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MM Volunteer running in a marathon to raise money for charity.

The ever-growing movement of Mary’s Meals: the people helping to realise our vision

From hairdressing marathons to talking in schools, and from opening mail to selling sweet treats – there's no limit to the surprising ways people find to support Mary’s Meals.

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We want to enable people to respond in the fight against child hunger in whichever way makes sense for them – by using what they have to make a difference.

The result, across our global movement, is a wealth of interesting and inspiring stories of creativity and determination as people find ways to use their own talents, skills, time and passion to participate in our work and help our charity move forward. All are welcome in the Mary’s Meals family and we wholeheartedly believe that everyone has something important to contribute to the realisation of our vision.

Given that the organisation began with just one man working in a shed (followed by a few others with laptops on their knees) it might seem strange that the Mary’s Meals movement has grown to welcome hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, spontaneously offering their time and talents to support our work. However, our open invitation – to get involved in whatever way you can – brings a diverse range of people together under the shared belief that every child should have a daily meal in their place of education.

Silvia Duarte running a Marathon to raise money for Mary's Meals.


One memorable volunteer, Silvia Duarte, began supporting Mary’s Meals Portugal after encountering the charity’s stall at a Christmas market. She had just turned 50 and decided to start running marathons for good causes, so she combined her desire to help Mary’s Meals with this new passion and got a group together to enter the Edge of Europe Run. Silvia has kept up this momentum with running and fundraising while also using her day job to raise awareness and income for Mary’s Meals. It's not immediately apparent how Silvia’s work as a hairdresser could be helpful in providing meals to hungry children in their place of education, but she has found some intriguing ways to combine the two!

On Mother’s Day, Silvia encouraged people to celebrate the wonderful women in their lives while also standing in solidarity with the parents of vulnerable children – by selling vouchers for her salon that entitled the recipient to a free haircut as well as providing a child with Mary’s Meals for a whole school year. She has also gone so far as to host a Hair Marathon, where she generously donated the revenue from her salon for the entire day in support of our work.


Mary’s Meals’ founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow often calls these things that people do to help ‘little acts of love’, and these little acts – happening all over the world – come together to make a big difference in the lives of more than 2.4 million children who can rely on a daily meal in their place of education.

You may have heard Mary’s Meals described as a volunteer-led organisation, or perhaps read somewhere that ‘without volunteers, the work of Mary’s Meals would be impossible’ and that is absolutely true. So much of the essential work that contributes to growing the global movement and serving vital meals is done by volunteers.

Tens of thousands of volunteer cooks give their time and talents to prepare and serve our meals to ensure that children can have something to eat every school day and be ready to learn. Often, these will be parents or relatives of pupils at the school or simply people from the local area who are invested in creating a better future for the children in their community. And, beyond the communities where our feeding programme operates, volunteers are keen to give their time in other ways to help keep our promise that those meals can be served.

From parents stirring pots in Malawi to students handing out flyers in Madrid, volunteers are indispensable to Mary’s Meals. The ways they support are many and varied, and their contributions help us to keep costs low while working towards our vision, together. As a growing movement with affiliate organisations across Europe and North America, Mary’s Meals also relies on volunteers who are willing to share their professional skills.

Volunteers on a charity walk taking selfie.


Sandrina Sekerka from Switzerland first got involved as part of her end-of-school project and led an awareness-raising campaign that inspired participation from hundreds of people in her town. As part of this project, she gave talks in schools and was enthralled by the young people’s desire to help others. Since then, she has volunteered one day per week to lead on the marketing and communications activity for Mary’s Meals Switzerland and tell the story of Mary’s Meals to a Swiss audience. Sandrina must be efficient with her time to achieve as much as she can in volunteer days, so she works closely with colleagues and volunteers across the movement – particularly those in Germany and Austria who are telling our story in the same language.

One of our largest and busiest affiliate headquarters – the Mary’s Meals UK office in Glasgow, Scotland – is a real hive of volunteer activity, with people taking on all sorts of duties in support of our work. Mary Rocchiccioli is a long-standing volunteer who helps to maintain the UK database and works on research tasks to assist the Supporter Engagement team in their planned activity. And her passion for Mary’s Meals continues outside the office, too, in her role as lead volunteer for the Glasgow Volunteer Group, planning events that raise funds and awareness in the local community and inspire more people to join the Mary’s Meals movement.

