TEN years ago Alex Keay left the comfort of his home to travel to war-torn Liberia where he helped to rebuild communities through the work of a charity.
It was a real eye-opener for Alex, of Edinburgh, who spent a year volunteering for the former charity Scottish International Relief, which later became known as Mary’s Meals.
On his return to Scotland, he continued to pursue his career in aquaculture and marine science. However, his work in Liberia has always stayed close to his heart.
So when an opportunity recently emerged with the school feeding charity Mary’s Meals, he applied and has now become the charity’s head of programmes policy, research and funding.
For the 43-year-old, the role has involved a return visit to Liberia where Mary’s Meals is currently providing a daily meal to 140,000 children every school day.
Alex said: “By the time I left Liberia, around 3000 children were receiving a daily meal in school so it was amazing to see the positive changes and the massive impact which Mary’s Meals is having on so many children who would otherwise be out of school or working to survive.”
During the time he volunteered in Liberia, Alex worked with displaced communities and refugees, including former child soldiers, who were trying to rebuild their lives after a brutal 14-year conflict.
Alex said: “Villages and homes were destroyed during the conflict and many families suddenly had to start all over again with nothing.
“Part of my involvement was to look at ways of expanding the school feeding programme from St Dominic’s, the school we helped, to other schools.
“The food we provided helped to bring communities together as people started to return to villages as there was the promise of a daily meal for their children at school.”
In his role at Mary’s Meals, Alex is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the projects which the charity runs in 12 countries. The charity is currently reaching 1,187,104 children every school day.
Alex has also recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Malawi, where he has witnessed the devastating impact of the country’s worsening food crisis.
“Families were working in the fields trying to get the land ready for planting seeds but the earth was bone dry and nothing was growing,” he said.
“They were in desperate situation, they had run out of food and didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. For them, Mary’s Meals is a lifeline.”
Mary’s Meals is staging a public event in Edinburgh on November 26, to celebrate its work. It is being held at 2pm at Central Hall, 2 West Tollcross.
It will include an update from the charity’s founder and chief executive, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.