This month, the Mary’s Meals Quad team decided that instead of doing monotonous work outs at the gym we would find a way of training whilst also doing something worthwhile. This way we would not only be working hard but also doing good in the process.
Along with some enthusiastic volunteers, Joe and I both headed to the Mary’s Meals warehouse in Glasgow to load thousands of backpacks onto the Mary’s Meals container destined for Malawi. It was hard work but it was definitely worth it!
While loading the backpacks I thought about some of the children receiving Mary’s Meals and how they would enjoy their backpacks when they arrived. Some of the schools Mary’s Meals reaches are very remote and difficult to get to. St Peter’s Primary School is situated on Likoma Island which means that receiving their likuni phala (porridge) isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Due to poor soil, Likoma Island has to import most of its food but the large ships cannot quite reach the mainland due to poor infrastructure. Large ships delivering food must be docked in a deeper part of the lake, further from the mainland, and small boats are then used to ferry the goods to land.
However, this doesn’t stop our incredible volunteers and parents on the island. They are always excited to see the ship arrive and they jump at the chance to be ferried to the bigger ship to collect the 20kg bags of likuni phala to deliver to St Peter’s Primary School where the children will receive a daily meal in their place of education.
Training for the Quad can be difficult, but knowing that our efforts are going to help children in the world’s poorest communities makes it so much easier!
The kayak up Loch Tay will seem tough after the mountain phase. You will be tired, but you will be safe. The journey made by many refugees is long and risky and includes crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This is a journey that Walaa and her family had to undergo in 2015. Walaa and her family were lucky enough to all survive the journey and when they arrived in Europe Mercy Corps were there to support them.
At 8 months old, Fatima was sleeping in her bed when a rocket fell on her house and sparked a fire. Walaa, Fatima’s mother ran into the wreckage to find her daughter on fire.
Fatima has had a dozen operations to treat her burns, but she can’t walk, hear or speak. As the Syrian conflict dragged on, it became increasingly difficult for Walaa to access medical care for Fatima. Walaa and her husband decided their only choice was to try to get to Europe.
Walaa’s husband left Syria first in July 2015. Six months later, Walaa and her children - 4-year-old Sami, 3-year-old Fatima and 2-year-old Salma - left too. They walked the desert for two days to Turkey’s border, where smugglers took them across the country and across the Aegean Sea. Walaa and her children were forced to get into a flimsy rubber dinghy; the journey across the water was both dangerous and terrifying.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, waiting to find out if her family’s asylum would be granted and their family could be reunited in Germany, Walaa told us of her fears. “We do not know what will happen to us. We are trapped in the middle, far from our family and far from my husband. We are alone, and it’s tough.”
To ease that burden, Mercy Corps provided Walaa with a prepaid card to purchase food and clothes for her family and pay for transportation costs. In a life of unknowns, cash has given Walaa a feeling of freedom and dignity; the ability to choose how to provide for, and meet the basic needs of her children. Walaa uses the cash to create little moments of joy for the children, such as purchasing a treat of peanuts and soda for Sami and Salma. “So they can forget the hunger and the horrible days they’ve lived. So they can be happy.”
As you’re training for that 7 mile stretch of Loch Tay in your kayak, remember that your journey is enabling Mercy Corps to help those who have been forced to flee conflict. Push through the paddling pain and think that together, we can make a difference.
Want to get an independent insight into the Quadrathlon? James Bingham completed the event in 2016 and produced a fantastic blog which can be found here.
If you have not tried Kayaking before you need to make sure you gather some experience prior to the event. All participants will use 2 seater Malibu 2 kayaks (issued by the event). They sit low in the water so you are guaranteed to get a bit wet but its ideal to cool you down after completing the mountain phase of the run! For inexperienced kayakers, here are our top tips to get you started: