In Malawi with Mary's Meals

July 20, 2016

We are honored to support Mary's Meals as part of our ongoing #VBGIVESBACK program and will be donating $10 of every order in July to the cause. We asked Board Chair Ana Laffont to share words and images from her most recent trip to Malawi with the organization.

It’s winter in East Africa, but we wake up to a misty morning with the certainty the fog will soon lift to give way to another hot, sunny day. In our eagerness to hit the road, we hurry the coffee and toast offered to us lovingly by Gay Russell, our tireless Blantyre hostess. They call Malawi “the warm heart of Africa” and Gay, an English pilot, is the warm heart of Mary’s Meals  here in this part of the world. We bid her goodbye and off we go.


Magnus is at the wheel as we unfold the map to determine where we’re heading.  It’s already evident to us that this year’s drought is unprecedented in its devastation to the land. Failed crops everywhere. We know how reliant these people are on the fruits of the earth.

Heading south we reach an Under 6 center (our “nursery school”) in Limbe. The little ones greet us, in circle time, with great curiosity. Teachers explain who the visitors are and then proceed with their day, at times breaking into enthusiastic song, others taking turns to answer questions in Chichewa, the local language. I calculate their age and can’t help thinking of Pierre and Paul, my 4 and 3 year old sons. I think they wouldn’t have sat as quietly or been so compliant to directions as these beautiful little ones. The moment arrives when the children line up, first to wash their hands, then to receive their morning meal. However hard and emotional a day is, this moment always has the capacity to bring you joy and remind you why you are here. I see the way they savor every spoonful of fortified porridge, how happily they play afterwards, and I can’t stop smiling.

A visit to an Under 6 center always seems too short. We leave reluctantly, as the day ahead is long and we have many school and family visits planned for the day. We continue on towards Mwanza and the stunning mountains in Mozambique in the distance. Seeking out families to hear about their situations, we ask them how they cope, what their hopes and aspirations for the future are. It’s difficult to listen to Lucia, Malita, Yamikani, their children, Fatima, Anna, Mary, Promise. Over and over, they speak to us of unthinkable food shortages, but also about how much hope they have in their children’s education. Orphans telling us they find nothing in the fields, but also of being able to study and concentrate when they’ve had their reliable meal in school. Or how difficult it is to do homework after dark without electricity, but how happy their soccer team, the Blantyre Big Bullets make them. More importantly, that they want to become a doctor, a nurse or maybe even work for Mary’s Meals one day. They are suffering, and yet their wish is to help others one day.


Hope is everywhere. I say let’s get to work. We can.

- Ana Laffont

Read more about Mary's Meals and VB Gives Back

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