$21.00 is all it costs to feed a child for a whole school year. How might that be true? With this donation the organization “Mary’s Meals” is able to provide one meal every day for children in developing countries. And that often changes their lives.

Around 64,000,000 of the world’s hungriest children do not receive any kind of education and many of them are forced to work or beg in order to survive. The others, being hungry and weak, cannot stay focused if their parents allow them to go to school.

However, even this permission shouldn’t be taken for granted given that the parents often perceive education to be a waste of time that could be used differently e.g. for working or organizing food. While this view in their case might be understandable, the long term results of such a perspective will likely be devastating for the kids. Knowing that the child will receive a free meal at school often changes parents’ approach.

Every child deserves an education and enough to eat – that is the vision of “Mary’s Meals”. “What’s important to us is the hungry child. When there are hungry children in front of us today, we’re going to feed them, and at the same time we’re going to work on the solution to getting them fed in the long term, creating a global movement of people who believe in this vision” – says Magnus MacFarlane, Mary’s Meals founder and CEO.

He grew up in Scotland with his parents who, deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, converted their guesthouse into the retreat center or “Family House of Prayer”. In 1992, Magnus and his brother became profoundly impacted by the images of people suffering because of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They decided to organize a local appeal and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Three weeks later they bought the second-hand Land Rover, joined an aid convoy and donated the goods. After coming back home, for a while they believed that their part of the work was done. Surprisingly, the donations kept coming and after discerning his call, Magnus gave up his job, sold his house and eventually never returned to old life, but became fully involved in the Scottish International Relief – the charity founded by him, and helped thousands of people across the world.

In 2002, in Malawi, he met Emma, a mother of six young children, who was dying of AIDS. Her greatest worry was their fate after her death and whether someone will take care of them. When Magnus asked Emma’s oldest son what he hoped for in life, his response was “”I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school every day”.

These words became the inspiration for Mary’s Meals. Today, more than 1,5 million of children in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America are served meals every school day through this initiative.

The feeding programs are run by community volunteers, and, wherever possible, the food is locally produced. That helps to reduce the costs and support the local community and farmers. The positive impact is undeniable, and, according to some research, 99% of children said they find it easier to learn at school after Mary’s Meals program was introduced there.

For most of us reading this article, 21$ is the sum we would quickly forget. For other people 21$ is the sum that would change their lives.