How Mary’s Meals is helping families invest in their own future

In part two of this blog – focused on our impact assessment work – Gillian McMahon, our head of programmes: policy, research and funding, tells us about one of the families she met in Malawi while conducting this research.
Read part one: Assessing Mary's Meals' impact in Malawi

Back to all stories | Posted on 07/06/16 in Blog

In October 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting Dreza Mailosi in rural Blantyre, Southern Malawi. Dreza is 79 and lives with his wife, his daughter Annie and his three grandchildren, including a young girl called Grace whose mother (Dreza’s other daughter) sadly died. 

Grace is ten and goes to Namatete Primary School. When I first met him, Dreza was returning from a morning spent tending the land around his small house with a hoe and a sickle in the hot sun. He said his four goats and a few chickens were ‘all I have in the world’. Dreza sat down and talked to us about his granddaughter Grace’s life, saying: “This school is surrounded by three villages, and children don’t go to school because of hunger. This is the biggest problem here. It is extensive. There are far more than 30 children I know of who are out of school because of hunger. It is something that makes me feel very worried. 

“My granddaughter is absent from school five or six days each month due to hunger. Those are the times when we just don’t have any food to offer to the child. Sometimes she also leaves school early during the school day due to hunger.”

Dreza spoke gently of his strong views on the importance of education for children in the local area. Despite telling us that he had not been educated himself and couldn’t spell his name, he said: “I think that it is very important that children get an education and go to school every day. I send my granddaughter to school because I have seen the benefits of educating the girl child. For those people who have educated their girls, they are passionate about it, because the girl is able to help improve the lives of their families.
“So, sending my child to school each and every day is like investing in something, so that in future, she can hold my hand.”

Six months later, I was able to return to Dreza’s house. This time he was out farming and I met his wife and daughter Annie. Mary’s Meals had begun providing daily meals for the children at Namatete Primary School shortly after my first visit and Grace had been able to benefit from the programme for almost two full school terms.
Annie told me: “I used to worry because we don’t have much maize flour. Sometimes we don’t eat anything in the evening. We try our level best and go around looking for food but if we don’t find anything the children will just have an empty stomach. When that happens the children get worried and they say, ‘Are we going to sleep with an empty stomach?’. I have to say, ‘Yes, we don’t have anything to eat so we just have to be strong and sleep and when we find something, we’ll eat’.
“Now my niece never misses school because she’s hungry. There has been a big change. Mary’s Meals has brought happiness and everyone has a smile on their face, because even the children themselves are always happy to rush to go to school and receive the porridge.

“Now, we don’t have to worry if the children go to bed without anything, we know that she will get the porridge at school and we can rely on that.”

Hearing life-changing stories like this one is not new to me, but I never stop being affected by them and the remarkable strength of children and families who live their lives in challenging circumstances.

Download the full Mary's Meals Malawi Impact Assessment: Year One below and read more about some of the families who have benefited from Mary’s Meals.

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