Feature

A Tale of Two Schools

Issue 5 - 2016

Mary’s Meals is a remarkable charity, supported by Scott Dunn, that twins UK and African schools to provide nutritious meals and transform children’s lives

Issue 5 - 2016

Mary’s Meals is a remarkable charity, supported by Scott Dunn, that twins UK and African schools to provide nutritious meals and transform children’s lives

For a charity that only started in 1992, Mary’s Meals has achieved extraordinary things. Today, the organisation feeds over a million schoolchildren in 12 different countries around the world – from Malawi and Zambia to Thailand, Burma and Ecuador. Its success is partly down to a beautifully simple sponsorship model. Schools in the UK are twinned with schools in need elsewhere: it’s a system that’s easy for young children to understand and engage with, and presents ambitious but achievable fundraising targets.
Individuals can also donate money or clothing, send backpacks filled with school supplies or even volunteer abroad. Mary’s Meals was particularly close to the heart of Scott Dunn Travel Consultant Louise Black, who sadly passed away in 2011. As an ongoing memorial to her, it is now one of the chosen charities that together make up the Scott Dunn Charitable Fund.

pupils threw themselves into it, raising money through dress-up days and baking sales

“It started with a brand-new kitchen”, says Sally Gross, English and maths teacher at Beachborough school near Oxfordshire. “We’d just had one installed at our school, so we explained to the pupils that we were making sure the children at Nthola Primary School in Malawi had one too. It was incredible to see how they threw themselves into it, saving up their pocket money and planning their own individual events. They were so responsive.”
For a year, Beachborough pupils studied Malawi as part of their everyday curriculum while raising money through dress-up days and baking sales, and the charity even sent across 360 of the tin mugs that pupils at Nthola eat their porridge out of, so that Beachborough children could do the same. Afterwards, they filled the mugs with money and returned them: it’s this kind of direct connection with pupils of the same age that you feel really drives the charity, and is fundamental to its success.
After a year, Beachborough raised over £15,000 and continues to raise money for Nthola Primary School. Pupils receive photos of their contemporaries across the ocean and reports on how the school is doing. Incredibly, for every £1 given to Mary’s Meals, a minimum of 93p goes directly into charitable activities, and the results speak for themselves.
“There are no children at home in our house now; they’re all enrolled in school. They’ve developed an interest in education because they get fed here, plus they have more energy, and they look healthy,” says Tiwange Miwagomba, a mother and volunteer cook at Nthola.
“My real hope is that some of the top-year group will visit Nthola in their gap year,” says Sally. “I think that would be such an incredible experience for everyone.”
The founder and CEO, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, says the aim of the charity has always been simple: to reach the next hungry child. “We’re constantly expanding our feeding programmes to enable more and more children to come to school,” he says. “And, more than ever, we’re committed to realising our vision that every child receives one daily meal in their place of education.”
He remains humbled by people’s goodness. “The Shed That Fed A Million Children [the bestselling book that tells the story of Mary’s Meals] describes the many encounters I’ve had with people who carry out acts of kindness to support our work. I once received a letter from a man who had just read my book and passed it around to all his friends in prison. Even the most macho men are moved by the story of Mary’s Meals. They enclosed their donations with the letter. I’m always struck by how privileged we are to be part of this ‘story’, that moves so many people.”


Please visit scottdunn.com/marysmeals for more information.

Main image: the children of Nthola Primary School display the mugs they eat their porridge from. Above: Beachborough School pupils were sent the same mugs, which they filled up with money and sent back to Malawi

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A pupil from Nthola Primary School in Malawi
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