A Week of Celebrations in Mary’s Meals
School communities mark World Porridge Day and International Day of the Girl Child.
It was a double celebration in some of our programme countries last month as learners, teachers and Mary’s Meals volunteers marked World Porridge Day (10 October) and International Day of the Girl Child (11 October).
In Zambia, where almost 380,000 children enjoy mugs of corn soya blend porridge every school day, the country’s first World Porridge Day celebrations took place. Learners of Mshachantha Primary School in Chipata District, families and community members celebrated at the school and were joined by the district’s mayor.
In Malawi, Chimbewa Primary School and Chiwambo Primary School’s playgrounds were awash with brightly coloured, porridge-filled mugs and grinning children, some of whom posed with eye-catching World Porridge Day banners. Mary’s Meals volunteers in their bright blue aprons also joined in with the celebrations – in between serving mugs of hot, tasty porridge.
World Porridge Day Celebrations
People around the world mark World Porridge Day to celebrate the delicious, nutritious food that’s changing the story for more than a million children who receive Mary’s Meals in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe every school day. In schools across the three countries, mugs of corn soya blend porridge enriched with a blend of vitamins fill children up and give them energy for the day ahead. (In Malawi, the porridge is known locally as likuni phala, but the ingredients are the same in all three countries.)
Daily meals served at school are widely recognised as a good way to bring youngsters to the classroom – helping them to begin carving a brighter future for themselves. Agness Chilima volunteers her time at Chimbewa school to serve porridge to the learners and her children who also attend the school. She also chairs the school’s porridge committee.
She says: “Since Mary's Meals introduced porridge to this school, most students no longer miss classes. They perform well in class and progress to secondary school. Previously, when there was no porridge, students were not motivated to come to school and some dropped out.
“The porridge served here at school has benefited my children. One is still studying here, and the other has graduated from secondary school after eating porridge from Standard 1 to Standard 8.”
International Day of the Girl Child
Meanwhile, on International Day of the Girl Child, learners and teachers called attention to the plight of young girls around the world. Elisa, a Chiwambo Primary School student, and Cecelia Yasin, a volunteer at the school, both had important messages to share.
Elisa dreams of becoming a nurse and has enjoyed Mary’s Meals at school since she enrolled a few years ago. Elisa explains the many hurdles she and other young girls in her area are currently confronted with.
“Young girls in our community face numerous challenges. Girls lack confidence because we are perceived as having less value and we are sometimes forced to miss school to assist with household chores. Despite all these obstacles, I look forward to coming to school every day because of the porridge. When there is no food at home, the porridge keeps me from feeling hungry in class. I participate in class, pay attention and do well.”
Marriage under the age of 18 in Malawi is illegal, but it persists – an estimated 46% of girls are married before they turn 18 and 9% before 15 years old.
Cecelia Yasin, who serves these life-changing meals to Elisa and her classmates at Chiwambo, said large numbers of girls now complete their primary school education compared to the years preceding the arrival of Mary’s Meals.
She says: “The majority of girls in this community face various challenges. When their parents are away, some girls are left to look after the household. Most families are unable to provide food and necessities for their children and young girls see marriage as an immediate means of meeting their needs.
“With porridge, young girls are attracted to come to school and remain in school because they have an assurance of a meal – even if they leave home without eating anything. Most girls are now completing primary school unlike in the past when there was no porridge at school.”