Farming, netball and mugs of hope

Olivia from Zambia, tells us why her first meal of the day is the most important.

Every morning before school, 14-year old Olivia gets up early and goes to work on the family farm. 

When she gets back from the field, Olivia helps with the household chores before setting off on the hour-long walk to Kawambe Primary School. She arrives to her first meal of the day – a steaming hot mug of Mary’s Meals porridge.  

“I feel good when I eat, because I come back from the field in the morning on an empty stomach,” Olivia says. “I feel very hungry when I get to school.”

“In the future, I want to be a teacher,” she adds. “I am inspired by my teacher here at Kawambe. My favourite subjects are English, maths and social studies. I like English because I want to know how to speak it.”

Like most people in this part of Zambia, Olivia’s parents grow food for their family on their small plot of farmland. It is a precarious life. This year, the family already see that the upcoming harvest will not be good, as a result of poor rains.

Times are tough, and Olivia only eats once a day at home. At weekends she sometimes goes out to look for paid work, so she can earn money to buy soap and wash her school uniform. As food becomes increasingly hard to come by, the promise of a nutritious daily school meal offers a lifeline for girls like Olivia. 

“Phala (porridge) fills me with energy,” she says. “It helps me to concentrate. 

“School is important, because when I have finished, I will be able to support myself, and have the money to buy most of the things that I need.”

Thanks to Mary’s Meals, Olivia attends lessons with a full stomach, instead of skipping class to work or scavenge for food. She also has plenty of energy to play with her friends. 

“My best friend is Joyce Banda, she helps me to do my school work. We also play netball together,” Olivia says.

“I don’t play for the school netball team at the moment because I am too young, but when I play with my friends, I play as a centre. I am happy when I am playing netball, and also when I am studying.”

Thank you for giving Olivia the chance to enjoy her childhood and make the most of her education.