A long line of dusty, bare feet winds toward a large bucket in the center of an African schoolyard as a teacher motions to the first child in line, inviting him to come forward. The teacher dips into the bucket and pours a serving of hot porridge into a cup clutched in small, grateful hands. The child scampers away, and the next in line steps forward eagerly.

For many of these students at the Makuta Primary School in southern Malawi, a cup of porridge represents the only meal they will eat today. And for many of them it is the chief reason they are able to attend school. Without it, they would be forced to choose between a day in the classroom or a day spent in search of nourishment.

This humble lunch offers hope. And students from McKinney North High School helped provide it.

Inspired by the work of international hunger-relief charity, Mary’s Meals, the McKinney North Student Council began an ambitious campaign in 2011 to fund construction of a Mary’s Meals school kitchen at the Makuta Primary School. The cost: $11,500.

Over the course of the school year, the MNHS student council organized campus events to raise awareness. They called on parents, relatives and community members to get involved and sold t-shirts and bracelets to generate funds.

As North students and community members were reminded of the plight of hungry children around the world – and the idea that they could do something to help – donations poured in. By school year’s end, the student council had raised the money they needed for Mary’s Meals to begin construction of the school kitchen, and MNHS students had donated enough money to sponsor the school’s meals for the next year.

 

For MNHS Student Body President A.J. Laudenslager, the project opened his eyes to not only a great need, but our collective ability to do something about it.

“This project has made me realize how much we can really change the world,” he said. “Never underestimate the things you can accomplish with passion and good will on your side. Working on this project has made me appreciate all that I have even more, and you realize the things you can give up that don’t change your world, but could change someone else’s if you redirect those funds.”

Recently, the student council received an update on the impact that their school’s generosity is having on children more than 8,000 miles away.

“It is truly amazing to see all of our hard work in action. To see the smiles on all the kids’ faces would bring joy to anyone’s heart,” said Laudenslager. “When we first started on this endeavor the concept of people in need across the world was only a vision, and we had seen pictures of kids that we could be potentially helping. But, to see the kids that we have actually helped brings a renewed want to be involved with the kids.”

Here are some highlights from the Makuta Primary School update provided by Mary's Meals:

School information:

Your school, Makuta Primary, is located in the southern district of Balaka, Malawi and currently has 449 children enrolled – 234 boys and 215 girls. The children range from Standards 1-8 (Primary 1-8). There are two permanent classrooms at Makuta and your sponsored kitchen can double as a classroom when it is not being used for feeding. Unfortunately, due to lack of space, some classes are held in temporary shelters. The children are taught by a total of four teachers.

The school’s water source is a borehole in the school grounds. There are six temporary toilets on site which are shared between the boys and girls. Makuta has five sports balls which the children use to play ball games such as football and netball.

 

The Mary’s Meals Feeding Programme:

Typically, schools in Malawi begin serving their Mary’s Meals at around 9:30 a.m. each day, feeding the youngest children first (Standard 1). Mary’s Meals is initially organised by the school’s head teacher, who then meets with the school’s committee and people from the surrounding neighbourhood. A team of volunteers are then drawn from the local community. Volunteers are split up into teams, and each team takes a slot in the rota to cook the school meals. In Makuta, many of the volunteers are parents of the children at the school.

Volunteers often arrive at the school as early as 5 a.m. to fetch water, get the pots ready and start cooking. A vat of porridge takes about three hours to cook on a rocket stove. The porridge is then put into buckets, before serving, to stop the children crowding around a hot stove where they could get burned. The Likuni Phala porridge is then served to long queues of children all eager to get their daily Mary’s Meal.  After serving, the volunteers stay on to wash the pots and put away the stoves. The entire process normally finishes at about 2 p.m. As you can see, Mary’s Meals cooks take on a big commitment and the whole system would not be possible without the dedication of our volunteer cooks.

Zione Mauanai explains why she volunteers as a cook at Makuta for Mary’s Meals, “I volunteer because it keeps our children healthy and reports of common sicknesses are greatly reduced.”

Mary’s Meals at Makuta Primary School:

Mary’s Meals began feeding at Makuta Primary School in May 2012. Head teacher Nkhufwa Mwakapeye describes the benefits that Mary’s Meals has had on Makuta, “Increased enrollments, reduced absenteeism and high concentration in class.”

Since the introduction of Mary’s Meals at Makuta in 2012, enrollment of both boys and girls has been increasing.

It is fantastic news that Mary’s Meals at Makuta has allowed more children to go to school and be fed and this could not happen without the fantastic support of donors such as yourselves! Your feeding sponsorship at Makuta means that some of the world’s most vulnerable children need not go hungry and, through education, now have the opportunity to have a bright future.

 

Laudenslager said that other schools who have the desire to take on a project like this should not allow themselves to be discouraged by the size of it.

“Reach out to your relatives, anyone you know, because it’s not just about raising money,” he said.

“It’s about making the world aware of the issues in Malawi and around the world. Be passionate about helping these kids and share that passion. Mary’s Meals thrived at MNHS and in McKinney because our student council members wanted to make a difference, and I can tell you that it is more than worth it.”

“Anyone can build a Mary’s Meals Kitchen. All you have to do is never give up, and you can alter the life path of so many children.”

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Specialist, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.

 

About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,000 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, one alternative school and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.