Benin: Mary’s Meals is all about people for Croatia’s Zrinka

Zrinka is a volunteer for Mary’s Meals in Croatia. Recently she visited three schools in Benin, West Africa where nearly 2,000 children receive Mary’s Meals every school day.

Back to all stories | Posted on 31/05/16 in Blog

The one thing I will always remember from this visit is the people; the children and volunteers dedicate so much effort, love and sacrifice to this project. The tireless priest Philip who introduced Mary's Meals to Benin, the nuns who have been there for over 25 years working with Mary's Meals, the mothers who cook the meals, the teachers and the school principals - they all love, appreciate and personally understand the importance of Mary’s Meals.

While I was talking to the volunteers about the school feeding programme, all of a sudden I was struck by a question: 'Is this amount that Mary’s Meals sends you really enough to feed all these children for a year?' I have repeated to others over a thousand times that 120 HRK (£12.20) is enough to feed a child at their place of education through the whole school year. But this question now appeared before my eyes and the answer was simply – yes. 

Before coming to Benin I expected to find sadness and misery because of the extreme poverty in which people there live. But the exact opposite happened – in schools we were welcomed with song, dancing, joy and happiness because Mary’s Meals is present. 

Fifty girls live in the home for orphaned children in Biro, a town in the north of Benin, some thirty of them attend primary school and receive their daily serving of Mary’s Meals. The rest of the girls are already in secondary school. The girls study hard, they help with the chores during the day and play just like the children in Croatia. Children are the same everywhere, whether in Croatia or in Benin. 

We quickly bonded with the girls and, communicating with our hands, feet and photos, created a common language filled with laughter, song and dance. Since I don’t speak French, a volunteer called Vedrana talked to a 10-year-old girl called Natacha. She likes all school subjects, but is especially fond of physical education. When I asked Natacha what she would like to become when she grows up Natacha firmly replied that she wants to run her own hotel one day. I was thrilled by the openness and determination of this child and I firmly believe she is on the right path to achieve it. Because of the meal and the education she receives in school Natacha is already closer to reaching her goal. 

At the kitchen of the Blessed Aloysius Stepinac in Biro we had the opportunity to see the children receive their Mary's Meals. The students enjoyed their meal and afterwards they rejoiced, played and laughed until their next lesson.

Mary’s Meals feeds 1,101,206 children every school day globally. This number is the result of the many volunteers and supporters working tirelessly and making efforts to ensure that this simple meal is provided for the children. But as far as I’m concerned, if Mary’s Meals fed only 30 children – only the girls from this home in Biro – this work would be just as valuable, just as needed and just as worthwhile.

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