IT costs just £13.90 to feed a child for a whole school year.

That’s according to the charity, Mary’s Meals, which aims to provide chronically hungry children with one meal every school day, encouraging education that can lift them out of poverty in later life.

The global movement, which was founded by Scotsman Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, now feeds 1,230,171 children every school day in 15 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Last year, the no-frills charity, which started operating out of a tin shed that still serves as its headquarters, celebrated 25 years since its first delivery of aid during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Another landmark in 2017 saw the interdenominational organisation’s billionth meal being served in India.

But there is still much to be done, as it estimates that around 61 million of the world’s hungriest children do not attend school. In order to survive, they have to work or beg.

To highlight the good work being carried out by the charity across the world, the Mary’s Meals Fermanagh Support Group will be inviting members of the public to two awareness events in St. Michael’s Parish Centre, Enniskillen early in Lent.

The group plans to serve porridge, along with the usual tea and coffee, to those attending the events, which will be taking place on Wednesday, February 21 at 7.45am and then Saturday, February 24 at 10.30am.

Explaining why, the group’s new secretary, Pat Clarke, said: “In the poorest countries, porridge is the easiest thing to make and the most beneficial. We thought it would be appropriate.”

The Fermanagh support group was set up in January 2008 by Fr. Owen Gorman, who was then the Curate at St. Michael’s Parish, along with other parishioners.

Before forming the local branch, Fr. Gorman travelled to Scotland to meet with the charity’s founder, Mr. MacFarlane-Barrow.

The priest was very touched by the work Mary’s Meals was doing in setting up school kitchens in some of the world’s poorest countries in order to draw children into the classroom.

This trip to Scotland had a profound effect on Fr. Gorman, and, to his surprise, over the course of the next few months he started to receive donations for Mary’s Meals – including a cheque for a six figure sum!

At this point, he knew it was time to organise and formally start a group here.

Although initially known as Mary’s Meal’s, St. Michael’s Parish, Enniskillen Branch, it later became Mary’s Meal’s Enniskillen and Lisbellaw Branch and is now known as Mary’s Meals Fermanagh Support Group.

Mr. Clarke said that the branch’s name has been changed once more to encompass the fact that it covers the entire county.

The interdenominational group is now led by chairperson, Ann Curry, who was invited to join the committee in 2008, although due to work commitments was unable to take up the post until later.

Over the last decade, the local branch has raised a total of £113,060.19 through a variety of fundraising activities, including twice-yearly street collections, coffee mornings, curry nights, supermarket bag packing, finger food nights as well as private donations.

Members also participate in the Step by Step sponsored walk from Enniskillen to Knock in County Mayo every summer.

With a total distance of around 100 miles, only some members walk the whole way with others participating for one day.

Walkers from other branches of Mary’s Meals around Ireland also take part in this event, with the aim of meeting up in Knock on August 15.

In the summer of 2013, Gerry McNamee was among those to take part in the journey from Enniskillen to Knock.

Writing about his experiences, he stated: “Over the next five days, six people who barely knew one another would develop into a team, we could even describe ourselves as a small family.”

After completing the walk, Mr. McNamee wrote: “For me the past few days had been some of the best in my life.”

To find out more about the work of Mary’s Meals, visit the charity’s Facebook page or its website at: