Meet the kids
Read the stories of some of the children who benefit from Mary's Meals.
The West-African nation of Benin is the most recent country to welcome Mary’s Meals. For a year now, over 400 children at Hondji Primary School have been receiving a daily meal of corn, beans, rice, vegetables and fish, to attract them to the classroom where they can gain a basic education.
10-year-old Martine is one of the pupils we are reaching and she knows the pain of hunger all too well. Martine lives with her five siblings and mother, who works hard but struggles to provide food for them. It has been a common occurrence that the children would go hungry for entire days.
And even when their mother managed to provide food, there was never enough to satisfy them all. The children sometimes tried to help their mother earn money by doing odd jobs, but this kept them from attending school.
Mary’s Meals now provides food at Martine’s school, however, and she and her five siblings can attend in the knowledge that they will be fed. Martine tells us: “Mary’s Meals has been a great help to our mum, and gives us the joy and strength to be able to study so that one day we can become like the people that work here at the school.
“With Mary’s Meals, we can stay at school for lunch instead of having to walk back home under the sun where lunch is not guaranteed. We eat well at school. Everything is fine now. Thank you for bringing us food.”
Chery Ehmeiderlione, an only child, is eight-years-old and lives with her mother in the city of Gonaïves in Haiti. They are one of many families who have moved to this place from more rural parts of the embattled and impoverished Caribbean country in search of a better life.
But, as Erick Tilus from our partner organisation in Haiti, tells us: “Parents come to live in Gonaïves to find an improved way of life, but when they get here they find it is actually harder to survive, since there is no work and very poor living conditions. As a result, there are many malnourished children here.”
Having said that, life in Gonaïves means that Chery can attend the Trou Sable School there, where she and her classmates receive a daily nutritious meal from Mary’s Meals. Chery says: “Life is good now that I can come to school. School is important to me, because I want to learn how to read and write and I am able to make new friends and be with them every day.”
Erick believes that Chery’s love for going to school is typical here in Gonaïves, now that Mary’s Meals is helping to feed the children. He says: “Before feeding started, the children were very sad and totally desolate. They are now much happier and so are their teachers. Everyone wants to come to school. The atmosphere in the school has improved and exam pass rates have increased.
“Places at schools where Mary’s Meals is providing food are in great demand from parents due to the feeding and the enrolment list for next year is already closed. Let’s hope we can continue to expand and reach more children.”
As for Chery, what does she make of the food? She tells us: “Maize and sardines is my favourite meal!” And what does she want to go on to do with the education she is receiving? Chery says: “I hope I can continue with my studies, so that one day I can be a doctor.”
12-year-old Mandida James goes to school at Chimvu Primary school, near Blantrye in Malawi. Mandida is an orphan and tells us that she has no memory of her parents whatsoever, since they passed away when she was still very young. She now lives with her grandmother in a small, grass-thatched hut, with her older brother and sister.
Life is a struggle for Mandida and her family. She says: “It is hard to find food every day and it has been known for us to go for three days or more without eating anything at all. Whenever this happens, we end up becoming sick and there is no peace at home.”
Since Mary’s Meals began feeding at Chimvu, however, Mandida looks forward to the food she receives at school. Mandida says: “When we have food, we eat it with relish! When I eat the phala [porridge] I can learn more and, if there is no food when I get back home, I don’t have to worry because I can eat at school.”
The provision of Mary’s Meals in Malawi (and in 15 other countries around the world) means that thousands of children, like Mandida, who would otherwise be hungry and out begging or working for their next meal, are instead sitting in a classroom with a full stomach, learning how to read and write.
So what does Mandida hope to do with the education she is receiving? She laughingly tells us, “I hope to train as a lawyer, and then become famous and maybe even president of my country!”
For those who make the work of Mary’s Meals possible, Mandida has a simple message: “We are thankful to the people who bring porridge to this school. We students learn very well with it, so we hope and pray that they keep bringing the phala”.
Binky is one of the many mothers around the world who volunteers with Mary’s Meals. Believing passionately that gaining an education will provide a ladder out of poverty, these mothers get up at the crack of dawn every school day and walk (some for many miles) to a local place of learning to help cook Mary’s Meals for their children.
29-year-old Binky has a son called Deepak. He is three years old and attends the Navjeevan Centre in the heart of one of Delhi’s largest slums, where he receives a daily meal from Mary’s Meals.
Living in such an impoverished area of the Indian capital, Binky – and many others like her – are delighted that their children are able to receive nutritious food each day. Her daily routine is to bring her son to the centre, where he receives an education, and then to join other volunteers in the preparation and serving of the daily meal.
Binky tells us, “It is not easy living here in the slums but I am happy that my son and other children in this area are now coming together to receive an education. The food helps my son to learn. I like helping out at the centre and I am so happy to see the children enjoying both their studies and the meal very much.”