Reluctant hero talks of his extraordinary mission of mercy

Charity chief Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.
Charity chief Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.
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Apart from the length of his name, there is nothing complicated about either Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow or his approach to helping the world’s most disadvantaged children.

In a world where some charity bosses earn more than heads of state, he has quietly gone about his business in some of the world’s no-go zones, including many countries ripped apart by conflict in Africa.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.

His experience as a charity worker began during the terrible war in Bosnia during the 1990s and has continued to this day.

Magnus’ book, The Shed That Fed a Million Children, a reference to the birthplace of the charity, a corrugated iron hut in a remote valley in Scotland, is the headquarters for Mary’s Meals.

“I was seeing these awful images on television, and it was clear there was a great need – and I decided to fill my Land Rover with supplies and drive there (Bosnia) to help,” said Magnus, who will talk about his extraordinary mission of mercy helping others at a free event at the Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, on Wednesday, September 20th.

That first trip was followed by many more, and now the humble dad and Mary’s Meals founder is having a global impact, feeding a million children around the world every day and providing life-saving aid in areas stricken by famine and epidemics like AIDS and Ebola.

Marys Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow is having a global impact

Marys Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow is having a global impact

However, it was in a village in Malawi that he had a conversation that ignited his vocation and reminded him of the iron grip poverty and starvation has on parts of the world.

“I was staying with an Italian priest, and he asked me if I wanted to go on his rounds with him,” recalled Magnus.

“We went to this particular village because there was a mother dying of Aids, and she had six children.

“It was a desperate situation; she was saying that all she had left to hope for was that someone would care for her children after she had gone.”

Her oldest son, Edward, was beside her and told Magnus that his dream was to have enough food to eat and go to school.

“It was terrible, but when we researched it we found that many children were coming to school without having had any breakfast, and they weren’t getting anything at school – so we knew that changing that would make a difference and it did.”

Yet he remains one of Britain’s most reluctant heroes, even when Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet and Hollywood superstar Gerard Butler got involved with the charity.

Magnus said: “I was at a ridiculously high-powered bash and feeling a bit silly, and Gerard came over and had a chat.

“He said he’d love to see some of our projects in Africa.

“I never thought for a minute any of that would happen – but he turned up out of the blue with his mother one day. It was a great gesture.”

The Grand’s Solomon Project works in partnership with Mary’s Meals, providing 12,000 meals a day to chronically hungry children in schools in Eldoret, Kenya.

By using local produce and community volunteers they are able to feed one child in every school for a whole year for just £17.

An evening with Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, take place at the Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, on Wednesday, September 20th, at 7-30pm. Free admission.

For more details on the Solomon Project, or 01200 421599.