VB Gives Back

#VBGIVESBACK: Ana Laffont

July 1, 2016

We are honored to support Mary's Meals as part of our ongoing #VBGIVESBACK program and will be donating $10 of every VeronicaBeard.com order in July to the cause. Learn more about Mary's Meals and Board Chair Ana Laffont in the Q&A below.
It’s easy to take a school lunch for granted but for so many children around the world, a school meal is a real luxury. This is where Mary's Meals comes in. With the goal that every child receives a nutritious daily meal in a place of education, the organization is currently feeding 1,101,206 children every school day. Active in 12 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, this volunteer-run organization is bringing hungry children into classrooms, filling their bellies and giving them the chance to learn.

Ana Laffont has been on the board at Mary’s Meals since 2011 and currently serves as USA Board Chair. She has taken an active role in the organization and spends time on the ground working with the incredible volunteers and children that allow Mary’s Meals to make a difference.

What was it that first drew you to Mary’s Meals and made you want to be a part of the organization?

Its simplicity and that disarming quality of basic human justice: kids have a right to live and be educated.

Why is it important that these meals are offered in a school setting?

Is there a way to escape poverty that doesn’t start with an education?

How have you seen the meal program impact education in developing countries?

It simply transforms lives, families and communities. The best part of what I do is when I am able to travel with Mary’s Meals to the program countries and witness this first hand.

Tell us about the Mary’s Meals volunteers, who are they?

Mothers, grandmothers, fathers, aunts – people who care about the kids in their lives. They are so eager to do it, and they make the program theirs. In Malawi alone we have 65,000 volunteers. They are exactly like you and me. In fact, it should be you and me…Care to join?

How are you sourcing food for the meals in various countries?

As much as possible, we are using locally sourced food. It encourages their own economy and infrastructures, a virtuous circle of sorts.

How does Mary’s Meals impact communities as a whole?

Immediately. It literally saves lives. But we have seen over and over that the seeds of education and nourishment bear fruits in generations to come.

What does it cost to feed one child through Mary’s Meals for one year?

Less than $20 per child, per YEAR, on average. No, it’s not a typo. I didn’t believe it myself when I first heard.

What future initiatives are you the most passionate about?

I am overjoyed when I think Mary’s Meals is planning to soon begin providing school meals to around 1,000 children at a school in the town of Antelias, located 5km north of Beirut, Lebanon. Mary's Meals will reach Syrian children who have settled in neighbouring Lebanon, as well as their Lebanese classmates. Can you imagine being a child and having to leave behind everything you’ve ever known? We can provide a basic sense of normalcy to them, as they continue to attend school and be fed there.

Also, a current expansion in Liberia. It’s a resilient country with such deep ties to the US (founded by freed slaves from here) and such a tragic past, including the recent devastation by the Ebola virus. I want to scream from the top of my lungs: we can do it together!

What have you learned from the children who are being fed by Mary’s Meals?

That all kids are capable of joy, however difficult their surrounding world is. Also, to make do with what you have. I brought Spanish soccer balls to a school once and watched fascinated as a group of tall girls instantly transformed them into volleyballs. They played beautifully!

How have you talked to your own children about world hunger?

It’s hard to shut me up... but I also bring them with me when they are old enough. I tell them mostly that there is joy in doing. Wishing or complaining aren’t allowed if you’re not doing.

What was it like bringing your daughter with you to Malawi to see the program in action?

Simply beautiful. Again, the seeds of that will hopefully bear fruits for years to come.

What do you think is the most important thing you have taught your children through this experience?

Do we teach our kids, or do we truly only leave them with ways that were once ours? I don’t think of it as “teaching” them. Simply because I’m the one doing the learning here. I learn that the only life worth living is giving yourself to others. “Till it hurts,” said Mother Teresa.
That a little can be a lot. To never, ever give up. I can’t leave my children anything more valuable than that.

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