Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My friend Alex Miller wrote an article about me on her blog. Alex and her husband Mike are living in Malawi, Africa. Mike is a finance officer for Mary's Meals.

You can read the article here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Martha and Mary Catholic Woman's Conference 2014

Last weekend, Mom, Ellen Miller and I attend the Martha and Mary Catholic Woman's Conference in Dubuque, Iowa. We sold about 30 Mary's Meals T-Shirts. (That equals 30 more children who will receive Mary's Meals everyday at school!!!)

                                          Ellen and I talking to someone about Mary's Meals.
                                                              Go Mary's Meals!!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blog Swap with Teens for Mary's Meals

I recently heard about an awesome group called Teens for Mary's Meals. We decided to do a "blog swap", where we each complete an interview for each others blog. Here is my interview on their blog. 
From L To R: Bella Darke, Franee Barthel, Angela Penza, Patty Decker (Mary's Meals USA), Brianna Doyle and Kalina Burns
What is Teens for Mary’s Meals? How did you get started? Who’s idea was it?
Teens for Mary's Meals is a fundraising group of high schoolers in Santa Barbara, California that consists of Kalina Burns, Franee Barthel, Bella Darke, Brianna Doyle, and Angela Penza. It got started in April of 2013 when Kalina and Angela first saw the Mary's Meals documentary Child 31 at their church youth group. Immediately they told their friends about Mary's Meals and the five of them had their first 'Teens for Mary's Meals' meeting at lunch in their math teacher's classroom.

Did you all know each other before started TFMM’s?
Before we started fundraising together, we all knew each other from school and sports and were all relatively good friends. However, through the constant working together and sharing in joy and prayer, we've become an inseparable group.

What has been your biggest fundraiser?
So far the largest fundraising event we've done has been at our Church's confirmation sponsor night. With over 500 people in attendance, we started off the night with a screening of Child 31, followed by a talk from the amazing Patty Decker, and lastly we showed our short YouTube video and each member of our group gave a short testimonial. We received more donations than we ever expected and our Holy Mother's intervention was so obvious and amazing!

Share a little bit about yourself:

 Franee - I was born in Germany and moved to America when I was 2. I am a Sophomore in High School and I love to play soccer, eat Nutella, and spend time with my brothers. I love meeting new people and going on adventures with my friends.

Kalina - I like to spend my time doing hot yoga and hanging out with my two wonderful beautiful dogs.

Bella -
When I'm not outside working in my garden, you'll find me watercoloring in my sketchbook or lost in a wonderful novel. I love to volunteer at the Dream Foundation, a non profit started in town, and have been involved with them for over 6 years.

Brianna - I love to play soccer, stroke my fluffy kitties, draw in my sketchbook, and eat delicious foods.

Angela-  Fundraising for Mary's Meals has become one of the best parts of my life, but besides that I like to spend time outdoors, knit, watch Sherlock, and I hope to travel all over the world during my life.

How much have you raised so far?

As of Jan 21st 2014 we have raised around $25,665

What are your future goals for Teens for Mary’s Meals?
Right now we are headed toward a goal of $31,000 which will fund the completion of 2 school kitchens and a feeding program. Once we reach our current goal, hopefully we will also be able to raise enough for a second feeding program. Despite the numbers, our long term goal is really just to raise as much money for Mary's Meals as we can before we separate and go to college.

How has your experience bolstered your faith in Christ and His plan for us?
In many ways, this experience has brought the five of us together through the goal of serving God. It has also opened our eyes to the mysterious and amazing ways that the Holy Spirit has been working in our lives. There have been awestruck "mountain-top" moments where we have felt the love of God and the Blessed Mother, but there have also been moments where we lose sight of His plan for us. In those moments, we have struggled with humility and maintaining our prayer lives. In all, despite the ups and downs, we will always have something tying us together as friends and holding us close to Christ. It has been a blessing that Mary's Meals came into our lives, because it has changed them forever!

Do you have any tips for people who want to get involved with fundraising for any charity? (not just Mary’s Meals)
We would encourage anyone interested in fundraising to find a group of friends that will support you. It's always easier to do things when you're not alone. Also, get in touch with the charity you are fundraising for and make sure they know who you are. We luckily developed a great relationship with the Mary's Meals coordinator, Patty Decker, and she has been such great help to us. Besides your friends, make sure that your family knows about your ambitions (we sent out over 100 letters to friends and family, leading to lots of support and donations). If you are affiliated with a church, get in touch with your priest or youth minister and see how you can spread the word through your faith. Overall, we've learned that making connections with people is the most important part of fundraising. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Can you Help???

I only need $3,631 more to build another kitchen.

