School joins global movement to fight child hunger
Photo Courtesy of Kellie Anfosso - Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow (center), a 2010 CNN World Hero, came to Texas this week to recognize the McKinney North Student Council for its year-long project to raise $11,500 so that Mary's Meals can build another school kitchen in Malawi, birthplace of the international organization.
"If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
Mother Teresa's words have resonated with McKinney North High School student council members, albeit more the "hundred" than "just one."
Inspired by Mary's Meals, a global movement that sets up school feeding projects in the world's poorest communities, the students have raised more than $7,500 since October. They're $4,000 away from funding another school kitchen in poverty-stricken Malawi in Africa.
"People ignore the fact that millions of children are starving and being deprived of an education," said Abigail Gibney, the McKinney North student who has orchestrated her school's participation in the movement. "We value our education so much, so it just seemed right."
Their project, "A Simple Solution," began with World Porridge Day, during which students and staff sat on the floor and ate a sparing lunch to better understand how those in poverty eat every day, if at all.
Student council (STUCO) has since sold bracelets and T-shirts that promote the Mary's Meals mission: "a simple solution to world hunger." The group received a Top 10 Project award at the recent state STUCO convention, and was one of 12 STUCO groups in Texas to receive the National Association of Student Councils' Gold Council of Excellence Award.
But perhaps their most welcomed recognition came Monday night. Mary's Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow came all the way from Scotland to McKinney just to applaud their efforts.
"Every time we've made a plea on behalf of people suffering, we've just been overwhelmed with kindness all over the world," Magnus told students, staff and parents in the McKinney Performing Arts Center's Courtroom Theater. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing about the amazing things happening here."
That says a lot coming from a world icon who has extended Mother Teresa's words to "thousands" for more than a decade. In 2010, CNN recognized Magnus as a World Hero for his continuous aid in the face of global poverty.
Such aid really began in 1992, when Magnus and his brother decided over a beer to bring supplies to conflict-torn Bosnia. They requested medicine, food and clothing from their Scottish neighbors and contacts, and their one-trip mission quickly became a weekly affair.
Magnus quit his job, sold his house and dedicated his time to providing relief, first to Bosnia then to Romania, where hospital wards housed hundreds of abandoned, HIV-positive children.
"What I remember about walking into the room was the silence," Magnus told MPAC guests of his visit to a Romanian ward. "If you leave children long enough without ever even picking them up, they eventually give up crying."
Magnus realized dropping off supplies wasn't enough. His organization, Scottish International Relief, helped open three homes for the children, providing at least "a dignified place for those children to die," he said. Ten years later, almost all of them are young adults.
Motivation for Mary's Meals came in 2002 through an encounter with an AIDS-affected family in Malawi, an African country hit hard by famine. Sitting among a mother on her death bed -- the mud ground -- and her six kids, Magnus asked her eldest, 14-year-old Edward, about his life dreams.
Edward's response: "I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day."
Magnus and fellow volunteers helped open school kitchens, attracting hungry children to school with a daily meal. The children's enrollment, attendance and academic achievement dramatically improved, Magnus said.
"Almost immediately, we could see that this wasn't just a good idea," he said. "It was really going to work."
The movement, which soon became Mary's Meals (named after Jesus' mother), grew village by village, nation by nation. Mary's Meals began by feeding 200 children in Malawi, and now, daily feeds more than 600,000 children in 16 countries across the world.
Through Mary's Meals, it costs just less than $17, on average, to feed one child for an entire school year, and only $11 to feed a Malawi child, which is why McKinney North STUCO members sold shirts that read "Eleven Dollars."
Well on their way to raising enough money for another Malawi school kitchen, McKinney North students seem to realize how small of price that is to give hungry children a chance.
"It's been proven over and over again, the big key to lifting the world's poorest communities out of poverty is basic education for all," Magnus said. "It's about setting people free."
With several weeks left of this school year, STUCO members remain hopeful they'll raise that $4,000. Their potential kitchen will don the school's name, and STUCO plans to garner $3,000 next year to keep it stocked.
"It's so cool that we get to do something in another country," said Spencer Anfosso, McKinney North senior. "It's definitely the highlight of my student council career."
The movement is starting to build up in the U.S., and McKinney North "wanted to start it here in Texas," Gibney said. Few recognize that more than Magnus.
One school working together for one kitchen may seem insignificant. But in Mother Teresa's and Magnus' experience, "just one" is often all it takes for true change.
"When I think about Mary's Meals, I always think about it as just a series of lots of little acts of love," Magnus said. "It's only when you put all those small things together that you create something beautiful."