Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mary's Meals Deliver Food and Hope

At Christmas, traditionally a time for giving, many people like to donate to a charitable cause, so I thought you may be interested in +Mary’s Meals – a brilliant organisation based in Scotland and operating worldwide, that, though new to me (and maybe to you too), began operating two decades ago, and now, as part of their workload, feeds over 600,000 impoverished children school meals daily.

When a volunteer visited our church recently the details about Mary’s Meals that grabbed my attention were:

* An impressive 93p of each £1 donated goes to charitable activities (1p is spent on governance and 6p goes on fund raising)

* Learning that £7 - £10.70 will feed one child daily for a whole school year means you know roughly how many kids you are helping with your donation.  

Beginnings of Mary’s Meals
During 1992 two brothers, Magnus and +Fergus MacFarlane-Barrow from Scotland, watched the TV news from the Bosnian conflict with increasing horror. They were so moved that they decided to organise an appeal for food and blankets.

They quickly gathered a jeep load, joined one of the convoys leaving the UK, and delivered the aid to Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a place of international pilgrimage which they had visited with their family years previously. Believing their good deed done, they returned to their home in Argyll expecting to resume their jobs as fish farmers. However they came home to discover that public donations had continued to flood in, filling their parents’ shed with goods. (They are still operating out of this shed to keep costs low.)

Magnus decided to give up his job for a year to drive the aid out to Bosnia for as long as the public kept donating. The public did not stop and it soon became necessary to set up a registered charity, Scottish International Relief (SIR). The charity soon expanded and began to work in Romania, building homes for abandoned children, and in Liberia, helping returning refugees by setting up mobile clinics, while continuing to deliver material aid to Croatia and Bosnia, and funding additional projects.

In 2002, SIR was operating a simple famine relief project in Malawi when Magnus met a family that led to a whole new area of work. The mother was dying of AIDS and lying on the floor of her hut surrounded by her six young children. She said that all that was left for her was to pray for her children, that someone might look after them after she had died.

When Magnus asked the mother’s oldest son what he hoped for in life, his stark reply, “To have enough food to eat and to go to school one day,” was not easily forgotten.
This was a key part of the inspiration that led to the Mary’s Meals campaign, which aims to provide chronically hungry children with one meal every school day. In this way the children are encouraged to gain the education that can lift them out of poverty in later life.

This simple but effective idea has gathered momentum and today provides meals to impoverished children in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and South America.
In 2012, Scottish International Relief officially changed its registered charity name to Mary’s Meals. Today they provide daily life-changing meals to over 600,000 hungry children.

Facts at a glance
*   Total number of children receiving a daily meal in school = 702,465
*   Average global cost of Mary’s Meals per child, per year = £10.70 / €12.40 / $16.80
*   Cost of Mary’s Meals per child, per year in Malawi = £7 / €8.15 / $11
*   Worldwide average cost per meal = 6 pence / 7 cents (Euros) and 9 cents (US)
*   Cost per meal in Malawi = 4 pence / 5 cents (Euros) and 6 cents (US)
*   Number of chronically hungry children in the world = 300 million. Around 67 million of these children are out of school.

For more info and to donate please visit the website of Mary’s Meals:

Wishing you a happy and holy Christmas and wonderful 2013!
Love and light
Teresa x

(Photo above copied from Wikipedia)

I welcome your comments on the above and please feel free to post links to your favourite charities too.

Coming next: New Year Fresh Start – embrace personal growth

Thursday, 13 December 2012

2 Sundays of Advent to Christmas (5 days for posting cards second-class)

With two more weekends to go in Advent there is still time to increase the bliss-factor of your Christmas with a little extra spiritual preparation. Yes, there are Christmas cards to be sent (list, buy, write, address, post - gulp! stamps are sooooo expensive in multiples) and presents to be dealt with in like manner too. Then, there are menus to plan, cleaning to be done, decorations to be put up, Nativity plays to attend and office lunches and parties, and, oh so many other things to do before the Big Day. 

But please Stop!

Take a deep breath, and remind yourself what this is all about: physical preparations are only a part of the equation.

First, let’s consider what Advent is

Advent, first season of the Church year (includes the four Sundays leading up to Christmas) comes from the Latin word, adventus meaning arrival, and is a time of spiritual preparation before we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Traditionally, it is also known as “little Lent” and is best marked by increased prayer, fasting (not pre-Christmas greed as the telly ads showing people guzzling tins of chocs would have us believe!), and good works. All this focuses the mind and heart on the “reason for the season”, so it follows that: the deeper your spiritual preparation the more joyous your Christmas can be!  

Being a great advocate of simplicity for maximum effect I would like to share something that could assist your spiritual goal:

Advent meditation
Put aside a minimum of 5 minutes for this meditation. (If you use public transport to get to work you could do this on a bus or train.)

Slowly read over the Bible passage below using all of your powers of imagination to bring the scene to life by picturing yourself there in the presence of Mary and the angel Gabriel.

To help you do this you could ask yourself:
* What do the two look like? 
* What time of day is it?
* What is the temperature like?
* What expression is on Mary’s face - does she, for instance, look scared when the angel arrives and joyful when he leaves?  
* And so on…

Then, try putting yourself into Mary’s shoes for a few moments and ask yourself how you would have reacted. Would you, do you think, have had the courage to agree to become the mother of the Son of God?

Bible reading
…God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour.  You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must call Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord will give Him the throne of His ancestor David and He will rule over the House of Jacob forever; His reign will have no end. Mary said, “You see before you the Lord’s servant; may it happen to me as you have said.” Luke 1.26-38

After the meditation
Let the vivid images of the Annunciation flood through your whole being until you feel at one with God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and also with Mary who said “Yes” to God. 
In the coming days try to recapture this scene and feeling often, even for a few seconds as you go about your business and physical preparations for Jesus’ 2012th birthday.

God bless  

FYI Last posting days for Christmas cards
Tue 18th Dec 2nd class (standard cost 50p)
Thu 20th Dec 1st class (standard cost 60p)

Picture above copied from Wikipedia:

Feedback: I would love to hear from you! If you have any comments, any wisdom to share on Advent preparation, and so on please do…

Coming next: Christmas charity giving – have you heard of +Mary’s Meals?