Mary's Meals volunteer praised after Queen's Award honour

Mary's Meals volunteer John Helliwell. Picture: suppliedMary's Meals volunteer John Helliwell. Picture: supplied
Mary's Meals volunteer John Helliwell. Picture: supplied
MARY'S Meals has praised the hard work of an Edinburgh resident after the school feeding charity was honoured with the prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

The award is the highest given to local volunteer groups and Mary’s Meals is celebrating this impressive accolade by praising its thousands of volunteers across the UK, including Edinburgh man John Helliwell.

John has been volunteering for Mary’s Meals since 2008, after attending an address given by the charity’s founder and CEO, Magnus McFarlane-Barrow. John is now inspiring others to support the charity by delivering promotional talks about its work to community groups.

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Mary’s Meals is a volunteer-led global movement that provides a daily meal in school to more than 1.1 million children in 12 different countries across the world.

As one of Mary’s Meals’ longest-standing volunteers, John has inspired hundreds of fundraising groups to support the charity’s work and brought its message to thousands of individuals and supporters.

John has also been instrumental in raising awareness of Mary’s Meals within the Church of Scotland and, in 2012, the Church of Scotland Guild named Mary’s Meals as one of its chosen charities for a three-year fundraising partnership.

However, public speaking was not what John initially had in mind when he contacted the charity to offer his voluntary support.

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He said: “The one thing I did not want to do was to do public speaking. But that’s what Mary’s Meals needed. I gave my first talk in October 2008.

“It was to 400 schoolchildren in Edinburgh. The front row was full of primary ones – it was very daunting.

“As a Mary’s Meals volunteer, you find out you have skills that you didn’t know you had. One of the most rewarding aspects of this work has been meeting other volunteers. Mary’s Meals really is like being in a huge, global family.”

The Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service recognise the outstanding work of volunteer groups within their communities. The awards were created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

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Alan Brown, executive director of Mary’s Meals, said: “From our 65,000 volunteers in Malawi who get up at the break of dawn to prepare, cook and serve vital meals to hungry children to the thousands of generous people like John across the UK who give up their time to support our work, volunteers are at the heart of everything we do.

“We are very honoured to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. It is fantastic that the achievements of our many wonderful UK volunteers are being officially recognised through this award.

“We are so grateful to John and to everyone who has supported Mary’s Meals’ incredible mission.”

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