Hope amid the struggle to survive

Six-year-old Augustine says he likes to smile when it’s time for the food to be served at his school. He says that it helps him get strong, with a full tummy and the energy for coming back to class.

Back to all stories | Posted on 1 September 20 in Blog

For now, home is where Augustine stays. The global Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of his local nursery school in Lolupe Village, Turkana. Turkana can be a brutal place to grow up. The lack of rain means it’s one of the driest places on earth. With little hope of growing crops, many people face a daily struggle to survive.

Augustine’s home is a semi-permanent structure, made of iron sheeting and mud, with a fence constructed from other local materials marking out the area the family calls their own. His parents do what they can to make ends meet and to provide for Augustine and his four siblings. His mother Mary says her family earn money from the brooms they make, while her husband, Augustine’s father, sells baskets locally.

“Sometimes there is a low price, and even more so during this time of Covid-19,” she explains. “Currently my children are not eating like they were before, because of our low income that has been affected by this pandemic. On average, they get one meal a day and that is during dinner time.”

‘Before’ refers to the time when Augustine was going to nursery classes. Encouraged to attend by the promise of a daily meal, he woke up early every morning to walk to school with his sister and his friend James. He likes writing and drawing the best and says that before the pandemic, he never missed school – “not even one day,” he announces proudly.

“The reason I go to school is to learn and get a meal that is provided by Mary’s Meals organization. It is through learning at school that I can get a job and support my family. Some children do not go to school because their parents give them some activities to do and some parents neglect their children. But I am served with a meal and that motivates me to come to school every school day.”

His mother Mary agrees: “I have never stepped into a class but I understand about education through other families that took their children to school and they are working now, and their families are doing good economically. It is important to take children to school so that they learn and get a job in future for helping other members of the family.”

But young Augustine has some time to go before he can fulfil his dreams of becoming a soldier and supporting his family financially. So many of Augustine and his family’s dreams were paused when fears over Covid-19 closed the doors of his nursery and a brought a temporary halt to the school feeding programme there.

Not to be defeated, the Mary’s Meals Kenya team worked tirelessly to find an alternative way to reach Augustine and so many like him, determined to bring food to the communities as soon as practically possible. And it worked. Within days, the program was completely remodelled so that children could receive meals at home – their new place of education. Community distributions are supported by local volunteers and involve parents collecting monthly rations on behalf of their children. When the government announced that schools in Turkana would remain closed until 2021, Mary’s Meals made a promise to keep providing these vital meals to hungry children in the region.

It's a promise that means so much to children like Augustine and parents like Mary. She says: “Parents have struggled for their children to get something to eat while at home. Mary’s Meals has helped children, even during this time of uncertainty. It has reduced the budget for preparing lunch because children get Mary’s Meals. I trust Mary’s Meals, that they will continue supporting children and I am also committed in supporting Mary’s Meals to make the program happen.”

Augustine’s dreams may have taken a knock, but with the commitment of his parents, our team in Kenya, and the support of people like you all over the world, his hope for a better future grows stronger every day.