Building strength and confidence in Malawi and Zambia with UK Aid

An update on the second year of Feed Our Future in Malawi and Zambia.

Back to all stories | Posted on 27 Apr 2018 in News

In April 2016, we began a three-year project, majority-funded by UK Aid, to expand and strengthen our work in Malawi and Zambia. 

The wonderful support for Feed Our Future – our UK Aid Match backed campaign at the end of 2015 – enables us to reach more than 172,000 children with nutritious meals each school day. The programme is also bringing additional training to volunteer cooks in hundreds of schools across both countries.

Extensive training funded by UK Aid has strengthened community engagement and given extra confidence to the teams of dedicated individuals who make this beautiful mission possible. Since Mary’s Meals school feeding programme is owned and run by local communities, this active support and participation from volunteers is essential. 

One such volunteer is 29-year-old Goodson Chalimba who gives his time to prepare meals at Nsambamwali primary school, even though his own daughter is not yet old enough to attend.

Goodson faces a daily battle to provide for his family, taking on ‘piece work’ to earn enough money to buy the maize they need to survive. When he was approached by the school feeding committee at his local primary school, who asked if he would volunteer, he said yes, despite the other burdens he carries.

Goodson Chalimba, volunteer cook, stirring phala (porridge)

“Phala (porridge) is important because it gives the children strength and energy. It’s good for their growth, because it is nutritious.  I hope it helps them work in class,” he said as a way of explaining his commitment.

Each week Goodson rises at 4am and walks to the school, where he begins splitting firewood and fetching water. By the time he and the other volunteers start stirring enormous pots of likuni phala (maize and soya porridge, fortified with vitamins and minerals), the children are already arriving for class. Before long, they are queuing up for their porridge, served with a smile by Goodson and his happy co-workers.

After serving is over and the children are settled in their classrooms, the volunteers clean the pots and sweep out the kitchen. By the time Goodson gets home, it’s 11.30am and he takes a short, well-earned rest before heading out to neighbouring fields to find his day’s labour.

The willingness of volunteers like Goodson to give their time and energy to serve Mary’s Meals is testimony to the positive impact the programme is having at community level. 

Thousands of children are benefiting from the generous support for Feed Our Future – from both Mary’s Meals donors and the UK government. Hellen Phiri, 11, lives in Zambia’s Chipata district and attends Matula primary school, which is opposite a small international airport.

She is a keen student and dreams of becoming a pilot. She said: “I want to be a pilot because it’s a good job, and I will be able to help my mum with finances. I like to watch the planes landing and taking off at the airport."

Hellen is one of eight children and her mother is raising them alone, so resources are tight. She is thankful of the porridge served by Mary’s Meals volunteers at school.

Helen Phiri at school

She said: “I know I will be able to eat when I come to school. The porridge tastes good and helps me to concentrate in class. Once I have eaten I am no longer hungry.

“School is important. I want to finish school, take my grade 7 exams and go to a local secondary school.”

With another twelve months to run, the three-year project is already demonstrating the real and lasting change that can be realised through community supported school feeding for the world’s poorest children.

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