Spotlight On Service: The Little School with Big Dreams

In 2014, a small, Catholic school in New York embarked on a mission to build a Mary’s Meals kitchen in Malawi.  Inspired by the movie Child 31 that tells the story of how Mary’s Meals was founded, the students held nickel drives and fundraisers.  In just four months, they raised the $11,500 to build a kitchen at Dzungwi school, Malawi; but it didn’t stop there.

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 12.17.33 PM.png

Meet the Mary’s Meals Ambassadors

The school and the parish fell in love with Mary’s Meals and didn’t want to stop at simply building a kitchen. The students were highly motivated and wanted a means to keep giving back throughout the year. Their solution was founding the first Mary’s Meals Ambassadors Club.

Throughout the year, students in grades K through 8 meet dressed in their signature blue Mary’s Meals shirts to sort and count the money raised each month to feed the children of the world.

As part of the club, students learn more about their sister school in Malawi, exchange letters, videos, and photos; and even learn to play the same games that entertain their faraway friends.

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 12.25.02 PM.png

Last year, St. Stephen St Edwards School raised over $20,000 through the Mary’s Meals Ambassadors Club.  Through their efforts, a second kitchen was adopted in Liberia that is now fully funded by the club.

One Man’s Trash is Another One’s Hope

Mary’s Meals Ambassadors Club holds several fundraisers; however, their biggest ongoing effort is simply recycling bottles and cans. In New York state, there is a 5 cent deposit on every can and bottle purchased.

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 12.27.56 PM.png

In order to get the deposit back, consumers need to return the used containers to special recycling machines. A nickel isn’t much for most people. While this deposit originally inspired recycling efforts, over the years New Yorkers have become less inclined to venture out to the recycling kiosks for just a nickel in return.

However, a nickel is all it takes to feed a child at school and change his life in countries like Malawi and Liberia. So the club collects recycling which they sort, bring to recycling machines, and turn into hope for children in Africa.

This year, the club is working on building a replica of “The Shed that Fed a Million Children” which will house specially designed machines to recycle the collected bottles and cans and send the income directly to Mary’s Meals.  

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 12.30.04 PM.png

Building Bridges One Nickel at a Time

The Mary’s Meals Club has built a bridge for children in a semi-rural town to learn and grow.  Their worldview has expanded, and their connection to others on the opposite side of the world has solidified.  The efforts of serving and understanding have benefited the children in the club as well as those they fundraise to feed. Likewise, the simple meals that are being provided in two countries thanks to this club are building bridges to the bright futures for the recipient children.

St Stephen-St Edward school has not just found a hobby, it has discovered its mission.  It is currently one of the largest and longest running fundraising campaigns for Mary’s Meals in the world.  It all started with a simple idea: let’s help bring hope to a child in need.

About the Author

Jennifer Elia is a homeschool consultant, curriculum creator, and author at She and her husband are raising their four children, three of whom are Mary's Meals Ambassadors, in their North Jersey childhood hometown. She has a passion for education, research, and helping those who are suffering, especially children. Thank you, Jennifer!