The Shed That Fed A Million Children by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

The Shed That Fed A Million Children by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

When I saw this book at Booktique, I knew it would be a really good read. And I guess I must have a gift for picking out books. LOL! This book kept me on the verge of tears as I devoured its pages within 2 days. The author, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, describes himself as someone who is painfully shy, and who would happily take a job that requires him to meet no other human being. In fact, he was a fish farmer. What happens thereafter is nothing short of a miracle. He became the founder of Mary’s Meals, which is providing meals everyday for over a million children in impoverished parts of the world, and he has had to speak in front of countless groups of people to share about the work he does. He has been named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and nominated as a CNN Hero. He got to dine with the Queen, and he and his wife got to meet (and were blessed by) Pope Francis!

Here’s a documentary (‘Child 31’) about Mary’s Meals:

What Mary’s Meals does is to ensure children get at least one good meal a day so they can attend school with full stomachs. Parents are thus more likely to let their children go to school (as there’s the promise of a meal) instead of having them stay at home to help out.

When reading this book, you’ll be confronted regarding your notions of what “charity”, “volunteer work” and “sustainability” (of such work) mean. And I have learnt so much, just from the 307 pages within the book! Here’s a quick summary:

  1. When God has a plan, your human limitations won’t matter.
  2. The difference between bringing ‘aid’ vs. comfort. Supplies vs. a hug and words of comfort.
  3. See ‘aid’ as gifts, and figure out how they may be accepted and utilized.
  4. The terms “refugees” and “displaced people” conjure up inaccurate stereotypes. Get to know them as people first.
  5. Care for the dignity of the people you are helping. Ensure they don’t face public humiliation when receiving ‘gifts’.
  6. When you do God’s work, He will end up fulfilling your dreams in the process.
  7. Target your values; don’t value your targets.
  8. God will provide.
  9. “Charity, without suffering or sacrifice or even failure, is actually something else. Philanthropy perhaps? Or aid work?”
  10. “All those who have more than they need share with those who lack even the basic things”.
  11. Hunger is usually caused by poverty, not lack of food.
  12. The local community has to ‘own it’.
  13. On photo-taking: “Like others around us who had come to help there, I took photographs. But later, when I looked at them, I felt ashamed that while people screamed for their lost loved ones I had been there taking pictures. I decided then that sometimes, even when you felt pictures were essential to help with the raising of desperately needed money, it is better to leave your camera in your pocket”.
  14. “The average cost of a lunch in the United States could feed a child in a developing country for an entire year” – Annie Lennox.
  15. “Do not let your love be a pretence… Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor” – St Paul


This book retails at S$24 at Booktique at Citylink Mall. I love how the books at this indie bookstore are all individually wrapped – I reuse the plastic as book sleeves to protect the cover of the book! 😀