MOTHER-of three Ruth Hayes has many strings to her bow - freelance radio producer, documentary maker, actor, director and writer.
Ruth, who lives in Youghal, also spearheads the local branch of Mary’s Meals which is an international school feeding charity.
“If every person just gave nine cents, we could provide a nutritious school meal for over half a million children,” she said.
“It’s simple, we don’t just want your two cents worth; we want your nine cents!” says Ruth who is urging people to support Mary’s Meals.
How did she get involved in Mary’s Meals, a charity founded by Scotsman Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow almost 30 years ago? Now the charity serves over two million children in 19 of the world’s poorest countries every day.
Ruth said: “I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw a tweet from the singer Celine Dion about a film on YouTube called Child 31; I watched it for 30 minutes and it described the fantastic work of Mary’s Meals that helps children get off the streets, who get to eat a nutritious meal every day at school, and eventually they are able to focus on realising their dreams. It hit me like a ton of bricks,” says Ruth.
“Watching another film called Generation Hope on YouTube, I knew I had to get involved in Mary’s Meals.
“It was the simplicity that struck me; providing one nutritious meal a day for a child in their place of education. I contacted the office in Dublin to get involved. These kids in poverty-stricken countries were not just street children; they lived in extreme poverty”.
Ruth realised that we are privileged here in Ireland.
“I thought of my own kids, if they had been born in any of those countries. We have so much here,” she says.
“There was an urgent need to address the imbalance. As a parent you want your child to be fed. It is a basic need.
“Mary’s Meals aims to get children off the streets, give them food, and concentrate on breaking the cycle. I wanted to do something.”
Ruth was sparked by joy.
“The joy of everyone involved is contagious,” says Ruth, who swam every day in May to raise funds for an emergency appeal to help displaced people in war-torn Ethopia.
“Displaced people fled up North,” says Ruth of the Ethopian refugees.
“Kids were orphaned. Poverty was being used as a weapon. I wanted to try and do something to help the situation.”
And she did.
“I’m not a sea-swimmer, but I can swim!” says Ruth.
“I went for a dip every day in May, even on the cold days I kept it up!”
She says people can help Mary’s Meals in different ways.
“€18.30 is all it costs to feed a child for a whole school year,” says Ruth.
The community of Mary’s Meals is connected throughout the world through acts of love. “We’ve reached out to businesses and schools. I know people can be wary of charities but 93% of every euro we receive goes towards Mary’s Meals charitable activities,” says Ruth.
“Grandmothers and mothers come to schools in the poorest countries to feed the children one nutritious meal a day; it is what they want to do for their children. They celebrate that. People can help by donating on the website or raise funds by hosting coffee mornings or holding cake sales.”
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow never planned to start the organisation for hungry children. But he had a vision.
“One good meal every day for a hungry child ; there is more than enough food in the world,” says Magnus.
People like Ruth everywhere have got behind the charity that feeds the hungry.
“We rely on an army of volunteers all over the world to spread awareness and help raise funds,” says Ruth. “In the various communities we rely on volunteers to run Mary’s Meals. It helps build communities. Local farmers provide the food.”
Ruth says young people should get involved.
“It can give them a sense of responsibility, making them more socially responsible,” she says. “We have a Mary’s meals box at home and 4th years at my daughter’s school held a cake sale supported by Collins’ Bakery in Youghal and they made €150 for Mary’s Meals. Spreading awareness is important.”
The acts of love spread far and wide to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
“We’re in 19 countries including Malawi, Haiti, Madagascar, and India,” says Ruth.
“Mary’s Meals is a global movement supported by people in many walks of life and from different backgrounds.”
By 2004, when Mary’s Meals began working in India; it was feeding 20,000 worldwide. It now serves more than two million children in 19 of the world’s poorest countries every day.
Mary’s Meals Ireland is celebrating this amazing achievement by asking Irish supporters to raise enough funds to feed the entire two million children for a day.
“We celebrated an amazing moment recently in the Mary’s Meals story when two million children ate Mary’s Meals in a place of education,” says Magnus.
“When we set out on this path almost 30 years ago, we were overwhelmed by people’s goodness in donating - and that has been the story ever since.
“I thank you with all my heart on behalf of those children.”
It costs just 9 cents on average to feed a child a nutritious school meal in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Magnus says; “What’s important to us is the 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.”
See: Ireland@marysmeals.org or call Patricia on 086-3140814