HUNGRY children in Malawi have sent a heartfelt thank you to the nine-year-old girl whose NeverSeconds school meals blog has hit the worldwide headlines this week - and to those who have donated more than £80,000 to an Argyll-based charity as a result.
Martha Payne’s blog was set up to help raise money for Mary’s Meals – which has been receiving donations from all over the world as a result of Argyll and Bute Council’s ham-fisted attempt to stop Martha taking pictures of her meals at Lochgilphead Primary.
Council officials tried to stop Martha posting pictures of her school dinners to the blog after a national newspaper pictured Martha with top chef Nick Nairn last Thursday under the headline ‘Time to sack the dinner ladies’.
Already, as a result of donations to Martha’s online JustGiving page, Martha has raised enough money to build a new kitchen shelter and feed an entire school for a year at Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi, as part of Mary’s Meals’ Sponsor A School initiative.
In addition to the children at Lirangwe school, around 5,800 of the world’s poorest children will begin receiving Mary’s Meals because of funds raised – and that number keeps increasing as donations come in.
On the blackboard at their school, the Lirangwe pupils wrote ‘Thank you Martha and your friends’, and sang songs in appreciation of the support received.
Martha has chosen to name her kitchen in Malawi as ‘Friends of NeverSeconds’ in recognition of the worldwide support which she is receiving.
In Malawi, Mary’s Meals provides children with a daily mug of likuni phala, a nutritious type of porridge supplemented with additional vitamins and minerals, to fill their empty bellies and to attract them to the classroom where they can get an education which can lift them out of poverty in later life.
Gilbert Chigomere, a pupil at Lirangwe, is an orphan who is the same age as Martha – just nine years old – and was motivated to go to school when Mary’s Meals started providing food there.
On hearing about Martha’s efforts, Gilbert said this morning: “Please say hello to Martha for me! I want to thank her for all of her hard work.
“I like the porridge because, after I eat it, I am active and can concentrate in class. It really helps me because it takes me a while to get hungry again.”
It costs Mary’s Meals a global average of just £10.70 (€12.40/$16.80) to feed a hungry child for an entire school year. The charity provides a daily meal to over 650,000 kids every school day in 16 of the world’s poorest countries, including Malawi, Liberia, Kenya, India and Haiti.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder and chief executive of Mary’s Meals said: “I am humbled by Martha and her friends. We feel extremely proud of them.
“Because of what they are doing, and all those generous people who are donating, the lives of thousands of the world’s poorest children will be transformed. For every £10.70 donated, we are able to ensure another child will get a good daily meal for a whole school year.
“Many schools on waiting lists for Mary’s Meals will soon get very good news! We refuse to accept that any child in this world of plenty must endure a day without a meal and it is so heartening to realise that so many people around the world share that vision.”
In the face of worldwide condemnation, Argyll and Bute Council leader Roddy McCuish announced on Friday that the ban would be overturned.
We understand senior councillors were due to meet the officials responsible on Monday to discuss the authority’s reaction to the story and its implications.