Super slimmer Robert is now helping the hungry

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Having lost seven stone Robert Thewlis is now running to help hungry children across the world. Catherine Scott reports.

A Yorkshire man who used to be morbidly obese has vowed to run more than 600 miles this year to help raise money to provide school meals for some of the world’s poorest children.

Robert Thewlis with his friend Joanne

Robert Thewlis with his friend Joanne

Robert Thewlis, 27, from Dalton, Huddersfield, has set himself the target of clocking up a distance of 1,000km over the course of this year in support of the school feeding charity Mary’s Meals.

He hopes to cover a good part of this challenge with training for the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on May 20.

Robert, who works in the Lockwood headquarters of tastecard, weighed more than 20 stone less than two years ago, and was suffering from a range of health issues, including asthma and joint problems.

He was on the brink of diabetes when he decided to make a pact with his disabled mother Susan to lose weight together.

Tragically, just days after the pair agreed to change their lives around, Susan, 60, died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage.

Devastated by the loss of his mother, Robert vowed to keep the promise they had made and enlisted the help of a personal trainer to help him lose weight.

Just seven months, later, Robert shed an incredible seven stone and is set to use his new-found fitness to help make a difference to the lives of impoverished children around the world.

Robert first learnt about the work of Mary’s Meals through his employer tastecard, which has an on-going partnership with the UK-based charity, having already raised over £270,000 to support its work.

“The idea of running would have terrified me when I was overweight and I could never have imagined that one day I would be undertaking such a challenge,” explains Robert.

“However, running has helped me a lot, both physically and mentally, so I thought I might as well take it to the extreme.

“I’m glad I have been able to turn something that was disastrous as the death of my mum, to something positive which I hope will make a difference to many children receiving Mary’s Meals.”

Richard said he had been aware of the work of Mary’s Meals for the last five years.

“I’ve been involved with charity fundraising through my employer tastecard. I have seen the amazing impact which our fundraising has on the young people Mary’s Meals supports and their families.”

Robert’s first running event was a charity 5k fun run in memory of his mother and he has since participated in a number of 10k runs and a half marathon.

Mary’s Meals currently provides a meal every school day for over 1.2 million impoverished children in 15 countries.

The charity aims to address the immediate needs of a hungry child by giving them something to eat, and to enable that child to receive the education which can offer an escape from poverty. The cost of feeding child for a whole school year through Mary’s Meals is just £13.90.

Where these daily meals are provided, there is a rise in rates of enrolment, attendance and academic performance. Mary’s Meals is a low-cost charity that is committed to spending 93 pence of each £1 donated on its charitable work.

Bethany Barry, Mary’s Meals’ fundraising co-ordinator for North England, said: “We are extremely grateful to Robert for helping us reach more children with Mary’s Meals and wish him the very best of luck with his amazing fundraising efforts.

“Through the support of Robert and his colleagues at tastecard, we hope to bring more joy to the lives of these children by giving them the promise of a daily meal in the classroom and the chance of a brighter future.”

he work of Mary’s Meals began in Malawi in 2002 after its founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow met a young woman called Emma who was dying from AIDS. She was sitting on the mud floor of her hut surrounded by her children. When Magnus asked her 14-year-old son, Edward, what his dreams were in life, his stark reply was: “To have enough food to eat and to go to school one day”. This was a key part of the inspiration that led to the Mary’s Meals campaign.

Mary’s Meals, which began feeding 200 children in one school in Malawi in 2002, now reaches 1,230,171 children with a daily meal in their place of education in 15 countries, including Malawi, India, Syria, South Sudan, Haiti, and Ethiopia.

www.marysmeals.org.uk/fundraising/project/rob-thewlis/rob-runs-a-marathon