Louise Henderson and Mairead MacRae (accompanied by loyal mascot Louie the dog!) from the Mary’s Meals Quad Team, ‘May the Quads be ever in our favour’ have stepped up their training to prepare for the gruelling 34-mile cycle.
Louise tells us, “Cycling is the sport I am really looking forward to in the Quad. I’ve been taking advantage of the sunny weather at the weekends and have done a few rides to Edinburgh along the Clyde and Union canal. I also cycle to work every day which is a good way of squeezing extra training into my schedule.”
Mairead, on the other hand, has been concentrating on the other disciplines because she is waiting for her shiny new road bike to arrive. Mairead said: “I can’t wait for my new bike to arrive, my old one fell apart, thankfully before I got to the Quad and not during!”
The two have planned some joint training after Mairead’s bike arrives. Mairead told us, “Hopefully, we can get up to practice on the cycle route at Loch Tay. It is a beautiful part of Scotland but I’m not sure how much I’ll take in after 34 miles of cycling! It will all be worth it in the end, especially because I know that my fundraising will make a huge difference to Mary’s Meals.”
“It’s amazing that Mary’s Meals is helping 1,101,206 of the world’s poorest children with a daily meal in school, where they will gain an education that can be their route out of poverty.”
“When we first came here, our children had trauma from the war and bombing. My son was isolated, not playing with other kids. I had to convince him to come and participate in the activities here. At first he didn’t want to, but after a few days, he came alive again.”
I’m standing in the new Mercy Corps ‘Knowledge Centre’ in Sareeh, Jordan, and listening as a local Syrian lady tells us about her 8 year old son.
I didn’t really know what to expect before coming on this trip. In my naivety I guess I thought that helping Syrian Refugees meant providing food, water and shelter. Which is vital of course, and emergency aid is a large part of what Mercy Corps does (very well I might add). But what I’ve discovered is that it’s their longer term approach and their emphasis on sustainable development that makes Mercy Corps’ work so special, empowering local people with the tools to rebuild their lives as best they can.
The Knowledge Centre is an example of Mercy Corps’ Social Cohesion work; it’s a safe space where people can come and take part in training courses such as life skills or computer classes, get involved in workshops, or simply use the games room. The children can enrol in extra-curricular activities or catch-up classes, as many will have missed large chunks of their education. It’s a space that brings people together, and helps refugees integrate into their host communities. Because something I also hadn’t realised is that 80% of the estimated 1.3 million refugees in Jordan don’t live in camps, they’re part of these communities, and competing with the Jordanians on rent, water resources, and electricity, in an already strained infrastructure. Similarly in Lebanon every school does a double shift, Lebanese children in the morning and Syrians in the afternoon. There simply isn’t enough space for all of them. It’s not hard to see how tensions arise.
Mercy Corps works with Community Leaders, giving them the conflict resolution skills they need to solve disputes. At the same time the Community Leaders feed back to Mercy Corps what the community needs. In Eidoun, they built a women’s gym - the only one in an area of 50,000 people - providing health and fitness training, and a support network; forging friendships between Jordanian and Syrian women where previously there had only been a suspicion that these newcomers would steal their husbands. In Sakura it was a football pitch, where the most important division was not which country you came from, but which team you were on. In another village we even heard about a group of boys who had to draw a picture together, each taking it in turns to add one stroke. Soon these boys claimed they were reading each other’s minds, their differences forgotten.
But more than helping to build communities, these projects and activities are incredibly important for providing psychosocial support, particularly to young people. Stressful situations cause us to release a hormone called cortisol, which helps prepare our bodies for ‘fight or flight’. Useful in the short term if you need to outrun a bear, but in situations of chronic stress these elevated cortisol levels interact with the emotional circuits in our brain, and cause them to shut down. It kind of makes sense defensively, if you can’t feel anything then at least you won’t be overwhelmed by sadness or fear. But you also struggle to feel happiness, to express emotion, or to feel empathy for others.
These programs provide a way for Mercy Corps to help children re-engage with their feelings through a subtle ‘atunement’ approach. It’s about connecting your head with your heart. Every course session the teachers dedicate some time to self-reflection and positive coping practices, exploring questions such as what do I want to be, who are my friends, what makes me angry, and who are my safe people to talk to. I also really saw the power of art for helping people to express their emotions. A beautiful example was how at the start of any program the kids were asked to draw a picture about how they felt. Most drew images of war and conflict. But two months later, as their program finished, they drew smiling faces and images of play.
