Martha Payne: The story of a girl who fed the starving

This post is participating in the Blog Action Day – 15 October 2012

If the posts authored by Martha Payne and uploaded to her private blog – NeverSeconds – were not read by many of her peers in Scotland and other English speaking countries, and if her peers had not supported her, Martha's blog would have been shut down and there also would not have been support for the project for feeding schoolchildren in Malawi, Africa. The large number of readers supporting Martha's blog prevented it from being shut down, including the publication of pictures of the meals she purchased for 2 pounds Sterling.

neverSeconds by Martha Payne and David Payne
NeverSeconds, by Martha Payne and David Payne

A brief summary of the story

Martha Payne – a fifth grader – lives with her family in Scotland. She is surrounded by friends and is popular among pupils in her school. She is a diligent student and an outstanding athlete. Like most children of the digital age, Martha includes in her daily activities new gadgets and new technologies. She is connected to dozens of friends through Facebook and browses the Internet, she is a network gamer and speedily sends SMS messages. She Tweets dozens of times a day.

The uniqueness of Martha's digital activities is uploading posts to her blog – NeverSeconds – which she has been managing since April 2012. This is where she describes the dinners she purchases at school.

Martha is lucky to have a supportive family. It is doubtful that she would have succeeded in been so successful in helping the needy, if not for the support from her family – especially her father, David. When she was 9 years old her father taught her how to manage a blog and since then Martha used to update her blog after school, on a daily basis. When she came home she would  sit down and describe what she had for lunch at  school, add a picture of the meal and :upload it to her blog. She also created a scale, ranking the meal according to criteria such as taste, size, quality, and hygiene. In her school environment there was support for this girl's activity as a blogger.

 The "trick", the "storm" and the power of "WE"

Toward the end of May 2012, the catering industry in Argyle, Scotland, discovered Martha's blog and felt threatened. The school caterer notified the local newspaper about the "subversive" blog that could cause layoffs in their industry. Within 48 hours a "political" decision was made by the Argyle county council. They stated that Martha must refrain from taking pictures of her meals and publish them in her blog. As a result Martha announced that she was closing down the blog.

A day later the Internet was flooded with articles spreading the news about "Martha the Scottish blogger", and the order to refrain from publishing pictures of her meals on the blog.

Articlea about Martha's activities, were published in the – Sun – London, The Daily record – UK and the BBC.

A "stormy" weekend of on-line posts turned Martha's blog into the hot item on the Net. Millions of comments expressed sympathy and support for Martha, angry reactions to the ban on publishing photos of the meals. The good news is that the blog continues to operate normally and the ban on publishing photographs has been lifted.

The catering industry in Martha's area did not succeed in shutting down her blog. They were  forced to provide better quality food both to her school and other schools in that area. It should be noted that in addition to the by-product of the blog, i.e. a collaboration of children around the world – Martha's was awarded "the Blog of the Month" ranking from behalf of the American Association – Jamie Oliver's food revolution.

Many thousands of readers of Martha's blog responded to Martha's call to raise money for Mary's Meals Foundation, with the aim of reaching a target sum of 7,000 pounds sterling, in order to set up a kitchen and feed primary school children in Malawi, Africa. What a surprise it was when two weeks after the "trick" played by the local catering industry and the "storm" in the media, many people responded and contributed a total amount of more than 100,000 Pounds Sterling!

Even today money donations continue, and enables setting up food kitchens throughout Malawi, solely for school children from deprived homes. Martha's blog is thriving. Children from throughout the world email her reports and pictures of the food served in their schools. Martha uploads the the pictures to her blog. In addition, Martha is about to publish a book with the, help of her father. The book intends to tell the story of the blog, from its inception in April 2012 and the successful fundraising that she initiated. Martha will soon be visiting Malawi and meet the children whose lives were saved by the blog. From the proceeds of the sale of each book the foundation will be able to feed 24 children in Africa for one day.

Group is power

Martha's amazing story shows that one can lead a protest and achieve goals through social digital media such as a blog, Twitter, Facebook and more. Martha's success one example. Along with the blog readers, following the "storm" created by the catering industry in her area a community of supporters was created, and together they reached results that greatly exceeded any expectations.

NeverSeconds was established and every post was assigned a nickname by Martha – VEG (Veritas Ex Gusto – Truth in the taste). The blog was initially aimed at sharing her culinary experience at school with her English speaking peers, and what she achieved was totally unexpected.

Martha expected to receive comments but she never dreamed of receiving hundreds or more of them. She also never expected to be able to raise money for the feeding of underprivileged children in Malawi. For this she needed to raise a minimum of 7,000 Sterling which is the sum required to feed one school of children in Malawi for one year. Since the blog was established the sum of money donated can establish several feeding kitchens for the children of Malawi.

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