Inner Wheel helps get kids to school in the developing world

Backpacks for Mary's Meals. From the left, Carol Penny, Judy Austin, Gerry Bluck, Shirley Hughes, president and Sue Johnston, overseas officer. PNL-140714-165624009

Backpacks for Mary's Meals. From the left, Carol Penny, Judy Austin, Gerry Bluck, Shirley Hughes, president and Sue Johnston, overseas officer. PNL-140714-165624009

Having access to stationery is something schoolchildren in the UK take for granted but for those in developing countries, it can mean the difference between going to school and eating, or staying hungry.

Mary’s Meals, which is based in Glasgow, sets up school feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities, where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education.

They also run a backpack project where groups, businesses and individuals in the UK fill backpacks with basic educational materials to send to children so they can go to school and receive a Mary’s Meal.

Among those groups joining the cause is Buckingham Inner Wheel, who have made Mary’s Meals one of their charities.

Speaking to the Advertiser and Review, former Buckingham Inner Wheel overseas officer Gerry Bluck, said by providing backpacks and stationery to children in developing countries, it allowed those children to go to school and receive food, which for some could be the only decent meal of the day.

She said: “In the backpacks we put something the children can wear as a school uniform as well as pencils, a ruler, the things they need to go to school.

“It costs £12.20 to feed a child for a whole year so we try to raise funds we can send overseas through Mary’s Meals.

“These children want to learn so much and it is such a shame their parents can’t afford it.”

Buckingham Inner Wheel has already sent more than 50 backpacks and has raised £800 since it started supporting the charity this time last year.

The backpacks and their contents come from donations, charity shops or are purchased new. The club recently received a donation of caps from TK Maxx to include in the backpacks.

Countries receiving assistance from Mary’s Meals include Malawi, Liberia, South Sudan, Uganda, India, Thailand and Bosnia Herzegovina.

Sue Johnston, who has taken over as overseas officer from Mrs Bluck said the children helped by the scheme had so many responsibilities at home, it was almost impossible to get to school.

She said: “Some of them have to walk a long way and when they get home they still have to collect water and do jobs for the mothers. If we can get the children to school, they can at least have a meal.”

She added fundraising for Mary’s Meals and the backpacks would continue throughout the year with a number of events planned. Committee officer, Judy Austin, has organised coffee mornings and afternoon teas in the past and hopes to do so again.

Mrs Johnston is hoping to organise what she calls a ‘breakfast ripple’, where five people come over for breakfast, made by the host, and pay £5. Those five people then host a breakfast at their own home.

She said: “Our events have raised a lot of money which meant we could get to the shops and buy some items. We have received tremendous support from people who have donated clothing and people who say they can’t do much but ask if it would help if they bought some colouring pencils.”

The Inner Wheel have a list of items needed for the backpacks. Anyone interested in helping can contact Gerry Bluck on 01280 824536, Sue Johnston on 01280 815765 or Judy Austin on 01280 814864.

To find out more about Mary’s Meals, visit




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