A tale of two cities – part one

Our chief operating officer, Janet, recently travelled to Kenya. In part one of her blog, she explains the impact of the programme since her last visit.

Janet Haugh
Janet Haugh
Chief operating officer

Back to all stories | Posted on 12 May 2017 in Blog

This wasn’t my first visit to Kenya. I’d previously been to the slums of Eldoret where Mary’s Meals’ founder, Magnus, met Muksi – the young boy who caused many of us to shed a tear when the strap of his backpack broke in the film, Child 31. But this visit was different. This time I returned to those schools in Eldoret’s urban slum areas, but I also journeyed to the Mary’s Meals programme in Turkana, northern Kenya, where devastating drought is causing thirst and hunger, and acute rates of malnutrition are more than double the emergency threshold.

You’ve likely heard of Charles Dickens’ book A Tale Of Two Cities. Set in London and Paris, that story opens with the iconic line to demonstrate two extremes: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” My visit to Kenya felt like that – a tale of two completely contrasting cities – but unlike the cities in Charles Dickens’ book, the two places I visited were in the same country and both see children living in very challenging circumstances, despite the extreme contrasts between them.  

Eldoret’s children and their families continue to face challenges caused by poverty, with the pull to miss school to find employment or food a significant factor. Yet, in the two years since I last visited, there has been huge progress. Mary’s Meals is still working in the slum areas but, because of our expansion, students are no longer migrating from areas without school feeding, leading to greater stability and ultimately improving the opportunity for learning. Our programme in Eldoret also feels different – you can sense an even greater degree of ownership and pride from the schools and communities involved.  

One of the highlights in Eldoret was meeting 16-year-old Adap. Adap is South Sudanese and has been in Kenya for eight years, having fled with his family the escalating violence in his home country. When he arrived in Kenya, Adap started to attend Borderfarm Primary School, where he received Mary’s Meals. He proudly told me that he graduated from school last year with 350 points which put him in the top 20% of students in Kenya sitting the exam. Now in Form 1 of secondary school, Adap would like to study medicine.  

The most humbling thing about our meeting is that it was entirely by chance. Adap was on half-term from secondary school and had chosen to come back to his former primary school during his break to help with the school feeding – he wanted to “give back to the community that had supported him”. Not only is Adap a talented and able student, but like many children involved in Mary’s Meals’ mission around the world, he is a young man who cares about his community and wants to make a difference to the lives of other children.

Read more about Janet’s visit to Kenya in the second part of her blog. 

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