Food Changing the story in Turkana
Executive Director for Ireland, Patricia Friel, shares her joy over news of school feeding expansion in Northern Kemya
I can't begin to tell you the way I am feeling after hearing the news that we will now be reaching tens of thousands of little primary school children in Kenya. My eyes are filled with tears, my heart is filled with joy. I feel like clapping, I feel like dancing, because I know the difference that this is going to make, not only to so many little children, but also to their parents, guardians and to their overall community. I am so grateful to our team in Kenya who worked so tirelessly day in and day out, month after month, to make sure that this happened. But my joy is for the little ones, my joy is for their families.
Just in July of this year I travelled to Turkana, the northern region of Kenya. I was shocked, firstly, by the heat that hit me when I got off the plane. I could feel the sand under my feet, and little did I know that, for the next few days, sand was all that I would feel, intense heat was all that I would feel. It is the most unforgiving landscape that I have ever seen - the ground so hot, with nothing but little bushes that feel like razor blades if you brush off them. I was told while I was there that they were a delicacy for the goats, I couldn't see how that was possible.
The main thing that stays with me is the communities we met. The further we travelled into the region of Turkana, each community became poorer than the last and the people had less and less. But what those people did have was the most beautiful grace and resilience. Those people welcomed us with open arms, they danced with us, they sang with us, even though their energy was low, it was their way of welcoming us. Now, as a redhead from Donegal, I thought the singing and dancing in the blistering heat might be the end of me!
It was heartbreaking to visit the Early Childhood Development and Education Centers and to see how protective these tiny little children were over their bowl of food. But then to look towards the primary school and see those older boys and girls longing to have that same bowl of food; that was a truly heart-breaking scene. It was a scene that I felt totally helpless in, so that is why today is such a wonderful day! Knowing that for some of these schools, food will be brought, and now it will go across the fence, across the yard into the primary school.
I think of the joy of those teachers; the teachers that would have tried so hard to bring Mary's Meals to those schools. The teachers that advocate for their students because they see their little students who are tired, who can't concentrate, who complain of feeling sick and complain of feeling weak and lightheaded. Imagine the joy of those teachers when lunchtime comes, the joy for those children when lunchtime comes.
The children will eat, they will have the energy to run and to play and to dance and to sing! So, that's why I feel like singing today, that's why I feel like dancing today, because I know that with Mary's Meals those little children have such a bright future. I am so grateful to every single person that will be reading this, and I ask you if you would help us just to spread awareness; spread awareness for the people of Turkana, spread awareness for the wonderful work that we are now able to move forward with, reaching out to so many more little children. Because with Mary's Meals it is true, food changes the story. Food is going to change the story for so many little lives, and the lives of so many parents and guardians and their entire communities.