Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Butler in charity trip to Liberia

Gerard Butler has swapped filming for charity work in Liberia
Gerard Butler tries out his footy skills in Liberia
Gerard Butler is a supporter of the Mary's Meals charity

Gerard Butler has swapped Hollywood for the kitchen as he became a volunteer for a charity which provides a daily meal for hundreds of thousands of the world's poorest children.

During a four-day trip to Liberia in Africa this month, the big screen star helped cooks prepare and serve meals to school pupils on behalf of Mary's Meals.

Olympus Has Fallen actor Gerard loved the experience and said he has been inspired to get more involved with the charity, after he helped out in a school maths class, played football with children and danced with local villagers.

Mary's Meals was set up by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow in a shed in Dalmally, Argyll, but has grown into an international school feeding programme, working in countries where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education. It also sends backpacks filled with school essentials around the world to ensure children can make the most of their time in class .

Scot Gerard, 44, presented Mr MacFarlane-Barrow with an award in 2010 and has supported the charity since.

The actor said: "I have come to know Mary's Meals but I had no idea of what that really meant until I came to see what is possible with this organisation and the effect it can have on the lives of so many children.

"One of the things that I have been struck by during this visit is the strength of people's dignity, and what I love about Mary's Meals is that it is all about retaining this. They don't operate a free system where people are just taking; instead it is all about respecting and promoting the lives of people, their culture and what they are capable of.

"I've seen a lot of these communities becoming more energised and alive, and what Mary's Meals does is that it helps create a sense of community that goes way beyond the feeding programme itself."

Mary's Meals has been working in Liberia since 1994 and the school feeding programme in the country is the second biggest run by the charity after Malawi.

It now reaches more than 820,000 children around the world.

Mr MacFarlane-Barrow said: "I really wanted Gerry to come out to Liberia because of the huge need there. There are so many children out of school in Liberia - a little less than half attend school and there are major problems with malnutrition amongst the youngest children.

"It has been an incredible few days with Gerry. He has a great gift with kids. It has been wonderful watching him go into classrooms where he has brought the children out of themselves. Immediately he forms this bond with them, and children respond to him.

"He has brought so much joy to the kids receiving Mary's Meals and I hope that, through his commitment to raise awareness of our work, we can reach many more children with Mary's Meals."

Gerard added: "Every meal given to these children is a piece of charity and a little piece of love, and goes into the hearts of the children, feeding them physically and nourishing them.

"That all passes down into the families and into the communities and gives them a sense of hope and that is the difference between a kid saying 'I want to survive tomorrow' and 'I want to be a doctor'."

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