Porridge and homemade footballs

Welcome to a day in the life of eight-year-old Andrea. 

Like many children, eight-year-old Andrea loves playing football with his friends. In the remote Turkana region of northern Kenya, sports shops are few and far between so Andrea and his friends make their own footballs from scraps of material held together with discarded plastic bags.  

Turkana is one of the driest – and poorest – parts of Kenya; life is incredibly tough for the communities that live here. Andrea’s dad scrapes together a living from a small flock of goats. He used to have a larger herd but drought, brought on by years of poor rains, has caused crops to fail and animals to die.   

Food and water shortages have left many families struggling to make ends meet. Andrea sometimes goes to bed feeling hungry and sad because he hasn’t had enough to eat. In these difficult times, the Mary’s Meals served at the nearby pre-school are a lifeline. “I like to come to school early in the morning, because I know there is porridge,” Andrea says with a smile. “When I eat it, I feel happy.” 

Andrea’s mum, Helen, is one of the volunteers who prepares daily school meals for her son and his friends. She gives her time and energy freely, because she knows how important Mary’s Meals is for this community. For many of the children, it is the only food they can be sure of.  

“Without it, they would have nothing to eat,” Helen says. “The food helps the children come to school to learn. I cook so that they will not feel hungry.”  

At home, Andrea helps his mum with the cooking – when there is food to cook. He also collects firewood and water for the family. Recently it rained and a well was dug in the riverbed near their village so Andrea doesn’t have far to go for water. But when drought is at its worst, he must walk 3km to the nearest river.  

Andrea loves to learn – and his favourite subject is maths. “I like counting things,” he says. “I want to become a teacher.” 

In Turkana, the promise of daily school meals is giving little ones like Andrea the best possible start in life, allowing them to grow up healthy and strong, and with the energy to make the most of school.