I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

-Mother Theresa

Back to all stories | Posted on 23 February 23 in Blog

We’ve all done it – casually tossed a stone into a still pond just to watch the ripples reverberate outward, gathering momentum as they go, affecting a larger and larger area. It’s peaceful, it’s deliberate and it’s disruptive – in a good way. What if we actively and purposely think about creating disruptive ripples in our daily lives? Imagine the magnification of our actions. If our life is an expanse of water, what we drop into that water, will swell and touch those around us.

The ripple effect is based on the understanding that we are all connected. These connections stretch like an unbreakable, interwoven tapestry touching all of humanity. Our thoughts and actions are the stones dropped into the pond; the choices each of us make can have far-reaching consequences. Each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for the better.

Some people only focus on the initial splash they set out to make, but at Mary’s Meals the ripples are what have the most lasting, far-reaching impact.

ONE CHILD: Fortunate’s Story

On a recent trip to Malawi, our founder Magnus met up with Fortunate Phiri, a previous recipient of Mary’s Meals, who left a congratulatory comment on one of our social media posts. When we posted on Mary’s Meals’ LinkedIn page celebrating 20 years of life-changing meals, it prompted a comment from Fortunate Phiri that meant the world to us.

As Fortunate revealed, he had personally benefited from the school feeding program as a child and is now enjoying a successful career as a chemical engineer.

Fortunate was in Grade 8 (11/12 years old) when Mary’s Meals was first introduced at his school in Malawi. Like most children in his district, existing on one evening meal was normal for him. Regular breakfast had never been a possibility for his family and Fortunate says his That first year – when Mary’s Meals porridge was introduced and served every day – was, in Fortunate’s own words, a “game changer” for him and for every other learner at the school. The immediate impact was obvious, with increased student enrolment and fewer pupils skipping school. Fortunate felt able to apply himself more purposefully to his studies.

In Grade 9, he graduated to a secondary school where, sadly, there was no daily meal. Fortunate went on to study chemical engineering at Malawi Institute of Technology and now, age 27, wants to continue with his studies and get his master’s degree. His great hope, in these especially difficult times, is that Mary’s Meals will continue to reach more and more students and give them the motivation to come to school and stay in class to learn.

He says: “The Mary’s Meals [school feeding] program had a huge impact in our schools. The number of students who enrolled in our school started increasing. Even other students who attended schools where the program had not yet been introduced, they started leaving those schools to come to our school.

“Most families in Malawi are not well-to-do. They don’t have breakfast. Most of them, they just have one meal per day, so it was a game changer for most of us. “The program helped my siblings too … after getting the porridge at school, it wasn’t a big deal having an empty stomach when we were at home. “

In five years’ time I see myself doing a master’s and even going further into PhD [studies]. I would like to stay in academics because I like imparting knowledge – I think it’s my calling. I want to be teaching and lecturing and, if possible, helping other students with scholarships.” Mary’s Meals serves life-changing daily meals to 2,429,185 children every school day across 18 countries – but our work is far from over. The promise of a daily meal at school can bring lasting change to children and their families; giving children a reason to go to school and complete their education while providing the fuel they need to make attending class worthwhile. Fortunate experienced this support first-hand as a young boy when he knew he could count on receiving a meal at school. He then endured the struggle and challenges of higher education, without the guaranteed nourishment he so desperately needed.

In the countries where we work, schools and communities – equipped with the volunteers and resources required to power the school feeding program – are poised to give young people the chance to fulfil their potential, like Fortunate. We need your support to make the promise of a life-changing school meal a reality for more of the world’s poorest children, so they too can look forward to a daily serving of nutritious food while they learn, and work towards a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

The ripple created by one donor feeding one child from across the world, gently spreads outward, steadily gathering momentum until it splashes over other members of that child’s family as well. Parents around the globe have the same goals no matter where they live. They want their children to be happy and healthy. They want to provide a better childhood than they had, and they want to create a future without limits for their children. Not only does a daily school meal bring education and security to the children who receive it, but it also brings hope and much needed peace of mind to the families of those children.

ONE FAMILY: Mark’s Story

Father-of-three Mark from Uganda uses a wheelchair and struggles to walk but that doesn’t stop him from doing everything he can to support his family.

As well as being a farmer, he also has a small shoe cobbling business where, in a good day, he can earn up to 1000 shillings ($11 CAD) a day. Unfortunately, not every day is like this, and he often makes nothing. Despite his efforts, Mark and his wife find it extremely difficult to provide for their children. When Mark heard that children at Kachilo Primary school receive Mary’s Meals at lunch time, he enrolled his eldest child there as soon as he was of school age. Not only did this mean that Mark could be certain his son would have lunch every day, but it also leaves the family with a little more money for other necessities, such as school fees.

“I want to bring my other two children to Kachilo, where there is food and good education for them,” Mark tells us. “May God protect Mary’s Meals so that many more children may benefit from this initiative.”

Ripple after ripple, wave after wave, Mary’s Meals is creating opportunities for real change for the children we feed, their families, and their community.  Not only are we providing the foundation for children to become the future leaders of tomorrow by helping them to stay in school to become teachers, doctors, nurses and engineers who will, in turn, use their skills for the betterment of their village, we are also engaging the entire community in food cultivation and provision. 

With the assistance of program partners on the ground, sourcing food from local farmers and co-ops creates jobs and allows re-investment in the community. Additionally, our volunteer run feeding programs allow parents, grandparents and other community members to invest in their children’s future by personally cooking and distributing the daily meal - making them an integral part of each student’s success.

Our solution is a simple one - a long-term sustainable answer to global hunger – providing hope to millions of children, families, and communities worldwide.

ONE COMMUNITY: Stella’s Story

Stella Zulu, a volunteer at Madzi Atuwa Primary School, believes in the importance of the Mary’s Meals school feeding program.

“I started volunteering after attending meetings and speaking with other parents about Mary’s Meals,” she says.

Stella has four children who attend the school. It was important to her that it was not only her children that would eat a meal while they learn but that every pupil at the school could experience the same joy. Making sure her children and those around them have the best chance at a bright future is paramount for her. She says the promise of a daily meal at school would have had a significant impact on her life growing up.

“I like coming to cook for them because I love interacting with children, unlike being at home alone.

“When the children haven’t had their porridge, they all look sad and confused. But once they have their porridge, they are happy and play around at school. Having porridge at school has become part of their lives and it is something that they enjoy.

“I think if we had a program similar to Mary’s Meals when I was at school, it would have changed the course of my life.

“I hope that the children can focus on education and take advantage of this opportunity to secure a brighter future for themselves.”

The commitment of volunteers like Stella shows the importance they place on our school feeding program which abates some of the worries about hunger that exist among so many children and families. Stella believes in the work of Mary’s Meals with the same fervour as those who volunteer their time and donate to keep the plates and mugs of nutritious goodness flowing in schools like Madzi Atuwa. These collective little acts of love give Stella the hope that a brighter future is in reach for her children and their friends.

These are just a few of the stories of the millions of people whose lives have been changed by Mary’s Meals over the last 20 years. It costs just $31.70 to feed a child for an entire school year. To put that number into perspective, that’s the equivalent of just 5 fancy lattes from your favourite coffee shop. For just 16 cents per meal, you can be the stone that creates the ripple that will forever change the life of a child, a family, and a community.