Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

From beer-fueled brainstorm to life’s work of helping others Source: CNN

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, August 13, 2010

From beer-fueled brainstorm to life’s work of helping others

August 13, 2010 8:16 a.m. EDT

Argyll, Scotland (CNN) — Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was enjoying a pint at his local pub in the Scottish Highlands when he got an idea that would change his life — and the lives of thousands of others.

It was 1992, and MacFarlane-Barrow and his brother Fergus had just seen a news report about refugee camps in Bosnia. The images of people suffering in the war-torn country shocked the two salmon farmers, who’d visited there as teenagers and remembered the warmth of the Bosnian people.

“We began saying ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just do one small thing to help?’ ” MacFarlane-Barrow says.

After talking it over, the two men took a week off work and collected food, clothing, medicine and blankets. They loaded everything into an old Land Rover, drove to Bosnia to deliver it and returned to Scotland.

“I came back here thinking that I did my one good deed and it would be back to work, but it [didn’t work] out like that, ” he says.

When they arrived home, the brothers found an avalanche of goods that people had continued to donate while they were away.

“I was touched by the overwhelming generosity of others,” MacFarlane-Barrow remembers. “I saw all of those donations in our family home and thought, ‘Wow, people really are good,’ and it inspired me to be good too.”

After much thought and prayer, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow quit his job, sold his home and dedicated himself to helping people in need.

He returned to Bosnia with aid 22 more times during the Bosnian War, and over the next 18 years his work expanded and evolved. Today, his program — Mary’s Meals, named after the Virgin Mary — provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world.

MacFarlane-Barrow found his current focus in 2002 while working in Malawi — a country ravaged by famine and AIDS — when he met a local teenager who just wanted a decent meal and an education.


“The mother of the family was dying of AIDS. She was lying on her bare mud floor, and she had her six children around her, ” he says. “I started talking to her oldest child, Edward. And Edward said, ‘I’d like to have enough food to eat. I’d like to go to school one day.’ ”

In response, he launched Mary’s Meals, which strives to break the cycle of poverty by feeding children a daily meal at school. The food — in most places a mug of maize-based porridge — gives students an incentive to continue their schooling and helps them focus better on their studies. It’s a formula that MacFarlane-Barrow says is working.

“Pass rates go up dramatically in the schools where we start providing Mary’s Meals,” he says. “We’ve seen huge improvements in attendance rates and academic performance.”

Mary’s Meals partners with local residents, who handle the daily work of cooking and serving the food. In Malawi — the group’s largest effort — more than 10,000 volunteers donate their time on a regular basis.

The program operates in more than 500 schools and child-care facilities in 15 countries, a global effort that MacFarlane-Barrow coordinates from a tin shed on his parents’ property in Scotland. While the married father of six lives on the property, he spends most of his time abroad, overseeing the project and visiting the schools where meals are served.

“I see the children’s faces as they eat their meal, ” he says. “Knowing I can transform their lives keeps me motivated.”

But there are always new challenges to overcome, most recently in Haiti, where Mary’s Meals has operated since 2006. Working in partnership with a local Catholic priest, the group was feeding about 12,000 children a day when the earthquake hit in January.

Much of the infrastructure the program relied on in the slums of Cite Soleil was destroyed, so the group’s mission expanded. They helped create temporary classrooms and are rebuilding eight schools in the area. In addition to their school-based feeding program, the group now feeds about 2,000 elderly Haitians and is providing additional food and medicine to the community.

MacFarlane-Barrow is driven by his Christian faith, but there is no ministry aspect to his work. “We are very careful to never link feeding and faith,” he says. “We serve those who are in need … period.

“When I think of Mary’s Meals I think of it as a series of lots and lots of little acts of love, ” he says. “I’ve learned … that every small act of kindness does make a difference.”

Article Courtesy of:


As Decade’s End Nears, 20% More American Children Live in Poverty

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Saturday, May 30, 2009

As the end of the decade nears 20 percent more American children are living in poverty than in 2000, and the South leads the nation in the number of children living in lowincome and poor families, according to researchers at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), part of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

NCCP says that 44 percent of children in the South – 12.2 million – live in low-income families; compared to 41 percent of children in the West; 38 percent of children in the Midwest; and 34 percent of children in the Northeast.

“These are challenging economic times for America’s families. Low- and moderate-income workers are seeing their wages stagnate or decline, while the cost of basic necessities continues to rise,” says NCCP’s Vanessa Wight, PhD, who co-authored the report with research analyst Michelle Chau. “We are particularly concerned about the profound effect economic hardship can have on children. We found that children’s poverty rates vary greatly, depending on where people live.”

The U.S. federal poverty level (FPL) for 2009 is $22,050 for a family of four; low-income is considered anything below two times FPL. The findings are detailed in “Basic Facts About Low-income Children,” NCCP’s multi-part annual collection of analyses on low-income families, available free online at

While children make up a quarter of America’s population, they account for more than 40 percent of the overall low-income population, explains Wight. NCCP analyzed a variety of factors that distinguish low-income and poor children from their less disadvantaged counterparts. In addition to geographic location, other factors contribute significantly to a child’s experiences with economic insecurity. Among them:


  • 27 percent of white children – 11.2 million – live in low-income families.
  • 61 percent of black children – 6.4 million – live in low-income families.
  • 31 percent of Asian children – one million – live in low-income families.
  • 57 percent of American Indian children – 0.3 million – live in low-income families.
  • 42 percent of children of some other race – 0.9 million – live in low-income families.
  • 62 percent of Hispanic children – 10.1 million – live in low-income families.

Health insurance:

  • 16 percent of children living in low-income families – 4.9 million – are uninsured.
  • 32 percent of children living in low-income families – 9.5 million – are covered by private insurers.
  • 49 percent of children living in low-income families – 14.6 million – are covered by Medicaid.
  • 22 percent of children living in low-income families – 6.5 million – are covered by their state’s Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Parental education:

  • 25 percent of children with at least one parent who has some college or more education – 11.9 million – live in low-income families.
  • 85 percent of children with parents who have less than a high-school degree – 7.2 million – live in low-income families.
  • 60 percent of children with parents who have no more than a high school degree – 10.7 million – live in low-income families.

Source: The National Center for Children in Poverty