Here is what you do:
Go the
Go to the donations page you will see a something that looks like this:

Go to the tab that under fundraising groups
Select "Allison's Malawi/IA kitchen

Your donation will go towards my feeding/kitchen goals

If you have any questions let me know in the comments

Your donation will help change a lot of lives!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Child 31 - The story of Mary's Meals

Yesterday, (November 10th) was Mary's Meals day in Glasgow. They also released Child31 online. 

After you watch it let me know what you thought! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Iowa City Catholic Woman's Conference

Today I spent the day at the Iowa City Catholic Woman's Conference. I had a booth for Mary's Meals. I also sold some Mary's Meals t-shirts.
Here are some pictures:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

Here is a letter written by Magnus the founder of Mary's Meals after his recent trip to Iowa:

Last week I visited Iowa, one of my favorite places in the world.
I was there to speak at the World Hunger Summit and it was wonderful to be able to share the story of Mary’s Meals with over 700 people at the Hunger Lunch in Des Moines.
I felt privileged to meet some very distinguished people and great humanitarians, but the highlight for me that day was meeting hundreds of high school kids who had travelled from all over Iowa, many wearing Mary’s Meals T-shirts, to learn more about the charity they love.
Whilst in Des Moines my dear friends there organised an evening event in a parish church for supporters of our work. They told me they hoped that 75 people might attend and couldn’t believe it when over 200 enthusiastic people, some sitting on the floor, turned up on this week day evening to hear the latest updates.
And then the next morning I had an ever bigger treat when I called into St Theresa’s primary school, who have sponsored the building of a kitchen in Malawi (one of 21 kitchens that have now been sponsored by groups in Iowa so far!!), to find that every single pupil was wearing a Mary’s Meals shirt for the day.
I was so moved to meet those happy, excited children and their incredible teachers and to be able to share a little with them about how their kindness has changed the lives of so many hungry children. At the end of my talk I was starting to say to the children ‘please, please say prayers for Mary’s Meals …’ when I noticed the teachers laughing and pointing behind me.
I turned to see two pupils carrying the most enormous envelope on which was written ‘Prayers for Mary’s Meals’. They gave this to me explaining that each child had written their own prayer.
It seems so appropriate to me that this part of America is known as the ‘Heartland’ while Malawi is proud to be called the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’. Both places are home to people with enormous hearts who are always ready to share with those less fortunate – and both know how to do so with joy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mike and Alexandra Miller

As many of you know Mike and Alex Miller from Indianola, (Iowa) are working for Mary's Meals in Malawi. If you would like to read her blog visit:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

St. Theresa School Rally for Mary's Meals

On Monday (the 16th) went spend part of the with Magnus, Patty Decker (MM USA), Andrea Dale (MM executive director), Ellen Miller, and Marylin Lane.

From L to R: Andrea, Mom (Pam), Me, Magnus, Marylin, Ellen and Patty.

St. Theresa School in Des Moines hosted a rally for Mary's Meals. It was fun!

Joseph introducing Magnus
All of the children were very attentive

Magnus speaking

In the past few days the students of St. Theresa School had been collecting money for Mary's Meals. They collected over $700 dollars!

Presenting the check to Magnus

These two (cute) little students gave Magnus a gift from the school

School-wide picture with Magnus!

Joseph with his parents, sister and Magnus. Joseph was inspired by hearing Magnus at the Christ Our Life Conference last year. He (and his school) have raised over $17,000 for Mary's Meals!

Magnus, Ellen and Ellen's niece Rea

Magnus and I

Iowa Hunger Summit 2013

On Tuesday, October 15th Mom and I spent the day at the Iowa Hunger Summit in Des Moines Iowa.  Magnus (the founder of Mary's Meals) was the keynote speaker for the Iowa Hunger Summit Luncheon.  We also went to a talk that Magnus gave at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Urbandale, Iowa.

Magnus gave a ~30 minute talk and then answered questions from the crowd.

There was about 215 people who came to hear Magnus.

(These pictures are from Magnus' talk at St. Pius X)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Save the Date!!

Hello friends-

Please join me to meet …

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals!  (He is coming to the Des Moines area from his home in Scotland.)

When:  6:30 pm, Tuesday, October 15th 2013

Where: St. Pius X Church on 66th and Douglas in Urbandale, Iowa (near Merle Hay Mall) - Mary and Martha Social Room - Please use south entrance doors

My friend, Ellen Miller’s son works for Mary’s Meals in Africa.  Magnus and the Mary's Meals team are grateful to Iowans, who have become such a big part of Mary's Meals mission. Mary’s Meals is now feeding 792,621children a day at their place of education at a global average cost of $16.80 per child for a FULL YEAR!  Magnus was invited to the Vatican this past June to talk with Pope Francis.

