Communities serve up mugs of change in Kenya
Three Mary’s Meals volunteers with one shared goal tell their stories.
Men and women – spurred on by their desire to better the lives of those living in their communities – have been cooking and serving Mary’s Meals to children in schools in Kenya since 2005. Today, 136,126 pupils in the country enjoy a daily nutritious meal every school day, made possible because of the individual volunteers working in the schools where the Mary’s Meals school feeding programme operates.
Maureen, Simon and Mrs. Ruto all share one common goal: serving nutritious daily meals in schools to the young minds living in their communities, encouraging children back into the classroom. Their work to run the school feeding programme has helped bring schools and the wider community together and they feel they are fostering change, as generations of young people – who are healthy and educated – carve new paths for themselves and their families away from poverty.
Here are their stories.
As the piping hot steam rises from the pots in the kitchen of Kipkaren Primary School and Maureen and her fellow volunteers congregate to prepare and stir the maize, 1,300 pupils make the journey to school, spurred on by the prospect of a warm and healthy meal from Mary’s Meals.
Maureen became a volunteer cook in 2018 when her neighbour, the school’s former cook, asked her to stand in for a colleague who was ill. She now supports the teacher in charge of the Mary’s Meals school feeding programme and has seen positive change concerning the worries of food insecurity among parents and the overall health of the pupils with the guarantee of a daily meal.
She says: “From the beginning, I always accompanied my neighbour to the school whenever I had free time. Volunteering is important to me because it gives me satisfaction for the service I am rendering to the school and community. I feel happy when I see that children are happy, healthy and attend school without fail because of the meal served in school that I am a part of.
“I strongly feel that I play a very important role in shaping the destiny of these children because the meal provided in school will enable them to complete their education and become independent in future. In this area, parents and guardians depend on casual jobs to eke a living, and the feeding programme provided in school helps a lot of parents to work longer hours and earn more wages because there is no time wasted at lunchtime.
“The school feeding programme in this school has been helpful to my immediate family and other parents because we no longer have to budget for lunch for children on every school day because food is served in school. It has also made the community work closely with the school administration to support the programme through giving firewood and water.”
Simon – a father of two – was all too aware that hunger was driving absence and dropout rates at his local school, Kapsoya Primary School, and that many children were staying at home to make ends meet instead of attending lessons.
Simon offered his services as a volunteer cook for Mary’s Meals in 2016. He explains that the meals not only boost children's energy, but they also bring a sense of unity among the pupils.
He says: “A meal in school has helped children learn and interact freely with other children. Food has brought equality among children because everyone eats the same food. This makes them interact, relate and work better together.
“I get a lot of motivation from seeing that one meal a day can really help children be consistent in school, even amid food shortages at home and when we experience droughts. Being a volunteer is important to me because I like taking care of pupils who are very vulnerable and helpless when it comes to food insecurity and family problems.
“I am happy to be a part of the Mary’s Meals family because I know that the children I am serving will now have a better future which will hopefully lift their families out of poverty.”
Mrs. Ruto is a science and mathematics teacher at Kidiwa Primary School, but she also volunteers her time running the school feeding programme.
“I volunteer because I love to see children growing healthy and learning in a conducive environment. Participating in the programme means I can ensure pupils are fed the right quality and quantity of food which positively impacts their learning, health, and development.
“The meals served mean pupils consistently attend school as they know they will receive a meal. Their levels of concentration in class have also increased because they are no longer hungry. Furthermore, the school feeding programme has taught the pupils good hand washing practices, and we ask them to continue doing this at home.
“Teamwork between the school and community has improved as we collaborate to deliver the school feeding programme.
“I must thank the donors. They have touched the lives of these children who would otherwise have been out of school.”
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