Former Fish Farmer Feeds 1 Million Kids Every School Day

By Kathleen Toner, CNN

Machinga, Malawi: A bowl of porridge.

It can seem so simple. But for a hungry child and his parents, it is reason to celebrate.

Every weekday, in 12 countries around the globe, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow gives this life-changing gift to schoolchildren. His program, Mary’s Meals, has provided them with free, nutritious meals since 2002.

MacFarlane-Barrow and his group now have their own reason to celebrate.

Last month, his program hit a major milestone: Mary’s Meals feeds more than 1 million children every school day. That’s 5 million meals every week.

“It’s a mind-boggling number,” said MacFarlane-Barrow, who still runs the program from a tin shed on his father’s Scottish farm.

He and the group recently celebrated the achievement in Malawi, where the program began.

The former salmon farmer was recognized in 2010 as a Top 10 CNN Hero. At the time, his program was feeding 400,000 children a day.

See more CNN Heroes

CNN’s Kathleen Toner talked with MacFarlane-Barrow about the milestone and the journey that got him there. Below is an edited version of their conversation:

CNN: One million children, every school day. How does that feel?

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow: It’s something we never could have imagined.

We celebrated in a small village in Malawi in the middle of nowhere, quite a remote, beautiful village. And the whole village was part of the celebrations. The chiefs, the head teachers, and the children, of course, were the center of the celebration. We were singing and dancing. It was just a very, very special day. The joy of those kids is just something incredible to experience.

Mary's Meals recently celebrated a milestone: feeding more than 1 million children every school day.

CNN: The meal that children receive is often as simple as a cup of porridge. How much impact does that have?

MacFarlane-Barrow: One cup of porridge does a lot of different things. It brings many children into school, who never went to school before. In addition, many children who were going to school hungry, they start to learn. Their health improves. And then we see amazing results with academic performance.

So it’s a very simple thing, but the implications are huge and go beyond this generation. Those children growing up now with an education, their children are going to benefit as well.

Do you know a hero? Nominations are open for CNN Heroes 2015 

CNN: What sparked your idea to start Mary’s Meals more than a decade ago?

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow: In 2002, I was in Malawi during a year of terrible famine, and I met this family — the father had died, and the mother was dying, surrounded by her six children. I began talking to her oldest child, Edward, who was about 14, and asked him, “What are your hopes?” And he said, “I’d like to have enough food to eat, and I’d like to go to school one day.” And that was it. That was the extent of Edward’s ambition.

That was something that I encountered a lot — children who were missing school because they were working or begging. That encounter really ignited this mission of Mary’s Meals, which is simply about providing one good meal every day in a place of education. And Malawi remains, by far, our biggest project. We’re feeding over 25% of the children of primary school age in that country today.

CNN: You and your organization have had quite a journey, which you wrote about in your recent book (“The Shed That Fed a Million Children”). What do you hope others take away from your story?

MacFarlane-Barrow: I just feel this great sense of privilege that I’m part of this mission, this movement that keeps growing around the world.

The million is this amazing landmark, but it really isn’t “mission accomplished.” Our work’s just beginning. We’ve proven that this works, and now we’re just thinking about the next child.

I hope people take away that this is possible. If we are feeding 1 million children, why are there another 57 million children hungry and out of school? So that’s why we’ve celebrated it as the first million, because sadly, it’s not job done. There are many more children waiting.

Want to get involved? Check out the Mary’s Meals website and see how to help.

New Documentary Takes On Dangers Of Clothing Economy

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FROM CNN: The True Cost, a new documentary, chronicles the evils of the clothing industry and asks us to stop buying so much cheap stuff.

We buy too many clothes, and we pay too little for them.

That’s the message of “The True Cost,” a new documentary on the perils of the fashion industry, which is being released next week.

