A Life Changing Experience in Malawi
Ireland’s Board of Directors went on a self-funded trip to Malawi to learn more about Mary’s Meals life changing school feeding programmes in the country. Board Director, Arthur Coary, shares his personal reflections from the trip.
Back in November, I took part in a self-funded trip to Malawi with Mary’s Meals Ireland. I wanted to share the amazing experience I had with our supporters so that they can learn more about the impact that their support is making to the children we feed.
It was my first trip to a developing country and I have to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about security, travel arrangements and what I was going to see! I needn’t have had any concerns, it was a trip of a lifetime!
We visited six schools and one orphanage in Blantyre and Lilongwe, and despite the poverty (which was awful), all I saw was happy smiling children.
The poor condition of the school buildings (no electricity or running water) was so sad to see. Some of the classrooms had no desks or blackboards, children sat on the floor and teachers wrote on the walls. Classroom numbers are nothing like Ireland; one class room we visited had 123 children, another had 119 children.
In spite of this the children were so happy and well behaved. Watching them queue up in their hundreds in an orderly fashion for their daily Mary's Meal was a delight and a surprise to see.
Each school has volunteers to cook the daily meal of porridge; they are in most cases the mothers of the children attending. They start at 3am in the morning, set the firewood, fill the large pots with water and then mix the maize, soy and vitamins. All this to have the porridge ready for the first serving at 7am. These volunteers are the real heroes!
These volunteer ladies gave us such a beautiful welcome when we arrived at each school with their singing and dancing, such an honour to be there.
We visited one orphanage in Jacaranda, and what a lovely surprise we got, the orphanage school was beautiful. As well as the classrooms, they had music and dance studios and a children’s library. All the children had school uniforms which were made at the school. It was a complete contrast to the schools we visited earlier and it was a real insight to what can be achieved if enough donations are made.
We met a number of Mary's Meals workers from Malawi and I have to say it was a delight to see how passionate they are about the work they do and the one million plus children they manage to feed every day. I was particularly impressed with Phillimon who brought us to four schools in Blantyre. His passion and drive was inspiring. At the Naizi school, which has 4,672 learners (pupils), there was a boy about 7 yrs old (who was not a pupil) sitting on the school wall looking for food and hoping to get a meal. Phillimon took over a meal to him and he said he would start the process to get him into the school, truly inspiring - ‘another child fed’.
We also got a tour of the Mary's Meals office in Blantyre where Umberto gave a wonderful overview and logistical presentation. Marys Meals are actually feeding 20% of the school children in Malawi. Umberto told us about the many challenges they are facing, in particular, Malawi having one of the highest inflation rates in Africa, which is increasing the cost of maize and soya!
It’s hard to put in words the impact the donations make to these children, but to see the delight and joy in the children faces was so wonderful. Our volunteers and those who donate are making such a huge difference to these children’s lives both in being fed at least one meal a day and at the same time being educated, which please God, will get them out of the poverty trap that exists!
My sincere and heartfelt thanks to these wonderful volunteers, donors and the remarkable Mary's Meals workers in Malawi.
On a personal level my trip to Malawi has reinforced the massive impact that Marys Meals is having on the children we feed!
Board Director, Mary's Meals Ireland