For the last six years, 12 year old Charlie Doherty has refused birthday presents so that the money could be donated to his favourite charity to help children like himself – only permanently hungry.
Even at this early age he responded to the good heart of the Mary’s Meals charity, which feeds children across the world from Malawi to Haiti – at their schools.
The strategy is to encourage children to get educated by providing one nutritious meal a day through schools. This means that children in areas perpetually ravaged by famine have access to two support system for their present and future – food to survive and grow and education to sustain a job.
Over the last six years, the amazing Charlie has raised a stunning £20,000 for Mary’s Meals.
To mark this achievement in a gesture towards his willingness to give up things for himself to help those most in need, his mother has sprung a Christmas surprise on her son.
When they summited Mount Snowdon in Wales as part of a charity hike for Mary’s Meals, she told him that his famikly and friends had clubbed together to send him out to Malawi to see for himself the school he supports through the charity’s Sponsor a School campaign. And he’ll be there during his birthday – a neat l;unctuation to his efforts. He’ll be off to Africa this month.
An almost – but not quite – speechless Charlie says: ‘I can’t wait for the trip. It’s going to be amazing and great to see the message of hope that is passed on through Mary’s Meals.
‘I also can’t wait to meet the children at the kitchen I’ve been sponsoring and see the great work of Mary’s Meals in action.’
The school Charlie sponsors is Ipyana Primary School, which is located in the northern district of Karonga in Malawi. Thanks to his support, all the 1,429 children at the school receive a daily meal from Mary’s Meals for a whole school year.
The 12-year-old from Crawley has been fundraising for Scottish-based charity Mary’s Meals since he was six. After hearing about the suffering of children in other countries, he asked for money to be donated to Mary’s Meals instead of receiving birthday presents.
He has undertaken a number of fundraising challenges for the charity which includes a 600-mile cycle from Brighton to Scotland with his mum. It took the pair three weeks to reach the charity’s warehouse in Glasgow where Charlie delivered one special backpack which was later shipped to a child in Malawi.
The backpack donated by Charlie was one he had owned since he was seven and which he had been keeping to pass on to a child in Malawi, where Mary’s Meals provides a daily meal in a place of education to over 569,000 hungry children every school day.
The charity’s Backpack Project appeals to schools, clubs and other groups to fill unwanted backpacks with basic educational materials to send to children receiving Mary’s Meals.
Charlie is one of the stars of a new powerful documentary called Child 31, which features the work of Mary’s Meals. In the film, he talks about his fundraising efforts and why he is so motivated to help impoverished children.
Featuring stories about the work of the charity, Child 31 is a captivating watch that focuses on the difference just one meal every school day can make to children living in extreme poverty.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, from Dalmally, founder and chief executive of Mary’s Meals, says: ‘Charlie is an incredible boy and we are extremely grateful for all he has done for us over the years.
‘I’m always touched by all the beautiful acts of kindness which so many people like Charlie do to support our work, and which make it possible for us to provide a daily meal to hundreds of thousands of children, living in some of the world’s poorest countries.
‘As a result of their good deeds, thousands of children, who would otherwise be hungry and working for their next meal, are instead sitting in a classroom with a full stomach, learning how to read and write.’
Mary’s Meals began feeding 200 children in Malawi after its Argyll founder visited the country in 2002.
It now feeds over 700,000 children every school day in 16 countries around the world, including Malawi, Liberia and Haiti. It costs Mary’s Meals an average of just £10.70 to feed a child for an entire school year.
A daily meal in school, served by volunteers, means that children are encouraged to come to school and receive an education, which can provide a route of out of poverty.
Note: The photograph is of Charlie when he reached Glasgow after his 600-mile fundraising cycle.