Mary’s Meals is an international charity tackling widespread hunger in the world’s poorest, most undeveloped nations such as Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Set up in 2002, the charity set out on a mission to understand (with focus groups and surveys) the impact hunger had on children’s education.
Mary’s Meals feeds children around the world
Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (established by the United Nations), is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education … for all”. But Mary’s Meals acknowledges the obstacles to this goal; if a child is hungry, their ability to learn is significantly reduced. The charity’s ultimate vision is to therefore ensure that every child receives a meal in their place of education.
The charity, comprised of volunteers, is currently feeding 2,279,941 children around the world every school day. But they say there is still more to be done. They ask for support in three forms: monetary donations, offering skills, and praying.
Of these 2.2 million children receiving meals, just over 4,000 are in Syria. Eleven-year-old, Wissam (not his real name), poignantly pointed out that many children in his country are unable to go to school because of the impact the war has had.
“If I didn’t go to school, I’d miss my friends and the meal I am receiving”, he said. Wissam, who hopes to be a doctor when he grows up, is fuelled by the sandwich and fruit that Mary’s Meals provides.
Prayers during Ramadan
While it costs just £15.90 to feed a child at school for an entire year, the charity is also calling on people of all faiths, including Islam, to pray for these children.
Recently, Zahid Nawaz, a supporter of Mary’s Meals, suggested that the charity should encourage Muslims during Ramadan to pray for the cause. He said:
“Ramadan reminds us of those around the world, who are less fortunate than us – who don’t have enough food and water and are chronically hungry.”
“Giving to this charity feels like a natural fit with our respect of Mary, who we know better as Maryam, Peace Be Upon Her.”
Ensuring tangible, long-term progress
The charity doesn’t only provide meals to schoolchildren around the world. They also offer training, guidance and other practical support, to ensure that the school feeding programme is well-crafted. Twice a week, a Mary’s Meals’ school feeding officer visits the schools on the programme to address any queries they have.
The charity always keeps in mind the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), meaning vulnerable children are looked after properly.
Improving the wellbeing of children
The outcome of setting up a well-managed, well-structured programme, which is focused on the child, is not only that children’s bellies are filled, but their overall wellbeing at school is improved.
The charity’s ‘impact report’ offers some quotes from children whose livelihoods and school experiences have improved because of their meals:
“Mary’s Meals brings a smile on my face each school day, because I’m assured that hunger will never be a reason for me to not concentrate in class”
“When there was no Mary’s Meals, I used to be hungry and go back home but this time, when I come to school, I can be encouraged to learn”
“I have been receiving porridge for the past 7 years. It has helped me gain weight, it gives me energy and I don’t stay hungry in class.”