Janice making 1000 soap bars for Mary's Meals

Janice Evans has broken through the halfway point of her challenge for Mary’s Meals, which supports millions of youngsters in deprived nations around the world every school day, writes Jonathon Reilly.

She is even being helped along the way by her children, Mairianne and Michael, who cut her antimicrobial soap loaves and tidy the bars.

Janice’s soap bars will be distributed as part of the Mary’s Meals Backpack Project which gathers and donates bags filled with pencils, notepads, clothing and other hygiene essentials.

Janice, 45, has so far made 540 soap bars for a charity which has been woven into her life and hopes to hit her four-figure target within the next few months.

She said: “I’d realised Mary’s Meals has been in the background of my life in different points, even from being a little girl.

“I’d met the parents of the founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, when I was primary school age. My parents were friendly with a chap called Father Lynch and it was through him they met them and I was also there.

Janice Evans who's making 1000 soap bars for Mary's Meals.

"It's been nice having my children's help and involving them in the charitable work. I've been to Craig Lodge as a a teenager on a retreat and our kids do the backpack at school every year for Mary's Meals.

“It’s one of few charities that keep running costs down to a minimum. A very high percentage goes right to the charity. The rest is basically just living expenses for the people who have to feed families while doing the job.

“I also love the idea of a bar of soap going in a child’s bag and helping a whole family, as we all know how important hand-washing is just now.”

Janice started out in aromatherapy massage in 2008 and specialised in reflexology and Indian head massages.

She moved into soap-making last year and attributes her new-found passion to her early aromatherapy days.

Janice said: “I made soap last year when the virus hit.

“I wanted to do something for the community when the shelves were going bare. All soaps are full of palm oil which is a bit of a crime to me, as it harms the rain forests and doesn’t need to be used.

“Making soap grew out of the aromatherapy because I make loads of nice blends. It’s been quite a learning curve but I really enjoy it.

“I started the challenge on February 19. All going well, I have about 14 weeks left. I’ve also had a trapped nerve in my neck but I’ve managed to keep going!

“I’d really like to thank all the people who have donated.”

Gillian McMahon, director of supporter engagement and income at Mary's Meals, said: “We are so thankful to Janice for her amazing efforts.

“A bag filled with school essentials is a wonderful gift because it ensures these children can get the most out of their education, giving them a ladder out of poverty and the chance of a better future.”

This article first appeared in the Falkirk Herald.