In 2010, our founder and CEO Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was named a CNN Hero – an honour given to individuals in acknowledgement of the work they do to make a positive difference in the world.

Recently Magnus was asked to take part in a live Facebook chat on the CNN Heroes Facebook page to answer questions on the theme: What makes a hero? These were his answers.

Can you tell us how your organisation started?

I met a young boy called Edward when I was visiting Malawi during the famine in 2002. I asked him what his hopes were in life and he said he wanted to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day. His words helped to inspire the founding of Mary's Meals. We started by feeding 200 children in Malawi and now feed over one million children in their place of education, in 12 countries around the world.

There is a major food shortage in Malawi and the need is growing. What measures have you put in place to enable your charity to feed an ever increasing demand?

Yes this is a very difficult time in Malawi with many suffering hunger. Our priority is to continue expanding our school feeding programme there so that as many children as possible might be guaranteed a meal every day at school.

There are so many events happening around the world and there are requests from all over asking Mary's Meals to help. Do you foresee Mary's Meals growing more as an organisation that will work more with international crises?

Mary’s Meals was actually born out of our response to emergency situations and over the years we have been involved in helping those suffering because of events such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the tsunami in India in 2004 and the Ebola crisis in Liberia. However, we are more focused than ever on this one simple thing we do – the provision of one meal every day in a place of education – because we see it meets the immediate need of the hungry child but also tackles the underlying causes of poverty. So while our commitment to reaching the most vulnerable needy children will continue to take us to crisis situations, we envisage our response in those places will normally be the provision of school meals.

Read more about our response to emergency situations.

What do you think made you change from being someone who donated money to a good cause to someone who is a champion for that cause?

In my case I just tried to do one small thing to help by making a little appeal on behalf of people who were suffering. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of response to that appeal and decided to keep going – no grand plan, just one little thing at a time – swept along by people’s goodness. I have a very profound sense of gratitude for being able to do this with my life and retain huge respect for those people who just keep quietly donating and sharing what they have because, without them, none of our efforts would be worth anything.

Which smaller charities and organisations do you feel inspired by?

We work with some smaller, really inspirational organisations – some of them doing really heroic things in very difficult environments. Hands Together who run schools and other projects in Haiti are particularly impressive and I’ve learnt a lot from them.

What do you think makes Hands Together so impressive?

Much of their work is in a notorious slum called Cite Soleil which suffers from terrible gang violence. I cannot think of a more difficult place to work and yet our friends at Hands Together continue to help people there every day, despite the very considerable personal risks they face. They also impress me because they carry out their work with great humility and great faith.

What one thing would make it easier for you to do your work?

That is a really thought provoking question and I don’t think I have one answer. I don’t think this work is meant to be easy – if I was looking for it to be easier I would probably go and do something else. But I suppose having the funds to be able to say ‘yes’ more quickly to those children and schools who are still waiting for Mary’s Meals would be have to be top of the list.

What's the one thing any of us can do to help improve children's lives?

Most importantly we just need to love them. If we love them we will be moved to meet their particular needs – food, education, special care – whatever it might be for that unique child.

What has surprised you in your work?

People’s goodness. Over and over again I have been surprised by people doing heroic things all over the world. Most of my book – The Shed that Fed a Million Children – consists of inspiring encounters I have had with people who in their own particular circumstances are performing remarkable acts of kindness and selflessness. Even in the darkest, bleakest situations these people have repeatedly provided me with hope and instilled in me a deep confidence in the innate goodness of people.

What one piece of advice would you give to people who want to follow in your footsteps and make the world a better place?

I think it's best to just start with the person in front of you that needs help, or the little thing you can do to make things better in your own family or community. Maybe those little acts of love can prompt the birth of an organisation or a movement, but it's probably best not to think too big initially. Just do something good, and try to do it very well. Then see what happens! We don’t all need to be publically recognized or found new organisations. I believe it is the little things that are most important and change the world the most.

Find out what's going on at Mary's Meals.