AN AMAZING Alloa grandmother has gifted almost 600 filled schoolbags to impoverished children in Malawi, with the help of Mary’s Meals.

Margaret Armitage, 77, has supported The Backpack Project since 2015, after hearing a talk about the school feeding charity at Alloa Baptist Church.

The former foster carer spends her spare time collecting educational and hygiene items from friends, family and charity shops before packing them into school bags to be shipped to children receiving a daily school meal from Mary’s Meals.

The charity has just announced that 500,000 filled school bags have been shared out in Malawi, thanks to wonderful supporters like Margaret, who has donated 596 backpacks on her own.

Margaret, a grandmother of 11, said: “I was really excited when Mary’s Meals told me that half a million backpacks have been delivered to children in Malawi. I’m so happy to have been a part of this wonderful milestone moment.

“When I see my grandchildren and everything they have, I want to help the wee ones who don’t have anything. The Backpack Project is something I will continue to support.

“I mostly just collect the items myself, but a lot of people in the church give me clothes that their grandchildren, nieces and nephews have grown out of. Some also give me bags and items such as toothpaste to send with them.

“I also go to the local charity shops to get the backpacks – I think they know me now because they keep a hold of the bags for me.”

Mary’s Meals, which provides a daily school meal to 1,230,171 children in 15 countries, began transporting lorry-loads of backpacks in 2005 in a bid to help pupils in Malawi get the most out of their education.

The 500,000th backpack was handed out during a Mary’s Meals visit to Junior Primary schools Chigubudu and Ngabu, in the south of Malawi.

Delighted Lagia Navala, 13, a pupil at Ngabu Primary School, said: “I’m so happy because I have received a backpack. Inside, I found a dress, pens and a hardcover book. I will use the bag every day to carry pens, and books when I am coming to school.”

Sharon Campbell, who coordinates volunteers at Mary’s Meals, added: “The Backpack Project has brought to so many children over the years, children who are in school learning, eating a nutritious meal and looking with hope towards a brighter future.

“Margaret has gifted a phenomenal number of backpacks over the last few years, and we are so thankful to her for such great kindness and commitment to our work.”