THOUSANDS of miles from Scotland, on the cracked mud wall of HH Jones school at Jah Konnel Hill in Bomi County, Liberia, a banner bears the words: “Sponsored in memory of Susan Doogan, Govanhill, Glasgow”.
Sponsoring a particular school or kitchen in Malawi or Liberia is a popular way for people to fundraise for Mary’s Meals, the Scottish charity feeding more than 800,000 children every day at schools across the world, and for those who have lost a loved one, it’s a rewarding way to keep their memory alive.
Supporters fundraise to cover the annual costs of providing Mary’s Meals for a whole school, which in Malawi is £6,000 and in Liberia £7,000, or to build a school kitchen in Malawi, which is £7,000.
Standing at the front of the HH Jones school, a subdivided room containing 148 children aged from four to 15, principal Majma D Browne is grateful to the Scot she never met and thousands more donors a world away who help feed her pupils every day.
“I’m very, very happy to have Mary’s Meals here because it keeps the children in school and helps them to learn. When they have eaten, it keeps them focused. It keeps them happy. You see it when they’re playing too,” she says.
Browne is one of two teachers and is paid by the government. The other, Samuel Walton, is a volunteer, like many teachers in Liberia. Surrounded by pupils crouching on the mud floor, a lucky few on bamboo stools provided by parents, Browne leads her pupils in a song of thanks to Mary’s Meals as they look forward to perhaps the only meal they’ll have that day. Outside, in the bamboo-framed kitchen, which villagers build themselves in Liberia, Hawah Dorley, 41 and Maima Seh, 33, are cooking up corn and soya bean mix in a huge metal pot.
“I’m cooking because I want for them to eat and be happy. To grow up. And I want them to learn and work,” says Dorley who like Seh is a parent and volunteer.
Next summer Jacqueline MacDonald, from Hamilton, will see the school kitchen she has raised funds to build at a Mary’s Meals school in Malawi, in memory of her 24-year-old son Callum MacKinnon who died three years ago.
“I have lost my son and can either sit back and wallow or go out and make my life count,” says the 53-year-old Stop Smoking specialist nurse at Hairmyres Hospital in South Lanarkshire.
“I wondered what charity I would help, to keep a focus, and then discovered Mary’s Meals. It’s a children’s charity and is helping kids to have a better education and be fed. It also impressed me that 93p in the pound actually goes on the work itself,” says Ms MacDonald.
“I decided to raise £7,000 for a kitchen in memory of Callum and it will be his little daughter Faith’s legacy, and something that will carry on after me. I feel so much better that I’m keeping Callum and his memory alive. It costs £1,500 to keep that kitchen running on a yearly basis so we’ll keep fundraising and Mary’s Meals will subsidise the rest.”
Ms MacDonald thought it would take two years to raise the money but after starting in May, she has just reached her target thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of friends, family and Hairmyres hospital colleagues.
You can make a difference. To give online go to www.marysmeals.org.uk