Child 31

May 04 2014

Article by Nicholas Aquino, Class of 2015:

People complain about being hungry all the time, using hyperbolic expressions like “I’m starving” or “I’m going to die if I don’t eat soon”, but very few have actually experienced the crippling effect of true hunger. Living in a first world nation makes it difficult for American children to connect with the struggle for survival that hundreds of thousands of people deal with every day. As Catholics, we have a moral obligation to aid these people, for it is Jesus himself that we are feeding when we feed the hungry. But how can we help the hungry?

This was the same question asked by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow when he founded Mary’s Meals. Beginning his work in Bosnia, Magnus began Mary’s Meals in his dad’s shed in Dalmally, Scotland. Mary’s Meals has branched out to 16 different countries feeding over half a million a day. Kellenberg sophomores and juniors were given a unique opportunity to look at Mary’s Meals through the eyes of the volunteers and the hungry people themselves. On Friday May 1, students gathered in the auditorium to watch Child 31. Grassroots Films produced Child 31 as an inside look into the work that Mary’s Meals was doing and into the hunger that affects third world nations.

The film begins with Lette Saidi, a 12-year-old girl from Malawi, Southeast Africa. Lette is an orphan who struggles to feed herself and her siblings. She discusses how hunger makes her feel and her life without her parents. The screen then turns to two startling facts, the first being that 18,000 children die of hunger-related diseases a day. Then, only a few minutes into the film, we learned that 31 children had died since we started watching. This death counter would appear throughout the film, reminding us of the inexorable grip that death has on starving children.

The goal of Mary’s Meals is to provide children with at least one meal a day. Mary’s Meals brings hope to the hungry by not only providing them with food but also providing them with an education. By providing food in school, Mary’s Meals ensures that these children are receiving the education they need instead of begging on the street. In Uttar Pradesh, India, begging on the street and working were unfortunate realities for these children. However, begging was not even the biggest obstacle to education faced in India. The biggest obstacle in Indian education was the opposition of Indian men to Indian women receiving an education. One woman explained that Mary’s Meals is vital to India because without their education and feeding of young girls, women in India could never truly be free. At this point in the film, the death counter had reached 101.

The film then switches back to Malawi. One teacher explains the difficulties faced before Mary’s Meals. Kids would dropout all the time because they had no food. It was difficult to talk to a hungry person. The children needed school but they were too poor or too hungry to go. Mary’s Meals changed everything. Their Under 6 program feeds thousands of orphans a day. Mary’s Meals works with Rab Processors to feed over half a million people every day. Rab also stimulates the local economy by primarily buying locally produced crops.

Many of the kids portrayed in the film struggle with hunger every day, which inspired another young child to take action. Charlie Doherty, a 12-year-old boy from the United Kingdom, is a child unlike most children. At age 7, Charlie knew that he was blessed with a simple, yet fulfilling life. It was at this time that Charlie stopped accepting birthday presents and started looking to charity. Charlie biked and swam and did whatever he could to raise money. Charlie has managed to raise $31,000 dollars for Mary’s Meals because he feels that everyone deserves a daily meal. His donation was enormous, considering that the cost to feed a child for a year is similar to the cost of an American lunch. The death counter once again was shown, this time at 204.

Then the film turned to one of its saddest segments, the “street kids” of Kenya. These street kids were orphans from Eldoret, Kenya that formed small communities at dump-like sites. These kids contracted diseases and became injured with no one to care for them. They slept outside, cold and hungry. Without food, they turned to sniffing glue to quell their hunger pains. One of the street kids discussed how he did not want to live on the streets anymore, but he had no one to take him to school and no one to feed him. He felt forced onto the street by the lack of food in school.

The film finished with a brief summary of the generous work that Mary’s Meals does every day. Mary’s Meals feeds about 800,000 children a day, keeping a staggering number of kids on the path to success. The amazing documentary concluded, but the director, Charles Kinnane, and producer, Michael Campo, were available for questions after. Among many great topics discussed, Charles informed us that the young boy from Kenya had actually been accepted into an orphanage within a day of his interview due chiefly to the influence of Mary’s Meals. Overall, people were shocked and inspired by the film. Junior Greg Ajello noted, “We take for granted what we have and we should all learn from Charlie.” The film truly moved everyone in the auditorium and will force people to think twice before claiming that they “are starving,” because it could definitely be worse.