The film is a sweeping, heartbreaking and damning survey of the clothing economy. It covers malformed children of pesticide sprayers in India’s cotton belt, gruesome shots of the deadly 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, Indian rivers frothing with chemicals, and mountains of discarded clothing in Haiti.  “I believe these clothes are produced by our blood,” Shima Akhter, a Bangladeshi factory worker, says in the film. “I want the [factory owners] to be aware and look out for us, so that no more mothers lose their kids like that.”
True Cost clothes 2
                Textile waste in a Dhaka, Bangladesh landfill.

The film interviews a factory owner in Bangladesh, who says the constant pressure to produce cheaply is partly responsible for the unsafe conditions.

“Is it really ethical to buy a T-shirt for $5, or a pair of jeans for $20?” asks Livia Firth, creative director at the sustainable businesses consultancy Eco-Age.

Related: Out of a tragedy, socially responsible fashion 

The movie is filled with disturbing facts. Here’s a few:

— 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years, partly as a result of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds.

— There are 80 billion pieces of clothing purchased worldwide each year, up 400% from two decades ago.

— Americans throw out 82 pounds of textiles annually.

— Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores get sold — the rest end up in landfills or flood markets in developing countries.

“I came into this completely blind,” Director Andrew Morgan said at a press screening Friday. “I never thought twice about a piece of clothing I wore.”

Morgan said a photo of children — who were close in age to his own kids — hunting for loved ones near the Rana Plaza rubble is what spurred him to make the film.

He said systematic changes are needed in this and other industries, chief among them counting the costs of pollution or unsafe working conditions that are not currently factored into the price of goods.

But for now, he urges consumers to opt off the treadmill of purchasing more and more cheap clothing — what’s being referred to as “fast fashion” — and buy fewer, better-made items.

“Let’s back off this endless, constant purchasing and invest in clothes we love,” he said.

Making Wealth Worth More for Social Impact

 – Huffington Post 

Silicon Valley is full of successful entrepreneurs who have figured out how to combine vision with capital to solve difficult problems. That proven approach is what built so many companies, from the first personal computers to the latest social networking apps.

Over time, we are seeing many of these same entrepreneurs use the wealth they have acquired in business to make a social impact. Some are creating family foundations aimed at supporting nonprofit organizations; others are choosing to engage in “impact investing” in support of for-profit social entrepreneurs.

Very few of them, however, structure their social impact support to do both, missing a chance to apply the very problem-solving approach that built the wealth they now seek to share.

Today, both nonprofits and startups are changing lives for the better using the very technology many of these entrepreneurs have created. Those two paths to change are neither competitive nor mutually exclusive. Indeed, what really matters is which path is most likely to succeed and for many of the world’s most pressing problems, we need both.

This “problem first, tool second” insight is what led eBay founder Pierre Omidyar to transform his family foundation into Omidyar Network a decade ago. Omidyar Network now supports social entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas through impact investing and grants. In the 10 years since making the change, it’s also become clear that the “flexible capital” approach allows for a more ambitious agenda for change because it allows for the market-based solutions that are needed to address long intractable challenges at scale.

Financial inclusion is a good example. Since 2004, Omidyar Network has invested more than $100 million in microfinance and other efforts across 15 NGOs and 13 for-profits. For-profit funds make equity investments in startups that offer quality affordable financial services products to low-income consumers. Grants support organizations that create infrastructure and address policy changes needed to help the sector scale. This flexible approach has resulted in more goods and services reaching more beneficiaries more quickly.

The same flexible approach is more likely to succeed when it comes to other significant global concerns, ranging from climate change and education to poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine creating lasting, scalable change through nonprofits alone. Market-based solutions shouldn’t be off the table simply because they are for-profit.

Making a lasting positive change in people’s lives often comes down to making small, practical changes in their day-to-day routine. Think about how clean cook stoves reduced deforestation and resulting carbon emissions from burning wood while making women’s lives easier and safer. Or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s pursuit of a low-water toilet that will conserve water and improve sanitation in emerging markets. Both of these are clear proof that commercial products can be effective tools of change. A market-inclusive approach can also bring in more capital.