Please pass the word about this wonderful  man and his mission!  He was selected as one of CNN’s Top 10 HEROES in 2010.  Watch the video to find out more about  him.  Consider using email, Facebook, phone calls and your church bulletin to invite your family and friends to join Magnus and learn more about how Mary's Meals is Christ's hands and heart throughout the world.

Let me know if you are planning on attending!! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

BBC Live 5 Radio Interview Tomorow

Yesterday I got a email  from Mary’s Meals in Scotland asking if I would do an interview with BBC Live 5 radio.

After a few emails, I talked on the phone with the producer of the radio program.  I will have my live interview at about 6:35AM Iowa time on this Friday January 10th 2013 (tomorrow).  The interview will be about my fundraising for Mary’s Meals.  They will archive the program and it should be available online for about 7 days.

I will be interviewed by a Shelagh Fogarty. She will also be interviewing Charlie Doherty and Magnus McFarlane-Barrow.

Please pray for me as I do this interview as this is the most listened to Radio in the United Kingdom, with 35 million listeners per week.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Belated Merry Christmas!!!

I want to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas!!! and a early Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How do donate to Mary's Meals online

Some people have asked me how they can donate to my Mary's Meals fundraising online.

here is what you do:
Go the
Go to the donations page you will see a something that looks like this:

Go to the tab that under fundraising groups
Select "Allison's Malawi/IA kitchen
Your donation will go towards my feeding/kitchen goals

If you have any questions let me know in the comments


Monday, November 5, 2012

Our premiere of Child 31

Last night (Nov. 4th) we hosted a premiere screening of Child 31
We had 20 attend including our family of 5.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CHILD 31 Screening

A screening of a powerful new documentary film about the work of international charity Mary’s Meals is being held at our house.

The screening at our house is one of over 300 being planned by people all over the world, who are taking part in events to share the film Child 31, the story of Mary’s Meals.

Americans are joining enthusiastic supporters in countries around the globe, from the UK where Mary’s Meals is based, all the way to the Philippines.  In the US, from NY to California,  volunteers are hosting screenings of Child 31 with events set for Florida, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina, Texas and more.

Child 31 is the latest project for award-winning Brooklyn-based production company, Grassroots Films, who visited the charity’s projects in Malawi, India and Kenya to see its life-changing work in action.

Mary’s Meals feeds over 650,000 children a meal every day in school in some of the world’s most impoverished regions where hunger and poverty can prevent them from getting an education.

Featuring stories about the work of the charity, Child 31 is a captivating, uplifting and inspiring viewing experience that focuses on the difference just one meal every school day can make to children living in extreme poverty.

The film tells the stories of children like Lette who, at the age of 12, has the sole responsibility for looking after her family and Muksi who lived on a rubbish dump alongside other orphans in Kenya before starting at a school where Mary’s Meals is served.

Commenting on the film, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, chief executive of Mary’s Meals, says: “Child 31 tells the story of Mary’s Meals through the eyes of children – children who benefit from receiving Mary’s Meals and children who fundraise on our behalf.

“All over the world, there are people who will not accept that any child in this world of plenty must endure a day without a meal.

“As a result of their good deeds, thousands of children, who would otherwise be hungry and working for their next meal, are instead sitting in a classroom with a full stomach, learning how to read and write.”

The local screening will be held on Sunday November 4th It will start at 6:30PM 

You can contact me :Allison Ockenfels. (319) 646-6583
RSVP is appreciated but not required.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christ Our Life Conference 2012

Last weekend our family attended the 2012 Christ Our Life Conference in Des Moines Iowa.
I got to help at the Mary's Meals table.

Here are some pictures:
                                                The Mary's Meals mug my brother made
                                                          The Mary's Meals table
Magnus (the founder of Mary's Meals) with relatives of Ellen Miller (one of the co-chairs of the conference.

                                                       One of the Mary's Meals T-Shirts
                                                        Magnus speaking on Sunday
                                                                       Magnus and I

                                 Patty Decker (who is the Mary's Meals USA coordinator) and I 
                                         I had the privilege of meeting Immaculee Ilibagiza 
                                         Immaculee survived the Rwandan genocide

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Total amout of money I've raised!!