Nowhere was this more evident than at Zaatari camp, home to 80,000 refugees. With a bus system, 12 schools, and its very own champs de elysee, it felt more like a town then an informal settlement. But it was still just a sea of temporary box-like structures, overwhelmingly white and grey. Yet walking into the Mercy Corps extracurricular room, my senses were assaulted with the wealth of colour and creativity inside. Sculptures made from trash, paintings that covered the walls, the vibrant energy reminded me that this is what every child should have, a striking contrast to the bleakness of what they were actually growing up in. I was so glad Mercy Corps could provide spaces like this.
It has been a very special experience witnessing the work that Mercy Corps do, and I still haven’t told you the half of it! We saw WASH projects - that stands for Water Health and Sanitation - delivering water, piloting greener latrines, and renovating facilities in schools that would have otherwise been closed down. We learnt about their INTAJ program - Improving Networks Training and Jobs - helping small businesses to expand in order to tackle unemployment. One textile factory owner said that although his business nearly 30 years old, with Mercy Corps he felt he’d had a fresh start, and by the end of the year he’d have gone from 25 employees to 52! Their home kitchen program teaches people how to grow their own vegetables and eat a balanced diet, as aid food is high in calories but low in nutrients. Everyone we met was so dedicated to helping their country, from the volunteers who drove an hour each day to work at Zaatari camp, to the local Mercy Corps staff whose passion for their projects was contagious. Next to their work my own job at home seemed self-centred and inadequate. But at least I had helped in some small way, because without our fundraising, many of these projects would not exist.
Watch a short movie, which shows what Matilda did on her trip. Matilda visits Mercy Corps.
If you’re doing the quad this year, every penny you raise really will be changing lives. The quad is an incredible experience, and it supports an incredible cause. Good luck to you all, and I hope you smash those fundraising targets. It’s truly worth it.
Are you able to go above and beyond in your fundraising efforts? If so, you could be in with a chance to win our 2016 Top Fundraiser Prize!.......
The Quad is really a five discipline challenge: swimming, running, kayaking, cycling AND fundraising. This last one is arguably the most important and has the greatest lasting impact from all your training. So in recognition of your efforts to get that fundraising in we are awarding a £500 prize to the team that collectively raises the highest amount over £3,000. The cut off for raising funds will be 30th September 2016 and the prize winners will be contacted by Wildfox soon after this date.
In addition, if you manage to make your minimum fundraising target* one week before the event there will be a little something for you at registration too! And a hearty cheer from the registration team.
Good luck, Quadrathletes, with your training and your fundraising!
* as per the Terms & Conditions, the minimum fundraising targets are £450pp for a team of two and £250pp for a relay team
Our Mary’s Meals team, “May the Quad be ever in our favour”, are training hard to participate in this year’s wonderful event and they are helping to raise money for Mary’s Meals at the same time.
To see the great work that Mary’s Meals does in 12 different countries throughout the world, click HERE to order a screening pack of our new film, Generation Hope. This film follows the lives of the first children to receive Mary’s Meals back in 2002 and the extraordinary effect it has had on their lives. It is a great example of how your fundraising can help to change the lives of children throughout the world.
Mary’s Meals team update: May the Quads be Ever in Our Favour
Mairead and Louise, The Mary’s Meals Quad Team, have been training hard the last few months but are waiting for better weather before attempting kayaking!
Mairead, who is a Scout Leader, has dabbled in a bit of kayaking before. She says; “Once I went kayaking with my brother, I really enjoyed it! It was hard work though, so I know I’ll need to start training soon. In fact, while kayaking my brother lost his shoes, and I spent more time in the water!”
Louise has been concentrating on hill walking, always accompanied with team mascot Louie the dog. She tells us; “Louie and I are quite new to hills, and neither of us have particularly long legs but our weekly training sessions are really starting to pay off. And I’m loving Munro bagging with my trusty sidekick!”
The team have also been fundraising, setting up their own Artez page so that friends and family can donate online. They also plan on organizing a fundraising event in April to raise lots of money for hungry children.
