Serving up Mary’s Meals

Let’s start the week with something inspiring.

CNN World ran a piece last week about a Scotsman who went for a beer at a local pub and came out with an idea that would change thousands of lives around the world.

In 1992, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and his brother saw a news report about Bosnian refugees. They had been to the country as teenagers and were moved to do something to help. Just something small, they thought.

So they collected supplies — food, medicine, clothing — and hopped in a Land Rover and drove to Bosnia. But it didn’t end there:

When they arrived home, the brothers found an avalanche of goods that people had continued to donate while they were away. “I was touched by the overwhelming generosity of others,” MacFarlane-Barrow remembers. “I saw all of those donations in our family home and thought, ‘Wow, people really are good,’ and it inspired me to be good too.”

After much thought and prayer, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow quit his job, sold his home and dedicated himself to helping people in need. He returned to Bosnia with aid 22 more times during the Bosnian War, and over the next 18 years his work expanded and evolved. Today, his program — Mary’s Meals, named after the Virgin Mary — provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world.

Mary’s Meals partners with locals who do the daily cooking and serving. In Malawi — their largest program — over 10,000 volunteers donate their time.

Mary’s Meals operates in more than 500 schools and child-care facilities in 15 countries, and it’s all coordinated from “a tin shed” on the property of MacFarlane-Barrow’s parents in Scotland.

The married father of six lives on the property, but spends a lot of time overseeing the programs abroad. There are always challenges — like in Haiti, where they were working with a Catholic priest feeding about 12,000 children a day when the earthquake hit and left them with no infrastructure from which to work.

For MacFarlane-Burrow, Mary’s Meals is still all about one small act:

“When I think of Mary’s Meals I think of it as a series of lots and lots of little acts of love, ” he says. “I’ve learned … that every small act of kindness does make a difference.”

(Hat tip: MAM)

Zoe Romanowsky


Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Zo

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