I have raised a total of $33,032 in the past 2 years for Mary's Meals!!
Balance need to feed the children at a Kitchen: $3,968

Monday, August 20, 2012

Christ Our Life Regional Catholic Conference

I wanted to let everyone know that the Christ Our Life Conference is coming up. The conference will be held Sep. 22 and 23 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa at the Wells Fargo Arena.
They had the first conference two years ago. Our family attended this wonderful conference. Two years ago at this conference I first heard about Mary's Meals. The founder of Mary's Meals (Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow) speak. He inspired me to raise money for Mary's Meals.

Magnus will be speaking at the conference again this year. He will speak on Sat. at 1:00PM

For more info visit: Facebook, Blog, Website. 

I hope to see you there!!! I will be helping at the Mary's Meals table!!

(Let me know if you will be there!!)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Mary's Meals Poster

I put together a poster about my Mary's Meals fundraising for the Iowa County fair. The poster received Award of Excellence - Considered for State Fair - Honorable Mention. It was not selcected for the State Fair :(

Here are some pictures of my poster:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Mpondasi School Pictures

I hope you enjoy these pictures!! To see the rest of the pictures go here

Nasiyaya School Picture!!!

Here are the pictures from the Nasiyaya school.

 Children with their porridge mugs underneath the feeding sign at Nasiyaya Primary!

Volunteer cooks by the rocket stoves in the temporary kitchen shelter at Nasiyaya

Children gathered around the porridge pot to get every last bit of Likuni Phala!

A class of children being taught by Mrs Storey (Headteacher) in a temporary outdoor classroom

The classroom block at Nasiyaya Primary, with two classrooms inside

This is the letter I received from Mary's Meals:

Nasiyaya Primary School
Blantyre District, Southern Malawi

Sponsored by Allison Ockenfels and friends in Iowa

School information:

Your school is located in the southern district of Blantyre.

Nasiyaya Primary School currently has 708 children enrolled, out of which there are 357 girls and 351 boys. Your school is situated on the top of a hill about ten kilometers off the tarmac road outside Limbe, making it a very rural school.

There are ten teachers but at the moment they only have two classrooms at Nasiyaya School, which is not enough space to tech the number of children enrolled. UNICEF is at the moment building more classrooms for the children and staff at your school and they will also build teachers accommodation.

Nasiyaya Primary has a borehole for water access and the children have ten sports balls to play with!
The feeding program:

Feeding is organized by the Head teacher who sets up a Mary's Meals Committee with the guidance of the Mary’s Meals staff in Malawi. In rural areas like where Nasiyaya School is located, a committee member from each of the nearby villages will mobilise a team from their village. Each team will then cook one day a fortnight. 

Volunteers often arrive at the school as early as 5am to start fetching water, getting the pots ready and then start cooking.  A vat of porridge takes about three hours to cook on a rocket stove. They then put the porridge in buckets before serving to stop the children crowding around the hot stoves and serve. The volunteers stay on to wash the pots and put away the stoves, finishing about 2pm.  This is a big commitment and the whole scheme would not be possible without the dedication of the volunteer cooks.

Primary Education in Malawi:

All children in Malawi are entitled to free primary education. Children are allowed to start Primary School at the age of 6. As many births are not registered, the age of a child is often decided by checking if the child can touch their ear with their opposite hand over their head - a developmental indicator.  If the child is able follow that instruction they are considered old enough to enroll in Primary School.
The two national languages in Malawi are Chichewa and English. Children in Standard 1-4 are taught in Chichewa while also learning English. In years 5-8 they switch to lessons being taught in English with the addition of Chichewa classes.  The curriculum includes English, Chichewa, Maths, Life Skills and Agriculture.  The Malawian Government has a target of no more than 60 pupils per class, something most schools are not currently able to achieve.

Mary’s Meals at Nasiyaya Primary School:

Mary’s Meals began feeding at Nasiyaya Primary in October 2011. With the fantastic support of Allison and Friends in Iowa, we are continuing to provide every child here with a mug of the nutritious Likuni Phala porridge every day!

Enrollment has increased as the School Mother's Group has been going around the villages finding children who are not enrolled and telling them to get into school.  Children are also coming from other nearby schools (which also get Mary's Meals) because of the quality of the teaching and smaller class sizes at Nasiyaya School.

Below is a table of enrollment rates, starting one year before feeding began. As you can see enrollment has been rising since feeding started:

Enrollment rates
2011 (feeding started)

The school also report that more children have been sitting their exams in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2010, 22 children took their Standard 8 Exams (children can sit these at the end of Primary School) and in 2011 this went up to 40 children.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the rise in enrollment and in the number of children sitting their exams is great news!

On behalf of everyone at Mary’s Meals and especially on behalf of the children at Nasiyaya Primary School, we would like to extend a very warm thank you for your wonderful generosity and kindness.

What you are doing for these children is truly life changing – thank you!