News and Views from Scotland

Martha's Lunches and Mary's Meals - A Scottish Charity Enters a New Phase

Mary's Meals in Cite Soleil Haiti - graphic by Angela Caitlin via Wikimedia Commons

A Scottish charity that provides daily meals to more than a million impoverished children around the world will benefit from £5m in UK Government funding.

Mary's Meals will receive the cash after its Feed Our Future campaign was selected for the Department for International Development's (DFID) UK Aid Match scheme, which matches public donations pound for pound.

The campaign originally hoped to raise £1.5m during the last three months of 2015 but supporters across the UK boosted its coffers to £5m.

Mary's Meals currently provides more than 1.1 million of the world's poorest children in 13 countries with a daily meal in school.

The charity dates back to 1991 when Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane Barrow organised a local appeal for blankets and food and drove to Bosnia which was embroiled in the post-Yugoslavian conflict.

On a visit to Malawi in 2002, Magnus met a boy whose plight led to a new focus and the charity's main area of work today. Lying on the floor of her hut, the boy's mother was dying of AIDS, surrounded by her six children. Magnus asked the oldest son what he hoped for in life, and he said: "to have enough to eat and to go to school one day." The request struck a chord, and led to the evolution of Mary's Meals as it exists today. (Graphic on the right is of Chisebe Primary School Malawai (photo by Thomas Black via Wikimedia Commons )

In 2011, some primary school children from Argyll started a club called Charity Children and raised £70 for Mary's Meals. The initiative made national news when one pupil, Martha Payne, who was 9 at the time, started writing a blog about school meals. The school authorities panicked at the thought of pictures of Martha's lunch hitting social media and tried to stop the youthful pupil. That backfired - the excuse that the publicity might upset the noble dinner ladies of Argyll seemed hugely feeble and provoked public scorn. However the publicity drew in lots of money . Martha raised more than £108,000 in less than a month.

A heartening example of the positive use of Scottish social media.

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23 April 2016

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