At Mary’s Meals, we are always up for a new challenge, whether it is feeding more children in the world’s poorest communities or taking on the UK’s toughest one day sporting event, The Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon! Meet Mairead and Louise who have named their team, May the Quads Be Ever in Our Favour.
For a number of years, Louise has excelled at creating interest in the Quad as Digital Media Officer for Mary’s Meals and after seeing how much fun it looked decided to take this plunge herself.
A few years ago, Mairead visited a Mary’s Meals project and felt compelled to volunteer. Ten years later she’s now Mary’s Meals UK Press and Communications Officer. Mairead said, ‘It is amazing to be part of such a fantastic charity. I love the great outdoors and hillwalking, so pairing both Mary’s Meals and an outdoor challenge is ideal!’
Louie, the wee Scotty dog in the photo, is also an honorary team member and putting the girls through their paces. Mairead told us, ‘It’s great to have Louie on board, cheering us on. I’ve seen first-hand the difference our fundraising is making to children in Malawi which makes this all worthwhile.’
Presentations for the 2016 Quad
So… have we got you thinking about the possibility of taking part in the Quadrathlon? Are you a past participant thinking of giving it another go or venturing into the event for the first time? Why not come along to one of our Quad 2016 presentations and find out more.
We appreciate that life is busy so the presentations are designed to fit in after work and they won’t take too long. David Fox-Pitt, our Event Director, will give a short presentation on the event and there will be a quick Q&A session at the end. David will chat about The Quad’s unique vibe, the route, the kit, training and preparation. Nobody knows this event like David so please do take the opportunity to come along and get the inside scoop. He is also extremely persuasive so if you have a friend who’s on the fence about it - bring them!
Time: 17.30 Date: Monday 22nd February
Location: Artemis Investment Management, Cassini House, 57 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1LD
Time: 17.30 Date: Wednesday 24th February
Location: Artemis Investment Management, 42 Melville Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7HA
RSVP - places are limited
Light refreshments will be provided. Please reply to email@example.com, stating which presentation you would like to attend ASAP so we can confirm numbers for catering purposes.
More information about the legendary Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon is available on the website. Or just pick up the phone and have a chat, we love a good excuse to talk about the Quad!
“The children on this island are no longer hungry, Mary’s Meals has seen to that.” Isolated by water, the people of Likoma Island work hard to transport Mary’s Meals across the lake for their children.
Likoma Island is a beautiful island which lies in the northeastern part of Lake Malawi. Although the island is just a few kilometers from Mozambique, and are entirely surrounded by Mozambican territorial waters, it is an enclave of Malawi.
The remote island is cut off from the rest of Malawi, and is only accessible via an old boat called the Llala which has been sailing to the island since the 1960s. It isn’t all that reliable, with the boat often breaking down limiting travel to the island. Sailing can take over seven hours, the water is often dangerous and choppy, but that won’t stop Mary’s Meals providing meals to over 3,000 children on Likoma.
When the bags of maize finally arrive, local volunteers wade into the water and quickly distribute the bags, ready to make the long walk to the village. Without this willing community, Mary’s Meals simply wouldn’t be able to provide porridge in the schools on the island. Geofrey Tamayenda, Mary’s Meals Malawi Regional Manager says, “They come every month to collect the food. They wade through the water in their clothes and then walk for miles to the deliver the food to each school because there are hardly any cars on the island.”
Despite the heat, plenty of volunteers turn up and carry two 20kg bags each to the schools, it is a long and arduous walk but spirits are always high. One volunteer said, “Before Mary’s Meals came to Likoma, children were dropping out of school because they were hungry. Now our children are healthy and happy. We want to be part of making them grow up to be successful.”
It is about an hour’s walk to the first school, where the volunteers are greeted by lots of excitable children. A 12-year-old girl raises her hand, “I don’t have any breakfast before I come to school,” she announces, “Before Mary’s Meals came I was dropping out from classes because I was too hungry, now I look forward to coming because I love the porridge.”
Mayamixo Nahosi, a 14 year old from Likoma, said “I think it’s very important for the community because the parents can send their children to school without any challenges. The children want to go to school. I, for example, don’t ever miss school any more, and I see my classmates here every day. Also, the parents don’t have to wonder about how to feed the children.”
