As Mairead MacRae leaves her role as press and communications officer with Mary's Meals to begin a new life in the United States, she reminds us how she first came to support our work and why she remains committed to our vision.

Back to all stories | Posted on 19 August 16 in Blog

Appropriately, I first heard about Mary’s Meals in a classroom. In 2006, a teacher at my high school (Holyrood Secondary, Glasgow) invited Mary’s Meals’ founder and CEO, Magnus, to give a talk to half a dozen or so pupils – including myself – in a little-used art classroom. 

None of us were yet out of our early teens and we were inspired by how easy it was for young people like us to become part of the Mary’s Meals movement. Astonished that a week’s pocket money could provide a child with a daily meal in school for a whole school year, we started up a Mary’s Meals fundraising group, collecting money in old Smarties tubes to donate to the charity.

Two of my classmates went on to found Mary’s Meals university societies and I continued to support the charity by volunteering in the Glasgow office during university. Three days after completing my final exams, I started working for Mary’s Meals. Mary’s Meals inspires continued involvement – when the act of giving is so simple and its effect so transformative, it is almost impossible to remain unmoved.

In 2009, I visited Malawi with the group and saw children attending school because of Mary’s Meals. Every day, thousands of young people received daily mugs of likuni phala (porridge), a meal which gave them the energy to play, participate in lessons, and hammer our team in inter-school football matches!

Many of the pupils were not much younger than myself and we often chatted about things we had in common: the constant struggle with Maths homework, what we wanted to do when we finished school and whether Zac Efron or Corbin Bleu was the more attractive teen heartthrob (High School Musical was big back then). 

For many of my new friends, a daily meal at school was the only reason attending school was possible. It is distressing to think that, without Mary’s Meals, so much of the potential, enthusiasm and ambition I saw in my fellow students might never have found an outlet in education.

Today, the work of Mary’s Meals is more vital than ever before. A terrible food crisis is unfolding in Malawi. Many parents do not have food stores at home and are relying on Mary’s Meals’ daily school meals to help feed their children. It costs just £12.20 to feed a child for a whole school year with Mary’s Meals – even the smallest donation can help the charity continue to work towards its vision that every child receives a daily meal in their place of education.

When Magnus gave that talk in my art classroom ten years ago, Mary’s Meals was feeding 93,463 children every school day. Today, that figure has reached more than 1.1 million. As I prepare to uproot my life to another country, I am struck by how consistent the appeal of Mary’s Meals has remained in the intervening years. I am still motivated by the same thing that inspired my thirteen-year-old self: that even a small act of generosity can make a huge difference to the lives of young people around the world. 

Since that first meeting with Magnus, Mary’s Meals has changed my life too, enabling me to be part of an extraordinary global family that continues to reach out to children in some of the world’s poorest communities. And even as I say goodbye to my colleagues here in Glasgow, I am certain that my experience with this wonderful organisation is not over. After all, inspiration born in the classroom lasts a lifetime.