Overcoming the odds with the help of a meal

Ten-year-old Thomas in South Sudan describes the real impact a daily meal in school can have on a young life thrown into chaos

Back to all stories | Posted on 27 November 23 in BlogChildren's stories

At four years old, Thomas would not have dared imagine how life would be for his ten-year-old self. This cheerful boy is a contradiction to the life he has lived, happy in school, learning with his siblings, and playing football with his friends, fuelled by generous donors to Mary’s Meals.

Thomas’ father died trying to defend his family and community against government soldiers when they stormed their town. Thomas says: “They were coming to kill us. We ran to the bush to hide, and my father remained behind to fight against the soldiers. We ran from one place to another, chased by soldiers again and again.”

This terrifying start in life is familiar for many children in South Sudan, where years of internal unrest have followed a vicious civil war. The fallout has been millions of people displaced from their homes, more than half the population facing food insecurity, and more than two million primary-age children out of school.

Mary’s Meals is working with trusted local partners in two regions of South Sudan to help ease suffering and offer hope to young people whose lives have been derailed and whose education is on a precipice.

When Thomas and his four siblings eventually stopped running, they attended a makeshift school deep in the jungle built by our partners, the Mary Help Association, but still, the way forward was uncertain. “In the beginning, we had no food in the school, and it was difficult,” Thomas says. “At home, the family shares food together from one plate. I wanted to come to school every day, but with hunger, I was not able to walk.”

When Mary’s Meals arrived at their school, Thomas and his siblings were filled with hope. He says: “Now all of us get food in school and we are so happy. My mother is happy too. One day I will get a good job and take care of my mother, who is always working too hard to care for us.”

Mary’s Meals is serving daily school meals to almost 70,000 children in two regions of South Sudan where the need is particularly acute. The food we serve – which may be the only meal they will have in a day – is a turning point for many young people who would not attend school without it.

Please help us to support more children like Thomas. Together we can change a child’s tomorrow.