Mary’s Meals has a vision: To provide every child with a warm meal. While providing a daily warm meal reduces parts of world hunger it also creates the base for children to be able to concentrate, to learn and go to school. The aid organisation now feeds more than 1,5 million children on their schooldays – in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caribics and South America. Only 18,30 Euros can bring a child through a whole year of school. Additionally, Mary’s Meals is one of the few transparent organizations that help you to understand how your money is spent exactly. From every Euro that is donated to Mary’s Meals only seven or less cent run into administrational costs or costs for the calls for donations and 93 per cent are directly distributed to the children.
While it is possible to donate to Mary’s Meals individually, the organisation came up with some ideas on how to involve bigger communities with donation campaigns that can be carried out by all of us. Mary’s Meals suggests personal sponsoring, cinema nights, breakfast parties or charity sales. And this is where Felix, his blog and his extraordinary journey come into play. Until Christmas, Felix wants to enable food for 500 children. Read his story below and donate here!
Felix also inspired us to use the holidays to give back, so we are planning a charity campaign ourselves. Head over and follow Freiraum on Instagram to stay tuned.
My name is Felix and I am 32 years old. In 2016 I had a diving accident while I was studying for my MBA at INSEAD in Singapore. Before my accident, I had studied and worked, amongst other places, in St. Andrews, Paris, Tokyo, Chicago and Munich.
I cannot remember how my accident happened. My mother has summarised it as follows: „Felix was in Malaysia with a group of 35 friends and fellow students on a diving excursion with some diving instructors, when he had an unexplainable diving accident. As it happened underwater, in addition to the decompression sickness, he virtually drowned. His lungs were full of saltwater. During the bends, small air bubbles are set loose inside the body, and they can settle everywhere, also in the brain, unless you are put immediately in a special chamber. So he should have been put in a pressurised cabin immediately. However the only one in Malaysia was out of order and so under unimaginably dramatic circumstances he arrived 24 hours later in Singapore, where, after an investigatory computed tomography, he was placed immediately in a hyperbaric chamber for 5 hours.”
When my parents finally arrived in Singapore 24 hours later, I already had one operation, and they were told, that the affected areas of the brain had been so badly damaged, that I would never be the same again. Moreover, whether I would survive was very questionable.
After several weeks in intensive care in Singapore and Frankfurt and after 15 months of intensive rehab in Heidelberg I have now been living at home again with my parents in Frankfurt since the beginning of 2018. However, I am still wheelchair-bound and cannot move at all. In order to relearn, train and understand my basic bodily functions again, twice a week, I go to a therapy centre. I train there on the walking trainer Lyra. In addition, two physiotherapists and a speech therapist visit me every week at home.
I have been supporting the international children’s charity Mary’s Meals (www.marysmeals.org) for years now. The charity feeds over 1.6 million children in 19 of the world’s poorest countries. It was founded by the Scot Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow in 2002 and the motto is “Food + School= Hope”. In practice, this means that the children receive a warm meal at school, and it is this that gives them the incentive to go to school. And we all know that it is easier to learn if you don’t feel like you’re starving! The concept is so simple, that I was convinced immediately. 18,30€ is enough to feed a child with a daily meal for a whole school year. What for many of us is a lunch in a hip café, is a basic essential for the future of these children. And I already managed to get many people to donate to Mary’s Meals enthusiastically with my birthday fundraising campaigns.
Love Reaches Everywhere
In May I was involved in a big YouTube online Event. The world premiere of the new short film “Love Reaches Everywhere” with the Hollywood actor Gerard Butler and Magnus MacFarlane Barrow. The whole event around the film launch was organised and planned by our Mary’s Meals Frankfurt Group, to which I belong. The dress rehearsal was rather chaotic and, in my opinion, did not look very promising. But then everything ran smoothly. If only a few of the several thousand people who saw the film donated to Mary’s Meals, it would have a wonderful effect on the children, who dream about being able to go to school!
Move For Marry’s Meals
The campaign “Move for Meals”, which began during the Corona Lockdown, was a great incentive for my walking training. The idea was: Everybody walks, runs, cycles or swims (on their own or as a group) and looks for one or more sponsors for the kilometres covered. The aim was to cover the distance virtually from Mainz (the headquarters of Mary’s Meals in Germany) to Malawi (the first country in which, thanks to Mary’s Meals, children received a meal at school) while collecting donations. I was immediately enthusiastic and joined in. I began to donate to “Move for Meals” not only my strenuous outings in the wheelchair, which I steer with my chin, accompanied by Paula, my loyal four-legged friend but also the distance I covered during my walking therapy. My father was my sponsor for “Move for Meals”. Because each metre for me has a completely different significance than for people without a handicap, he decided to sponsor me a generous five euro per kilometre. It may be that he regretted his decision during the campaign!
Training in the Lyra is very demanding. On some days, it is even catastrophic and so painful that I have to break it off. This doesn’t only depend on my daily condition, but also on other factors, for example on how well I have been prepared before the start. A special belt must be fixed around my waist and thighs. These preparatory steps take a bit of time, but in the long run, they save time as in the ideal case they then do not need further adjustment when I begin to walk. Next, I have my leg brace put on and the belt is attached to two hooks, which pull me up slowly until I reach an upright position and my legs are stretched out. With the help of a motor, I can begin to make steps. That means, that the machine walks with me. I only have to ensure that I remain in a good upright position and I have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Even though I am being walked, I try to join in mentally. It may sound trivial, but I manage 2.7 km/h, which is already very fast for me and the machine.
The New Campaign: Felix runs for Mary’s Meals
Now I have a new plan: In the weeks up until Christmas, I will run with my walking trainer to raise enough money for a school meals programme for 500 children in Turkana, Kenya. Even though I can’t set my running goal, I will give it my all and try to run as much as possible. Many of the children there are starving and are illiterate. Kenya is a remarkably diverse country: partly modern and wealthy, partly backward, marked by drought, hunger, and the most bitter poverty. Turkana is a beautiful but extremely barren desert region, where Mary’s Meals already feeds thousands of hungry pre-school children under difficult conditions. The plan is to extend the programme to also provide meals for primary school children.
That is why I am starting my campaign “Felix runs for Mary’s Meals” in Advent. I am looking for sponsors, who will help me to give the children in Turkana a real Christmas present. Even the smallest contribution will help. Together we can change the lives of these children for the better. Please forward this link generously – the more sponsors, the more children can look forward to a year of learning without hunger.
Older blog posts about charity you can find here.