Create Account / Login

Make yourself at home!

You’re currently browsing our International site, but our family reaches across the world.

To make sure you’re supporting your local Mary’s Meals, please select your country from the list below.

If you can’t see your country then don’t worry! You can use our International site.

Vumiliya preparing her children for school.

World Refugee Day 2024

Today on World Refugee Day we share with you two poignant stories of women who were forced to flee their home country of Burundi and now live in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi.

Published on

Vumilyia, a mother-of-ten, and Nizigiyimana, a volunteer at one of our school feeding programmes, have had different experiences of life as a refugee but both share the same hope that with the provision of daily school meals, a brighter future for children is possible. 

Read on below to learn more about their inspiring stories of resilience despite facing immense hardships.

Hope at Umodzikatubza Primary School

Vumiliya first arrived in Malawi in 2014 after being forced to flee her home country of Burundi because of a tribal war. The mother-of-ten now lives in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp – one of the largest in Africa. 

Life in Dzaleka is tough. To make ends meet, Vumiliya sells tomatoes, and her husband works as a carpenter and builder when jobs are available. Despite the couple’s efforts to earn and provide for their family, having enough food to feed 10 children is a constant struggle.

Seven of Vumiliya’s children attend Umodzikatubza Primary School located at Dzaleka Refugee Camp. It is there, every school day, that they receive nutritious servings of porridge from Mary’s Meals. All too often the porridge at school is the only meal her children eat before evening.

Vumiliya says: “My husband does piece jobs like carpentry and building, but there aren't many jobs in the area. I also run small-scale businesses like selling tomatoes to make ends meet, but it is not easy. We can barely manage to provide food for my 10 children with what my husband and I earn.

“Mary’s Meals is a beacon of hope for me and my family. Without it, my children would have dropped out of school because of hunger.”

Vumilia with her family.

Vumiliya remains hopeful despite the challenges she and her family face. Her dream is for the children to complete their education and pursue a career or have a business, and she believes that the daily meals they receive are supporting them towards a better future. “There is hope here in Malawi, there is peace,” she says. “My children are attending school and have the privilege to receive a daily meal at school.”

Our meals were first served to children attending Umodzikatubza Primary School in 2007 and, since then, we have been consistently helping children who have had to abandon their homes, their friends, and their schools in a place that provides some much-needed stability. Thanks to your support – and the vital meals you help to make possible – children who have already lost too much are finding new hope in a country that, for now, they are trying to make their home. 

Spreading hope away from home

Nizigiyimana is a refugee from Burundi who has transformed the lives of many children through her work as a volunteer. She was forced to flee her home and arrived in Malawi in 2004. She has lived at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp ever since. For the past 14 years, Nizigiyimana has dedicated herself to preparing porridge for the children at Umodzikatubza Primary School within the refugee camp, a role that has brought her a profound sense of purpose and hope.

Nizigiyimana serving food at the school she volunteers at.

Volunteering with Mary's Meals has given Nizigiyimana more than just a daily routine – it has given her a community. Working alongside women from Malawi, she has created strong, supportive relationships. She tells us: “Serving as a Mary's Meals volunteer has given me a sense of belonging. It has helped me create meaningful relationships with women from Malawi, and it feels like home.”

Food scarcity is a harsh reality in the camp. The rations provided are often insufficient, forcing many children to go to bed hungry. Nizigiyimana says: “Some children sleep on an empty stomach, and when it’s time for school, they have hope to receive a meal. The school feeding programme is a profound hope, and it is evident because learners are already in line to receive porridge even when we have not yet started serving.” 

Nizigiyimana’s commitment over the past 14 years is a testament to her dedication to her community and her belief in the impact of Mary’s Meals’ school feeding programme. Her consistent efforts ensure that children can receive a nutritious meal  while finding a semblance of normality as they navigate life far from the place that they once called home.

Nizigiyimana and other volunteer cooks standing in their kitchen.
Children eating Mary's Meals

Food Changes the Story

Help us reach the next hungry child