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Mary’s Meals: feeding the world from a garden shed

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow’s charity Mary’s Meals provides school meals for 350,000 children every day, writes Elizabeth Grice. But can’t he afford a proper office?

To Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, his father’s shed in Dalmally, Argyll, has acquired a talismanic significance. It’s where he stockpiled food and clothes for Bosnian refugees in the 1990s – an amateurish humanitarian mission that eventually led him to sell his house, give up his job and concentrate on the much bigger project of feeding poor children in Third World countries.

Mary’s Meals, which is one of the Telegraph’s Christmas charities this year, now provides a daily school meal for 350,000 children across Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. In Malawi, it feeds 10 per cent of the primary-school population. That one meal – provided for as little as £8.50 a year – is a passport to education and a way out of poverty.

There seems to be no limit now to the reach of Mary’s Meals. In Zimbabwe, for example, hunger and cholera are so widespread that more than half of pupils have stopped going to school. MacFarlane-Barrow is currently lobbying bureaucrats to be allowed to bring in food supplies from Malawi through Mozambique. His aim is to feed 2,300 primary-school children in the capital, Harare, and Kwekwe, a city in the centre of the country, to get them to return to education.

The amount raised by the parent charity of Mary’s Meals, Scottish International Relief, is increasing by 40 per cent each year, to roughly £4 million last year. How big dare he get? “There are dangers to growing, but we wouldn’t want to put a limit on it, because there is such a momentum. There are millions of children out there who need this desperately. I don’t think we could stop it now, even if we wanted to.”

Full extensive feature at the Daily Telegraph.

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