Why Mary’s Meals really matters
In her latest blog, our content development manager Shona reflects on a visit to a school in Kenya before it began to serve Mary’s Meals.
I visited a very different kind of school when I was in Kenya; a school where our feeding programme had not started… yet.
My visit to St Mary’s Primary School was in stark contrast to my other visits in Eldoret. There were no children rushing out to meet the car, no shouts or excited voices could be heard from the school grounds. This was a school where the children were still hungry.
I was there with Becky Evans, our country representative for Mary’s Meals Kenya. Mary’s Meals works with the government and local district councils to assess where we can have the greatest impact. As part of this process we met with the deputy head teacher who outlined the challenges facing some of his students.
“Our children come from a catchment area where the parents are not able to support them. You can see it in the way they dress and the way they are. Some children who should be at this school end up as casual labourers – because of poverty, some children end up on the dump site.
“There are also problems with alcohol and drug abuse. We’ve had cases of child pregnancy and we have orphans here too.”
Those that did make it to class were prevented from making the most of their education because of hunger. “Some children come to school hungry. In the morning, some of them are dizzy, so sometimes the teachers try to give them something to eat at break. We ask children why they are sleeping in class and they say it is because they are hungry.”
As we left, the school seemed oddly deserted. It was clear that large numbers had started leaving, in the hope of finding something to eat at their homes.
Driving away I had mixed emotions of sadness for the children there but hope that Mary’s Meals might be able to help change these children’s lives.
Update: a brighter future
Any feelings of helplessness I had leaving St Mary’s that day were replaced with joy when I spoke to Becky recently. The great news is that, thanks to the support we receive from all over the world, Mary’s Meals is now being served to the school’s 670 pupils every school day!
“St Mary’s has truly embraced the programme and has a very active school feeding committee made up of teachers, cooks and parents. The feeding programme has involved parents and the community more in the school activities and improved how the community and parents value education and sending their children to school.
“Like all the schools in the programme, St Mary’s reports a particular impact in the early childhood development classes (ECD or nursery). Enrolment of children in these pre-school classes has increased as children are receiving a meal. The head teacher told me that the children are more active and participate better in class once they have eaten!”
Looking at photos from the school now I can’t help but smile. The children look happier and healthier than they did during my original visit. Now the muted, empty break times are filled with the sounds of children playing, full of the energy they have received from their simple serving of a daily school meal. Being involved with Mary’s Meals in whatever shape or form, removes that feeling of helplessness that can be overwhelming when you think of the poverty affecting children all over the world. These meals and the impact on the children that receive them – that’s why Mary’s Meals really matters!