It is thanks to your fundraising, that we are able to feed over 770,000 children in Malawi. Mary’s Meals is now reaching over One Million children globally with a daily meal at school in some of the world’s poorest communities, where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education. On behalf of all the children receiving Mary’s Meals, thank you.
A group from Artemis Investment Management, tell us about their trip to see first-hand the difference Quadrathlon funds are making to impoverished children receiving Mary’s Meals.
In November, we travelled to Malawi and Zambia to visit Mary’s Meals and to witness the impact of Artemis Quadrathletes’ fundraising.
Mary’s Meals is a global movement that sets up volunteer-led school feeding programmes in some of the world’s poorest communities, enabling impoverished children to gain an education that can help set them free from poverty. It costs just £12.20 – around the same price as a single main course in a UK restaurant – to feed a child with Mary’s Meals for a whole school year, and 93% of funds are spent on charitable activities.
The funds raised through the Quadrathlon currently support four schools in the southern region of Malawi.
Our trip began with a visit to Dowa, about a 90 minute drive away from the capital, Liliongwe, where we were staying. Chiletso – the Mary’s Meals coordinator for Malawi Central Region and our guide while in Malawi – drove us to a refugee primary school where Mary’s Meals has been providing porridge since August 2007.
This was by far the largest and most diverse school we visited, with 5,190 students in attendance. Many pupils hailed from Somalia and Rwanda, but the majority were from the Congo. During our tour with the headmaster, the positive impact of Mary’s Meals was clear. Attendance is growing week on week thanks to the feeding programme.
Volunteer cooks spend around four hours each day cooking up large quantities of maize porridge, making the kitchen very hot and smoky. Despite this, the cooks were smiling and friendly and one of them even gave us a little dance! When the porridge was ready, the excitement was tangible, with children keen to fill their mugs, then hastily gulping down the meal. It was difficult to not feel a little overwhelmed at their joy.
Chiletso then drove us to Ndunje Primary School. The atmosphere here was very calm and disciplined. Mary’s Meals has only been working with the school since 2014, but the positive effects could already be seen. Attendance has risen to nearly 1,300 – as have the pass rates of students – and more pupils now continue on to secondary school than before. Classes consist of nearly 100 students, yet there was none of the restlessness we had witnessed in the refugee school. The children patiently waited in their classrooms and formed orderly queues to collect their meal.
Many children in Malawi do not have basic learning tools such as pencils and notepads. To complement its main activity of school feeding, Mary’s Meals encourages supporters to donate backpacks for the children filled with essential items such as toothpaste, pens, notebooks, flip flops, and teaspoons.
We were invited to witness a backpack distribution. The team had driven five hours from the Mary’s Meals office in Blantyre with a truck piled high with sacks of backpacks! We visited two schools to distribute the gifts: Mgonda Primary School, where more than 700 students attend from 24 villages, and Chingondo Primary School, which has 441 pupils and has been helped by Mary’s Meals for eight years.
At both schools we split into two groups and helped unload the truck. The classrooms were tightly packed and we counted the number of boys and girls in each class, sometimes two or three times just in case we’d missed anyone, the pressure to get the numbers right was immense!
The children bent down to us as they received their bag, a sign of gratitude and respect. They patiently sat clutching their new backpacks, looking a little bewildered (Mary’s Meals doesn’t inform the schools they will be visiting so the bags are a huge surprise).
Once the bags were handed out, the team started a countdown. Watching the children’s expressions change from confusion to excitement was heart-filling. There were beaming smiles all round as they pulled out the first item from their bag, and the buzz in the atmosphere was amazing. The children started chattering amongst themselves and showing their friends what they had been given. Some even started singing to say thank you!
The trip was an unforgettable experience in so many ways. It was incredibly humbling to visit Mary’s Meals, see the good work they are doing, and witness the benefits the students, schools and communities are reaping. It was especially brilliant to be involved in the Backpack Project. Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate the effect that such basic items can have on people’s wellbeing when you are physically removed from the situation, but none of us will forget the excitement and gratitude the children had when they opened up their backpacks.
We were made to feel so welcome everywhere we went and it was sad to leave such warm friendly people. We are extremely grateful to Mary’s Meals for organising an amazing, memorable trip and massively thankful to the Quadrathletes, whose fundraising is transforming the lives of these children and their families.