Over the past few years I had heard the term “Mary’s Meals” but I knew nothing of the organisation or its founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. I had the privilege of hearing him speak today at Crieff Hydro at a Rotary conference as I too had been asked to make a contribution. I was inspired and impressed by Magnus’s visionary yet unassuming presentation.

For those of you who, like me, haven’t heard of either the organisation or the man, let me fill you in. Magnus and his brother ran a fish farm in Dalmally in Argyll and were so moved by what was happening in Bosnia in 1992 they decided to make an appeal for food and blankets and deliver them in a jeep. This was so successful that Magnus eventually gave up fish farming, and sold his house, to concentrate on aid.

After extensive charity work in Romania and Africa Magnus embarked on famine relief work in Malawi. One boy he met told Magnus that his life’s ambition was “TO have enough to eat and to got to school one day.” This prompted Magnus to set up Mary’s meals. Now it delivers around 400,000 daily meals to school children in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. All the food is purchased locally and made by volunteers. Providing the meal at school encourages children to attend so that they can be fed. Making sure that the children are not hungry has a direct effect on their concentration and ability to learn. Educating children improves their prospects and that of their families and communities. Feeding them obviously improves their heaith.

Another impressive aspect of Mary’s Meals is that the organisation spends very little on administration or marketing and Magnus masterminds the whole, international operation from a tin roofed hut in Dalmally. There’s also an office in Glasgow.

Magnus has rightly won a string of awards for his amazing charity work. Currently the American media company CNN have him as one of their TOP 10 Heroes.

The website http://www.marysmeals.org/index.html is worth looking at and there’s very good curriculum resources/activities for schools or others working with children and young people.

Unfortunately Magnus had to leave the event today before I gave my talk on The Tears that Made the Clyde and so I didn’t get a chance to engage him on how we might tackle some of our local problems. One thing is clear, however: we need the visionary insight of people like Magnus.

You can listen and watch Magnus talk about his work on http://www.youtube.com/user/marysmeals

Carol Craig is the Chief Executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being and the author of three books including. She is the driving force of the Centre, constantly seeking new and innovative ideas to ensure that it maintains its leading role in the field of confidence and well-being. She blogs on www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/carolsblog.php

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