Our communications officer, Gerry, travels from West to East Africa, but what he finds is not so different.

Gerry Naughton
Gerry Naughton
Communications officer, Liberia

Back to all stories | Posted on 22 Mar 2018 in Blog

I remember a friend of mine struggling to describe how he felt after visiting a new country with a vastly different culture from his own in England. “They’re just the same as us; they’re all different,” he said.
 
That contradiction sums up how I feel the minute I arrive in Kenya for the first time with Mary’s Meals. It's a country that feels familiar to what I have seen in Liberia, but I am also aware of big differences. 
 
Generally, Mary’s Meals works the same everywhere. We give children a daily meal at school, which gives them strength and nutrition and also attracts them to school to learn. But the variety comes when I meet the children.

Simon 

One of the first students I speak to at Border Farm Primary School in Eldoret, is Simon – probably the tallest person I’ve ever met. A gentle giant – standing at 6 ft 10 and three-quarter inches – Simon (naturally) wants to be a basketball player.
 
Simon is a refugee from South Sudan, like around half of the student population at Border Farm. He explains to me patiently that the war in his country is between two ethnic groups – the Dinka and the Nuer – but that members of both groups have fled to Kenya. He and his best friend would be on opposing sides in South Sudan, but in Kenya they sit side-by-side in the same class.
 
Mary’s Meals is Simon’s only reliable source of food. He says: “They cook Mary’s Meals really nicely, so I feel good about coming to school and learning. An educated man is a peaceful man.”

Anthony and Aggrey

Anthony and Aggrey are 14-year-old twins who live in a one-room house in Eldoret. Their father is not around and their mother works in Sudan hundreds of miles away. They survive on Mary’s Meals, the little money their mother can send them and the fruit and vegetables they grow themselves. Outside their house they have two small plots – one where they grow corn, spinach, tomatoes and other vegetables, and the other with fruits like oranges or loquats – a fruit that I have never encountered before.

Anthony climbs the tree to bring down a handful of loquats for us both to try – small, yellow, sweet fruits with a stone in the middle. He also insists I take an avocado, the biggest that I have ever seen. Sometimes, the generosity of people I meet is breath-taking.


I am continually moved by the warmth and hospitality of all the people I meet, and I see the same hope here in Kenya that I see in Liberian children who are part of the Mary’s Meals programme.