My advice to the new generation of philanthropists is to cling fast to the lessons of your business success and apply them to your philanthropy. Examine the best way to solve the problem you are passionate about and then create an organizational structure to execute on the vision.

This is how they can do more than share the wealth. It’s how to make wealth worth more to society.

A Social Shift For The Good

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The facts:

– 83% of voters believe same-sex marriage will be legal nationwide within ten years.

– Currently, more than half the country believes in legalizing gay marriage.

– Support for gay marriage has increased 1% a year for the past two decades.

And while facts may tell, stories compel.  Stories like the 40,000 children of gay and lesbian couples in California Justice Kennedy spoke of during recent oral arguments.  “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status,” Kennedy said. “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

Stories like Scott Hamilton and his husband, Wayne Johnson, who moved to Oklahoma after getting married in Connecticut in 2009.  They’ve been together since 1991, but had to come to terms with the fact their marriage was no longer legal according to the laws of their new state. Their taxes are now filed separately, wills have been redrawn, and new trusts have been created to ensure their assets won’t be snarled in red-tape if either of them were to die.  And if Scott or Wayne were ever placed in long-term care, the state of Oklahoma would force them to live in separate rooms.

I recently read an article in a Christian magazine opposing gay marriage. It stated, “Modern secular psychology recognizes that men and women are psychologically and emotionally designed to complement one another.”  But if psychology argues against gay marriage, common sense surely must argue for it. What sense does it make for a man and a women to be married simply because they have opposing chromosomes?  I know plenty of same sex couples who compliment each other quite well.  I also remember a time where “secular psychology” failed to recognize water fountains as being acceptable for all people to drink from.

What is the tradition of marriage, anyway?  Who defines it?  The Bible?  There are many verses addressing homosexuality.  But why can’t you have a Christ-centered relationship and still be gay?  The Bible talks about tax collectors in a negative light.  But aren’t our taxes used for schools, roads and bridges?  Aren’t those good things?  Just because tax collectors in biblical times were corruptible, are we supposed to assume today’s collectors are all evil, too?

“2,000 years of church tradition can’t be wrong!”  I hear people argue.  But the tradition of the church has been wrong many times.  And social pressure prompted the church to change their views.

Today, in the political realm, the GOP defines the boundaries of marriage for us.  According to them, marriage is a contract between God, one man, and one woman.  How then, do they explain Ronald Reagan, the savior of their party who married two women?  Or Newt Gingrich, who walked down the aisle with three.  How about Rush Limbaugh?  He’s on #4.

Marriage isn’t about finding someone of the opposite sex to fall in love with.  It’s about falling in love with the same person over and over again every day, regardless of their chromosomes.

Just as Kennedy’s Camelot was a myth, the white-picket fence with Mom, Dad, and 2.5 kids, is an illusion, as well.  At least in today’s society.  Same sex marriage is prominent on Modern Family, one of the most popular sitcoms on television.  And Ellen Degeneres is the most watched talk show on TV.  Time Magazine is releasing two separate covers with same sex couples kissing, declaring, “Gay Marriage Already Won!”  It isn’t being forced upon us by the so called, liberal media.  It’s being accepted by the entire country.

9 states and counting.

President Obama won the White House twice. And it wasn’t because he had better ground strategies than John McCain or Mitt Romney.  Although, he did.  It was because of women, minorities, and the Latino community.  Those were the voting blocks who not only decided the landscape of two presidential elections, they’re the voting blocks who are currently changing the landscape of this country.

Look at the justices deciding this case.  Never before have we had a court so indicative of what our country looks like: six justices are Catholic. Three are Jewish. There are white conservatives on the bench, a black man, and three women.  One, of which, is Hispanic.  And speaking of that one black man: he’s married to a white woman.  It wasn’t just integrated water fountains “secular psychology” once deemed unacceptable.  Before 1967, in many parts of our country, it would have been his marriage.

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