Smiles in the Midst

Misty in the middle of the day, yet dusty once you set foot on ground. The clanging gong at break time between classes sends a wave of screams among the pupils, who heartily smile from ear to ear as they hastily make their way to the food serving point at one end of the school.

Bags on their backs, hands clenched to their mugs, they queue in four zig zag columns waiting for their turn to be served. The anxiety cannot let them make straight lines as they are always peering at how long the queue ahead of them is until they get the warm meal. 

The aroma of the porridge is mouthwatering, a mix of maize flour, ground nuts, milk and sugar, cooked to smooth yet thick perfection which will leave you craving more. The children smile upon their mugs being filled, making their way to the grass in the large compound where they sit and enjoy the warm breakfast. This breakfast is a meal they look forward to daily, a meal that makes them glad about coming to school.  

The laughter, as they merrily sit under the trees in small circles. Little dust clouds rise as they make their way from the serving station are remarkable memories that left me light hearted about how much impact The Lunch Project’s feeding program has had on the lives of these children. Most of them come to school on empty stomachs after trekking long distances on their way to school, and others from more vulnerable families have only one meal a day at home. 

This happy hour is a ray of hope, one that gives the children another reason to attend school each day. The headmaster mentioned in a conversation that we had that the rate of absenteeism and school dropout has significantly gone down since the feeding program began. 

The warm meal at school cannot be taken for granted. It is a remarkable act of kindness that will never be forgotten by these children, and the entire community.

TFFT’s TT Program team and Mr. Ernest, the country coordinator of  The Lunch Project, one of TFFT’s partner organizations which provides meals at schools to help children improve cognitive abilities since children are not hungry, paid a courtesy visit to Elkurot Primary School. This school is one in which the feeding program has just been recently implemented in addition to a couple of others. School meal programs have shown to significantly improve school enrollment and attendance rates.

I cannot help thinking about how Noah (Teacher Training Program Manager)and I gallantly replaced the chefs, a duty we humbly took on as we grabbed the serving jugs and stood behind pails full of the delicacy, eagerly waiting to serve the little soldiers. We smiled, we laughed, and kept chattering with the children in ‘Maasai’ language, cautioning them to hold their mugs firmly and take the right turn so they don’t bump into each other. 

Joining the circles after the call of duty was another intriguing game changer for us: we couldn’t underestimate our role as agents of change. Little drops of sweat danced down their foreheads and I couldn’t help thinking that the stomachs were as grateful as the smiles on their lips. 

They smiled at each other, smiled at us, we melted.