat Charlie Doherty, with the broad smile of a 13-year-old boy on his birthday when handed the penultimate birthday gift.
Charlie, at aged six, witnessed the aftermath of the 2006 Tsunami, and felt compelled to reach out to others less fortunate than him. Since then, he has raised over £25,000 for Mary’s Meals which started working in Malawi in 2002.
Since our work began, Mary’s Meals is now feeding 593,521 school children in Malawi every school day. The philosophy behind Mary’s Meals school feeding programme is to create, ‘a simple solution to world hunger’. This is what attracted Charlie to the charity in the first place, with his ethos to, ‘stamp out world hunger’.
On 14th January 2013, Charlie arrived at Ipyana Primary School in Karonga, to be met with chants, cheers and jubilation. Children of all ages came forward with smiling faces, while the volunteers rushed forward singing songs of appreciation, to greet him.
After three days of travelling Charlie felt overwhelmed to finally be in the school that he has worked so hard to sponsor since 2008. Charlie enjoyed a tour of the school and witnessed the school feeding in progress… even rolling up his sleeves and helping prepare and serve the porridge to grinning Standard 1 students.
Karonga is a volatile landscape; prone to flooding in the wet season, droughts in Malawi’s dry season, and earthquakes. Thus, the likuni phala provided by Mary’s Meals school feeding programme is pivotal to the health and school attendance of the primary school children residing in such an unstable environment.
The overwhelming gratitude that the school has towards young Charlie came across in every aspect of the morning. From Headmaster Mkweteza’s welcoming speech where he announced that they were, ‘honoured to be the first school in this district to have our sponsor visit us’, to 12- year-old Mary of Ipyana school, who grasped Charlie’s hand and said: ‘Thank you. We appreciate everything you have done!’
Charlie was then ushered before 1,500 students (a figure that was only 800 before feeding started in the school) to watch the children perform a humorous and educational dramatic piece in his honour to demonstrate the importance of porridge.
Charlie thanked the students for their warm welcome, saying: “I am so happy to be here and share this with you all today. Thank you for welcoming me. My dream has finally been realised.
“No child should go hungry and I know that working with Mary’s Meals we can put a stop to child hunger.”
In the unrelenting compassionate spirit Charlie possesses, he then went one step further and revealed bags full of educational – both academic and sporting – equipment for the school to enjoy. Ipyana returned the favour by presenting Charlie with a woven straw mat.
The entire morning proved a tremendous and delightful success for young Charlie after what has been an emotional and at times extremely difficult journey to reach his dreams of coming to the warm heart of Africa.