The founder of Mary's Meals, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, often speaks about the 'little acts of love' that really make a huge difference to the lives of the children receiving a daily meal in school.
While the focus of Mary's Meals is school feeding, we often receive other donated items from generous supporters. Every so often, whether they arrive by shipping container or are personally delivered to our offices, we are given the chance to share these little acts of love with the children we support.
Recently, a very generous donor in Malawi passed on footballs, netballs and ball pumps for us to give to some of the schools we support. Sports equipment is something I hadn't really thought about-it seems unimportant when compared to providing a meal in school-but as I set out with Lusungu, the Southern Regional Manager, to distribute the sports equipment to schools, it became very clear how important it really is.
Extra-curricular activities are uncommon in Malawi as many schools either don't have the necessary staff or equipment to allow the children to play sports, play music, or indulge in arts and crafts. So when we drove up to Ntambanyama Primary in Thyolo, although the children were excited to see the blue Mary's Meals logo on the car, they had no idea why we were visiting or what we had brought for them.
Before giving the balls to the children, Lusungu and I met the Head and Deputy Head Teacher and spoke to them about the purpose of our visit. When we announced that we had four netballs and a football for them, they were delighted. I asked the Head Teacher about their current sporting facilities and equipment and it was then she pulled out one very old, and very worn, football. I then asked how many learners she had at the school, and her reply, "We have almost 2000 learners at our school", really shocked me. I couldn't comprehend how all the children were able to share one ball between them.
When we began giving out the donated equipment to the children, I don't think they quite understood at first that they were allowed to keep these brand new balls. These children rarely receive gifts and so if you've never been given a gift before, how do you know that it is yours to keep?
As we drove away, the children realised we weren't taking the balls back with us. I looked back in the side-mirror and saw them playing with their new sports equipment-so happy, like nothing else in the world mattered.
It's amazing what a simple act of kindness can do.
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