“Change” for Chaone Primary School in Malawi

Led by their Minister of Religious Education and Youth Ministry Rich Olon, the staff at St. John’s Summer Program in Hollywood, MD committed to feeding 1,000 children at Chaone Primary School in Malawi for a year. Their goal: to raise $21,216 through a series of creative fundraisers and their own giving. 

Rich Olon tells us: “At St. John’s Summer Program, our staff of high school and college students love our young children who are so blessed to not experience real hunger.  Knowing that there are children, the same age as our campers, who go to bed hungry at night, has ignited a desire to do more – to sponsor Chaone Primary School in Malawi, feeding those precious children for a year.” Their mantra…Save 1,000 souls – Feed 1,000 children.

The staff and the campers created excitement and built momentum by hanging banners and signs throughout the school and holding a variety of fundraisers including a unique game called “Change Wars for Mary’s Meals” where teams competed for ice cream and pizza parties. Another game challenged the campers to “what would you give up to feed a child for a year!”

March 2018: The fundraiser kicked off with a mulch sale “Never having done a mulch sale before, we had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to see that we earned $6,000 with this kickstarter project,” Rich tells us.

April 2018: Fried chicken dinner. “With fresh cooked meals, a 4-hour window for pick up, runners for car delivery, and many other moving parts, this project added $2500 to the bank,” Rich remembers. And just like that St. John’s was on a fast path to their goal in just the first two months.

“The success of the first two programs did so much for morale with all our students and staff that suddenly, the lofty goal seemed within reach”, says Rich.

The students would begin their day watching clips of Generation Hope, the award-winning Mary’s Meals documentary that follows feeding programs which are changing lives with a single meal every day at a place of education in the world’s poorest countries. “What was so beautiful in sponsoring Chaone was that it played a big role in Generation Hope and therefore helped to bring our campers into the mission”, says Rich.

St. John’s created a beautiful and special web page to launch the fundraising events and linked it to their custom fundraising page on Mary’s Meals USA web site.

Rich credits his entire staff for their dedication and energy. They truly were a part of the program’s success. We were lucky to speak with a few of them directly:


“My favourite part of the summer programme was walking through the hallway and reading the entries on the What Would You Give Up board to feed a child.” The board was populated with declarations from campers and their parents about what they were going to sacrifice so that a child would receive a meal. “We were careful to place the notes on the board at eye level for the adults and the campers, making sure everyone was able to see their contributions and their peers!”​

Sloane Koviak, worked as Rich’s administrative assistant for the past two years.


"Change Wars was one of the most exciting and surprising competitions of the fundraiser. We thought we would raise about $1,000 and instead we raised so much more. This game brought out the best in everyone and the campers even pulled their parents into the competition. I was responsible for setting up the Charge Wars table, so I went to the Dollar Store and purchased a few small containers. By the 2nd day of the game, the jars were overflowing! So, back to the Dollar Store I go to purchase more and more jars. It was also fun to go to the bank and pour the change into the counter…even the bank tellers took bets on the number of coins!”

Sarah Schachterle who’s journey with St. John’s began 6 years ago as a classroom instructor and teaching cooking camp.


“I work with a staff of some of the best people in the whole world and Rich is the entire reason for everyone coming together with Christ at this school and camp! It was so gratifying to see the expressions on the kids when they approached me saying what they were going to give up to feed a child half-way around the world and that they never even met. Just a beautiful thing to see and to be part of.”

Emma Davis


“I head up Camp Development and review and edit lesson plans with a focus on making activities exciting”. Samantha continues, “My favorite part of the curriculum is that each camp includes God in their lesson plan. This summer, the staff used Mary’s Meals videos to help them understand the significance of the poverty and of people doing God’s work on the other side of the world”. Samantha was also in charge of donations; “It was so exciting and rewarding to see the smile on each individual’s face when they presented their donation to me, no matter the amount…the joy was the same!”

Samantha Wilt who landed at St. John’s on the recommendation of her sister who had children enrolled in the school and “saw the beauty in the community.” Samantha applied for a position 4 years ago when her journey began.


Theatre productions are a large part of the camp program and each morning began with skits on a stage with the backdrop theme dedicated to Mary’s Meals. The staff and campers designed the backdrop with an image of Chaone Primary School and The Shed, reminding the audience about their summer goal with every performance of The Lion King and each skit!

Rich Olon recently wrote to us: “I was getting nervous as momentum slowed mid-summer and then, God helped us finish with a blast raising nearly $8,000 in the past two weeks.  The Change Wars made the big difference at the endWe had a penny war among the camps (coins in your jar are a positive and bills are a negative, so each camp was able to add coins to their own camp’s jar and add bills to the other camp’s jars to sabotage them) for a week that raised a surprising $3,000.  We were only expecting $1,000 or so, and then with a couple of spirit nights at local restaurants, donations by staff and then some large ones by family and camper families… we crossed the finish line.” Not only did they cross the finish line but they raised well more than their goal!

Mary’s Meals is a global movement of people from all walks of life, united by our belief that no child in this world of plenty should endure a day without a meal. Rich Olon and St. John’s Summer Program staff and campers are helping to make dreams come true for Chaone Primary School students.

There are many different ways you can help – by donating your time, money, skills and prayers.