Every day, millions of children take a giant step out of poverty simply by going to school. But no child can take that step on an empty stomach. It takes nutritious food for them to be able to learn and grow up healthy.
But what happens to those children when they grow up? Here, nine of them tell their stories and their involvement with the United Nations food aid arm, the World Food Program (WFP).
The Marathon Runner
Before winning two Olympic medals and smashing the marathon world record, Paul Tergat was a student in Kenya’s impoverished Rift Valley. He says the school meals he received as boy played a crucial role in unlocking his athletic talent. Tergat is now a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, advocating on behalf of hungry school children around the world.
Polio and poverty meant Apollinaire Gahungu had a difficult start to life. But things began to look up when he was sent to a WFP-supported school in Bujumbura, Burundi, where he graduated at the head of his class. Today Apollinaire is a communications specialist working for the Embassy of South Africa in Burundi, with a successful career as a journalist behind him.
The Mountain Climber
It was a long route to the top of Mt. Everest for Nim Doma Sherpa, but she reckons it started when her parents sent her to school simply to get the free lunches supplied by WFP. “At first, my parents sent me to school so that I could eat lunch, but gradually I became interested in learning,” she said. After achieving her dream of climbing the highest mountain in the world in 2008, Nim Doma now plans on climbing the tallest peaks on all seven continents.
Dungkar Drupka runs WFP’s food assistance operations in the south Asian nation of Bhutan. His impoverished childhood in a mountain village and his exit from poverty are behind him now, because of nutritious food and a good education. He remembers a conversation he had with a school boy he met many years later, while he was visiting a remote school as WFP representative. “I think we have a choice to make this world of ours better,” Dungkar says.
The Education Minister
When she was a child, Lesotho’s education minister was herself a beneficiary of the school meals program at her local school. Now that she’s part of her country’s government, she’s doing all she can to ensure that kids in her country get the same advantage. Some 1,500 schools in Lesotho have school meals. “I’m a good example of what school meals can achieve,” the minister says.
The Career Woman
In 1990, seven-year-old Vera Tavares starred in a WFP documentary about the nutritious lunches that were keeping her in school. Today, she’s a college-educated career woman able to support her mother and put her brother through university. Tavares tells those simple school meals helped her break the cycle of hunger and poverty and become an independent career woman.
The Star Student
As teenagers around the world think glumly about the return to school, there’s one in Kenya who sees her return as a triumph. And it is. After being raised in the world’s largest refugee camp, Fatuma Omar beat the odds to win a scholarship to Nairobi’s best girls’ school. She’s already thinking about college, where she wants to study medicine and become a doctor…
Read More: wfp.org