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Before I went to school, my mother always made sure I'd finished my breakfast. Whenever I tried to go without, she always told me about the kids she'd seen who came into school hungry-not by choice, but because their parents either hadn't fed them or they simply hadn't been able to afford breakfast. I didn't learn until I was older that when she had taught in one especially deprived school, my mother, of her own volition, began taking in food such as cereal bars from home that she could hand out to any children who'd come in without their breakfast.
This took place in the UK and was obviously nowhere near the worst case of malnourishment I've heard of. But at five years old, it was one of the earliest introductions I had to the idea that there were children in the world who were not getting three meals a day-sometimes, barely scraping one meal a day. In other countries, this can be the norm rather than the exception.
I can't remember how I first heard about the Lunchbox Fund-I have a vague feeling it may have been through one of the many actors I adored as a young teenager. But I remember the feeling I had reading their mission was This is something that really should be implemented all over the world.
The Lunchbox Fund is an organization, founded by activist and philanthropist Topaz Page-Green and with Archbishop Desmond Tutu as its' patron, that aims to provide a school lunch for every underprivileged child in many areas of South Africa (her native country.) Reading the story of how the seeds of the idea for the Fund were planted in her mind-her description of how as a child she witnessed lives so different from her own that it was like a different world just a street away-hit home for me. I remember smiling as I read it, thinking that I want to meet her one day -something about someone looking at a problem, and simply deciding that she wanted to fix it and then actually taking the steps to do something about it made me feel more hopeful, like there could be a way to change things, even if it took a while.
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The difference the Lunchbox Fund makes to kids' lives is clearly huge. Even looking beyond the statistics and innovative launches of ideas such as the Feedie app, the sheer delight the meals bring these children is obvious in the photos of the visits the many supporters of the Lunchbox Fund make to them. In all the photos, the childrens' eyes are lit up when they see the food. The first time I saw one of the photos, I cried. To see the sheer gratitude of these children for one meal a day was eye-opening to those of us who have so much. It was right then that I decided Topaz Page-Green was one of the people I one day wanted to meet.
Ever since I was little, my parents had always made a habit of donating a certain percentage of their income a month to several charities, particularly UNICEF, as well as my school taking part in the UK Division of Operation Christmas Child. It meant that from the time my cousins and I were very little, we were carefully introduced to the idea that not everyone was fortunate; that we had a duty to help.
Whenever we were shown videos of children living in poverty or babies whose stomachs were swollen with the lack of food, there were always tears. Added to the obvious heartbreak of the situation was the feeling of helplessness-that we would rarely see the impact of the things we were giving and so wouldn't know for certain if it had reached the people who needed it most. When I discovered the Lunchbox Fund, something about Topaz's story made the goal of helping people feel more attainable-that it was possible to make a difference. With ideas such as the Feedie App, The Lunchbox Fund gives almost everyone the ability to contribute and help, even in small ways. The Lunchbox Fund also throws events such as the Annual Fall Fete and auctions, to which celebrities contribute and participate in, which not only raises money for the charity but raises awareness.
The Lunchbox Fund is a charity that is making differences to children's lives; that makes us feel as though it's possible for everyone to make a difference, even in small ways. Last year, I wrote a short story inspired by the Lunchbox Fund and by something my father used to tell me as a child, whenever we saw an advert or a news report depicting the poverty in the world: "Remember, we're all under the same stars." I emailed it to them, along with a message explaining just what an effect the Lunchbox Fund had had on me and how much I hoped I could attend one of their events one day. I sent it, but didn't really expect a response.
I was surprised and delighted when they emailed me back to tell me how happy my message and story had made them. Their acknowledgement just strengthened the feeling that it was possible to make a difference-that this was a charity that took the time to make the difference. Every meal they give to a child leads to increased health for that child, to better education for that child, to a better future for that child. That meal can be made possible with a photo from the Feedie App. The Lunchbox Fund is something that made me feel like the situation was less hopeless-like there was a possibility for me and everyone else to make a difference to these children's lives.
From when I was very little, listening to my mother tell me about the food she used to give to the children who came to school hungry, there was a feeling there that it was possible to help-that no matter how small the gesture, if it could help one child, it had done something. The Lunchbox Fund and Topaz Page-Green are ambassadors of that idea. At times, it can feel devastatingly hopeless when we see these images of children suffering, as though there's nothing we can do. The Lunchbox Fund is one of those charities that changes that feeling-there is something we can do, that we can all do. No matter how hopeless we think it is, there is always something that all of us can do to help-to change these children's lives for the better.