Nine years ago, Wongani Kuchisanja could only have dreamt he would be a footballer representing his country abroad.
But now, the 17-year-old Malawian, who received Mary’s Meals when he was younger, plays for his country’s Under 20s team as a striker.
“Mary’s Meals helped me with my football,” Wongani recalls. “When we were about to play a game we ate the porridge and it gave us energy.”
Wongani says when he graduates from secondary school he wants to play professionally and one day be the next Lionel Messi.
Meanwhile, Brighton Muthali, 17, who is a goalkeeper for the football team, also received Mary’s Meals.
“My life was very tough when I was young,” explains Brighton. “Sometimes we wouldn’t have enough food to eat.”
Brighton began playing football when he was eight-years-old but recalls that often he didn’t have the energy to play because he was hungry.
When Mary’s Meals began feeding at his local primary school in Blantyre, Brighton’s life began to improve and his dream of becoming a footballer started becoming a reality.
“When I went to school I used to eat the porridge. Not only did it help me concentrate in class but it also helped me play for my school football team as it gave me energy,” he added.
The Malawian goalkeeper has since travelled across Africa representing his country in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Basiano Bauleni has been a sport’s development co-ordinator in Malawi for over 20 years and helped train boys like Wongani and Brighton. He recognises how Mary’s Meals is helping bring unity and hope to the younger generation.
“Before Mary’s Meals started feeding here a lot of the youths weren’t going to school. Now, not only do they go to school, but they have the energy to come to our sport’s programme and are taught to be good citizens,” Basiano explains.
“One day I hope to see Malawi qualify for the World Cup. This goal is certainly being helped along by the school-feeding programme.”
Sport is seen as important tool in helping countries across Africa, promoting good health, empowering young people, and building self-confidence simultaneously.