Young children holding blue Mary's Meals porridge mugs and smiling for camera

Volunteering can have ‘life-changing’ impact on your mental health

Volunteers explain how they benefit from giving their time to Mary's Meals

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Mary's Meals' work is only made possible by the dedication of volunteers across the globe, including people in the UK who raise awareness by organising fundraising events and giving talks in local communities. 

According to the UK Government, as of July 2021, as many as 28 million people had volunteered in the previous 12 months in England alone. 

While the UK’s many millions of volunteers undoubtedly make a huge difference to the causes they choose to support, there are also some personal benefits to volunteering. 

One of those benefits is an improvement in mental health. As stated in The Scottish Government Volunteering for All: national framework: “The evidence base is clear. We know that volunteering can improve individual physical and mental health and well-being.

Mary's Meals volunteer preparing food in kitchen

“We know that volunteering strengthens social networks and bonds within and between communities and can help to create experiences and connections that lead to better lives.”

Karen Gray, director of communications at Mary’s Meals, says: “Our work just wouldn’t be possible without our incredible volunteers – they are the bedrock of everything we do to feed children in some of the world’s poorest communities.  

“Volunteering for Mary’s Meals can do more than help to bring hope to desperately hungry children – we know, from what our dedicated volunteers tell us, that it can bring some great personal benefits too. From meeting new people, to learning a new skill and feeling uplifted by playing your part in transforming the lives of little ones around the world, being a volunteer can be a fantastic boost to your mental health and wellbeing. 

“With more than 60 Mary’s Meals volunteer groups across the UK, there are lots of ways to get involved, and all our volunteers receive training. We would love to welcome more people to join our global family and help us reach the next hungry child waiting for our school meals.”  

To shine a spotlight on the benefits of volunteering, we've shared the stories of three volunteers who believe giving their time to the charity has improved their mental health.

Mary's Meals volunteer smiling at camera
It has given me a sense of purpose.

Patrick, from Belfast, believes volunteering has given him a ‘sense of purpose’, while he also relishes feeling part of a community. The 72-year-old began donating his time to Mary’s Meals three years ago, after retiring.  

He says: "As a volunteer, I enjoy getting out and meeting new people through giving talks in churches, placing collection cans in shops, doing bucket collections and helping at fundraising events. I strive to tell everyone I meet about Mary’s Meals! 

“I really enjoy being able to contribute in a small way to feeding hungry children and it has given me a sense of purpose since my retirement and helps maintain a positive outlook. 

“In Northern Ireland, there is a great community of volunteers who are always keen to share ideas, support each other and celebrate successes – and it really spurs me on to do more.”

Mary's Meals volunteer pictured smiling at camera
It’s made me more mindful and feel ‘it’s not all just about me’.

Jodie, 29, from Rutherglen, has volunteered with Mary’s Meals for four years, helping with administrative tasks in the charity’s Glasgow office. Jodie says volunteering with the charity has been ‘life-changing’ and has given her gratitude for the life she has. 

She says: “It’s certainly opened my eyes and made me more aware about things, not to take things for granted - there’s obviously people out there less fortunate than ourselves. 

“It’s made me more mindful and feel ‘it’s not all just about me’. It’s made me more grateful for what I have. 

“It gives me a great sense of achievement and makes me feel good within myself, to be able to give a child a life that they deserve. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity and one I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on. It’s life changing. You’re making a difference and that’s what it’s about.”

I like to sit down at the end of the day and feel like I’ve done something constructive and worthwhile.

Martin, 49, from Motherwell, has been volunteering for Mary’s Meals for almost a decade, helping out one day a week in the warehouse and often two days a week in the office, sharing the charity’s story and raising awareness of its work. 

He and his wife were involved in a bad car accident 14 years ago, meaning Martin had to quit his job. After feeling he had too much time on his hands, his brother suggested he contact Mary’s Meals. 

Martin feels that volunteering has given him the structure he needs in life, while also giving him the opportunity to socialise.

He says: “I think it’s a really worthwhile thing to do and I thoroughly enjoy it to tell you the truth. 

“I get bored stiff sitting in the house. I like to get up and get on with it. I like to keep myself busy and I like to sit down at the end of the day and feel like I’ve done something constructive and worthwhile. Coming into Mary’s Meals helps you to do that. 

“I like to keep my brain active, keep myself stimulated and give myself a bit of structure. I feel you definitely need that in your life. Coming in here really helps me to do that. 

“You meet a really nice group of people and different types of people. You’re obviously coming into the office too, interacting with people and having a laugh.”

Patrick, Jodie and Martin spoke to HuffPost about their experiences of volunteering for Mary's Meals and the benefits it brings to them. You can read the article here.

Mary’s Meals is encouraging more people to donate their time and skills to the charity. For more information about volunteering opportunities with Mary’s Meals please visit 

Steven, a young boy from Malawi, smiling to camera with a mug of porridge and a spoon

It costs just £19.15 to feed a child for an entire school year.