Another Glasgow volunteer, Liz McQuade, spends time booking talks with churches about our work – and last year her efforts resulted in Mary’s Meals colleagues and volunteers visiting 34 parishes to speak about our programme and bolster support. You can imagine Liz was especially delighted when one of those parish visits resulted in a 10-year-old boy taking on a successful fundraising challenge of his own and inviting a Mary’s Meals speaker to speak at his school!

There are lots of volunteers in the Glasgow office who come in on set days to assist the Supporter Care team, and some of them have been supporting our work for decades! Charlie Marr, Mary Haigh and Daria Lalley are kept busy fulfilling requests for promotional materials and merchandise, opening mail and processing donations, as well as dealing with stock control and essential admin.

Charlie Marr fulfilling requests for promotional materials.


Across the water in Ireland, there’s a thriving network of volunteers building grassroots support for our work, but they don’t tend to congregate in an office. Orlagh Buckley first heard about Mary’s Meals when her son’s school hosted a non-uniform fundraiser day. Keen to find out a little bit more about the cause, she watched Child 31 on the Mary’s Meals website and was instantly captured by the beauty of the message that school + food = hope.

She got in touch with her local supporter group in Dublin and volunteered to be their treasurer, collecting and counting any funds raised through events and ensuring that they are safely deposited with the bank and logged with the national office. She loves being involved with the Mary’s Meals group in her local area, but also relishes the chance to meet with other county groups at national events.

She told us about the best part of being a volunteer: “I think it’s meeting other volunteers during the annual Step by Step fundraising walk across Ireland and hearing their passion for Mary’s Meals, hearing about how they have different fundraising ideas and how other volunteers spread the word about Mary’s Meals – it’s a great family in Ireland for Mary’s Meals.” The Dublin group Orlagh is part of is one of 20 supporter groups across Ireland, all with hard-working volunteers who were collectively responsible for almost half of Mary’s Meals Ireland’s fundraising last year!


Often the ripple effects from these groups inspire individuals to start their own supporter journey, like Geraldine Goherty, who heard about Mary’s Meals from a girl in her village and started to do a few small things to get involved before committing to sponsoring a school (raising enough funds to provide a daily meal to every child in the school for an entire school year).

When Geraldine recently retired from her job as Health Care Assistant at Portiuncula Hospital, where she had worked for 25 years, she insisted she didn’t want any presents or money and would rather raise funds for Mary’s Meals. Her colleagues suggested a coffee morning in her honour. She was amazed by the generosity shown and her retirement coffee morning brought in enough funds to ensure that 228 children can receive Mary’s Meals for a whole school year!

Volunteers holding up Mary's Meals props and smiling into camera.


People’s willingness to get involved and use their own networks, skills and ideas to inspire more support for our work is a big part of what is driving this movement forward. We even know of some amazing examples where people have been so moved by our vision and mission that they have started raising awareness of our work in their own country where Mary’s Meals is completely unknown and established an affiliate organisation to support the school feeding programme.

Marcelina Bobkowska is one of the founding members of Mary’s Meals in Poland and has channelled her support of our work into creating the diverse, energetic and well-established movement we see in her homeland today. Marcelina's first encounter with Mary’s Meals was in the pilgrimage town of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina where she heard about a young musician from Cité Soleil in Haiti who received Mary’s Meals as a child and now supports other young people as they work towards achieving their dreams. This story left a lasting impression on Marcelina, and when she returned home from her trip, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she must get involved. After visiting the Mary’s Meals information centre in Medjugorje, Marcelina was put in touch with a woman named Joanna from Kraków who was already volunteering in Poland and together they devised an action plan to raise the profile of Mary’s Meals across the country.

It seems fitting then that Justyna, a young volunteer from Poland, also heard about Mary’s Meals in Bosnia-Herzegovina after stumbling on the youth festival in Medjugorje. She now gives her time to support with graphic design and loves that she’s able to use her skills to help others. She says: “Mary’s Meals completely changed the way I think about charity. First of all, it’s much more than a charity, it’s an international family. I believe in the why, how and what we do. I’m so impressed by how the communities operate in other countries and appreciate that we have the opportunity to have Mary’s Meals in Poland and make it grow. I’m so thankful that I can follow the idea of enabling people around the world to help the children who need it most.”


And these stories that we know about only represent a fraction of what actually goes on in support of Mary’s Meals. Every small act that helps to spread the word about our work or inspire people to find out more or get involved in what we do is part of the beautiful, vibrant movement of people and communities that makes our work possible. We’d love to know how you heard about Mary’s Meals or what small act you have witnessed for our work that has inspired you!

Children eating Mary's Meals

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