As we continue to highlight the work of Celtic FC Foundation throughout the European Football Development Network’s (EFDN) #Morethanfootball campaign, today we participate in the Education action day, by showcasing our 67 Kitchens project.
Thanks initially to the incredible support of the Celtic Family via the Lions’ Legacy fundraising campaign in 2017 and subsequently so many Kitchen sponsors in the form of CSCs, Supporters’ Associations and individuals across the globe – the project is helping to feed close to 45,000 children each and every school day, throughout Malawi and Zambia, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key element of the Lions Legacy campaign, Celtic FC Foundation undertook a joint venture with Mary’s Meals in 2017, to build 67 Kitchens in Africa; 47 in Malawi and 20 in Zambia.
By ensuring that these children have access to the Mary’s Meals feeding programme whilst at school, not only are they encouraged to attend, they are also able to concentrate and learn without the barrier of hunger.
Following our initial investment of £356.5K, we were delighted to announce a further donation of £100K – raised largely by CSCs and individual supporters through Kitchen sponsorship – to Mary’s Meals back in September 2020, to help contribute towards the feeding and maintenance costs of these Kitchens.
‘From the time the feeding programme started, it has helped me and my young sisters a lot. We used to go to school on an empty stomach. I now look forward to coming to school and my performance has improved because when I eat the porridge, I feel energetic and look forward to learning.’
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought even greater challenges for the children of Malawi and Zambia and Mary’s Meals had to adapt their entire model quickly – to ensure that children who ordinarily rely on their feeding programme did not go hungry, as schools closed in March 2020.
As an alternative to being fed at school, Mary’s Meals set up distribution stations in communities for parents and guardians to collect food to cook for their children at home, their new temporary place of education.
These distribution stations are often located near to closed schools. Schools in Malawi and Zambia reopened in the latter stages of 2020, with children benefitting from meals in schools once more, including those provided by our 67 Kitchens.
However, where further closures have since occurred due to increased levels of COVID-19 cases, community distribution stations have continued to ensure that hungry children do not miss out on nutritious daily meals.
The 67 Kitchens Project represents a cost-effective route out of poverty for the long-term and the initiative has created a legacy that will transform the lives of countless children, by providing them with the best possible start in life and giving them hope for a brighter future.
One of those children is 13-year-old Samson who attends Vizenge Primary School, home to one of the 20 Kitchens constructed in Zambia.
Before the introduction of the feeding programme at Vizenge, he and his sisters used to struggle to find enough food to eat. However, since they began receiving meals at school, their lives have changed.
‘I come to school hungry because we do not have enough food at home. I know that school is very important because when I finish, I will be employed and independent. I would like to be a teacher when I finish with my education.’
Samson said: “From the time the feeding programme started, it has helped me and my young sisters a lot. We used to go to school on an empty stomach. I now look forward to coming to school and my performance has improved because when I eat the porridge, I feel energetic and look forward to learning.
“We are assured of a meal in school for breakfast since Mum can’t provide for us. I am no longer stressed about what we are going to eat in the morning, and this has helped me concentrate more in class.”
The promise of a nutritious daily school meal also offers a lifeline for children like 13-year-old Manes, who attends Mpata Primary School – one of the 47 schools in Malawi that now have a permanent kitchen, thanks to the 67 Kitchens Project.
Manes relies heavily on the food she receives whilst at school, as her family struggle to provide meals on a regular basis.
She said: “I come to school hungry because we do not have enough food at home. I know that school is very important because when I finish, I will be employed and independent. I would like to be a teacher when I finish with my education.”
Thanks to the 67 Kitchens Project and Mary’s Meals’ school feeding programme, Samson, Manes and thousands of children like them can attend lessons with a full stomach, helping them to gain a precious education, enjoy their childhood and follow their dreams.
None of this would have been possible without the magnificent assistance of the Celtic support. Together, we’ve given some of the world’s poorest children the chance they deserve.
Thank you for making a difference.