Imagine living in parts of the world where all children are not afforded the opportunity to attend school; a place where our children might go to bed hungry because we could not provide them with food.
While it's not a subject that most think about regularly, students at McKinney North High School, led by student council president Abigail Gibney, are thinking globally and working with Mary's Meals food project to help. The students aim to raise $11,000 to build a kitchen that will be attached to a school in Malawi, a country in souteast Africa.
Mary's Meals is a project that provides one meal a day to some of the poorest countries in the world, where poverty and hunger prevent children from getting an education. The goal is simple: build kitchens which are attached to schools in order to attract kids to school. At school, each child will receive one meal a day and, at the same time, obtain an education. Education is the leg up for these kids to make their way out of poverty. The foundation is named for Mary, the mother of Jesus, because she was a refugee - a woman who raised her child in poverty.
On Monday evening, the 2010 CNN World Hero and Mary’s Meal Food Project founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, was the guest speaker at The Malawi Project event held at the McKinney Performing Arts Center. Volunteers from McKinney North were selling T-shirts and bracelets to raise more money to add to the project.
Gibney said enthusiastically, "This project just felt right. I'm a dreamer and getting this project off the ground was tough. But we are close to our goal! We have raised about $7,500. People give to various charities all the time, but sometimes aren't sure if the funds are used appropriately. Mary's Meals gives 93 cents out of every dollar directly to the foundation."
MacFarlane-Barrow told the audience that he came all the way from his home in Scotland because he truly was inspired by what the students at North are doing for Mary's Meals. He shared that the idea for Mary's Meal was born in 1992, over a pint of beer while watching the news with his brother. The Bosnian conflict was discussed and MacFarlane-Barrow knew he had to do something to help the refugees. The brothers decided to make an appeal for donations to help the Bosnian people. Donations poured in beyond their expectations. After delivering the supplies to Bosnia, the brothers planned to go back to life as fish farmers, however, according to Magnus, God had a different plan.
As donations continued to pour in, Magnus made the decision to quit his job in order to continue delivering aid to Bosnia. The Scottish International Relief (SIR) was founded. Soon the project expanded to other points of the world and when Malawi was struck with severe famine in 2002, an effort to provide famine relief brought a new direction for SIR. When talking with a 14 year old boy in Malawi, Magnus asked him what he hoped for and the answer was, “To have enough to eat and to go to school one day”. According to Magnus, the boy's answer was not easily forgotten and Mary's Meals was born.
"Love can transform things - very dark situations," MacFarlane-Barrows remarked on Monday night. "I think of it (Mary's Meals) as lots and lots of little acts of love. We aren't doing anything spectacular."
The vision of Mary's Meals is that every child will receive one good meal a day in their place of education, working to make a dent in the approximately 400 million children who go to bed hungry each night.
At the event, North Principal, Jimmy Spann, said, "These kids have opend their hearts and truly defined what it means to be a servant leader. They will walk away (from this project) with a greater understanding of what that means."
To date, Mary's Meals feeds more than half a million children a day. After just a few months of providing a meal a day at a new kitchen, statistics show that enrollment in a school increases by 18 percent. Today a number of schools find themselves on a waiting list to have a kitchen built.
MacFarlane-Barrow said he has been most surprised by the number of children who are not afforded the opportunity to obtain an education. He also commented that he has continually been surprised by the "really creative ways groups find to fundraise such as the bracelets that these kids at this high school are selling."
Gibney's dream is well on the way to becoming a reality. A kitchen in Malawi will be built with the donations from the students and families of McKinney North High School and from other caring McKinney residents.
For more information, email McKinney North Student Council.
Photo: (From L) Casie Homer, Student Council Advisor, Abigail Gibney, Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, Founder of Mary's Meals
Top Photo: Mary's Meals Founder, Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, speaks to the audience at MPAC on Monday evening.