Profile: David Sunderhauf

This week we had a chat with David, president of the FXU Mary's Meals society, about the work that the charity does, fundraising on campus, and how you can get involved too!

To start off, can you tell us a bit about you; what do you study? What made you decide to study in Cornwall?

I’m doing an MRes in microbiology, and I'm based in the ESI. The lab group really attracted me to this place – their research is really interesting to me. But also, I moved down here with my girlfriend, and she went to the marine school in Falmouth before going to uni. Also, it’s just a really nice part of the country to live in!

Tell us a bit about Mary’s Meals.

It’s an amazing charity! Their aim is that every child should have a meal at a place of education every day. They run school feeding campaigns in the world’s poorest countries, and this encourages parents to send their children to school. The problem with supplying education to poor children is that parents often make their kids stay home from school to work, but by guaranteeing a free meal at the school, parents are more likely to let their child go and get an education.

What’s great as well is that because the charity operates with an army of volunteers, both here and abroad, it keeps prices really low. It means that we can feed a child for a whole year for £13.90.

How did you get involved with Mary’s Meals?

I did my undergrad at the University of Aberdeen, and a friend of mine set up a Mary’s Meals society while I was there. I was in the society for three years, and a committee member for one year, and when I came down here there wasn’t one like it – so I thought I’d set one up myself.

What has been your biggest achievement so far as president of the Mary’s Meals society?

Just to get the society going, to be honest! When I came down here I didn’t know anyone; I was alone at the stand at the Fresher’s Fayre and I just smiled at everyone who walked past, but by the end of it, I had over 30 people sign up to the mailing list, and I now have ten really active members to help out at fundraising events.

Can you tell up a bit about your recent fundraising project, ‘Pedalling For Pounds’?

We wanted to do some kind of sponsored event, and we went with cycling because it’s something active, and something everyone can get involved with. We basically did a virtual cycle across Malawi because it’s where the largest Mary’s Meals feeding program is based – one quarter of schools in Malawi are fed by Mary’s Meals. We started off at the southern tip of Malawi and we visited all the main cities, travelling all the way up to the north, and we tracked our distance as a team. Every team member did 120 miles each, making up the 840 miles in total. We also had 134 community miles, which made up the last bit of distance across Malawi, and this basically engaged the wider community – anyone could get involved and could log their miles throughout the week.

It was tough, because we had to do it next to all our normal commitments. I had to wake up early, cycle to the gym, cycle in the gym for two hours, then cycle back to uni again!

But we’ve finished the distance – I definitely didn’t doubt that we would, because everyone really was so committed. In terms of fundraising site, we set ourselves a really ambitious target of £695, because that’s the amount of money to feed fifty children for a year. We’re still accepting donations, but we’ve raised nearly £550 at the moment, which is a huge achievement - especially seeing as so far as a society this year we’ve raised £250.

Will you be running any similar fundraisers in the future?

If the society goes on, I think it would be great to do a sponsored event every year. I’ve got loads of other ideas: one thing we did at Aberdeen was that we lived off a pound a day for a week, and that was really successful. I think it’s definitely good to have a big fundraising event on social media at least once a year.

How can students get involved with the FXU Mary’s Meals society?

All they need to do is come along to one of our weekly meetings or drop us an email, and check out our Facebook page. We meet on Thursdays at 5.15pm, in DDM Seminar C, and it’s pretty chill. We just discuss our next fundraising events, plus it’s a really nice team of people to work with!

What other events do you have coming up?

We’ve got a coffee morning planned for next Thursday, from 9am-12pm in DDM Seminar J, where we’ll be serving tea, coffee and baked goods, and we’re just planning on having a chilled out morning. This is a UK wide event, so we’ll be collaborating with the Mary’s Meals societies in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, all holding coffee mornings at the same time, and using the hashtag #MarysMealsOnCampus.

We’re also hoping to do the free porridge on campus event that we ran in September again next year, as it was really successful!

And finally, what does volunteering mean to you?

I think it’s just so satisfying to find something really meaningful to do with my time, to not just sit around watching TV, and instead be helping towards a worthy cause. And this is especially true with Mary’s Meals; such little effort goes such a long way, because such a small amount of money make such a real difference.

Be sure to check out the FXU Mary's Meals Facebook page here, and you can find their email address here!