MARTHA, nine, shot to fame when her school meals blog became a global internet phenomenon helping raise tens of thousands of pounds for needy children around the world.
School dinner blogger Martha Payne arrived in Malawi yesterday to visit thousands of children whose lives she has helped to change.
And the nine-year-old’s first taste of Africa was…chips.
Martha, whose school meals blog became a global internet phenomenon, flew to the poverty-ravaged nation to meet youngsters fed by money she raised.
She said: “I’m really looking forward to visiting the children and playing football with them. I’ve been excited for weeks before the trip and now I’m here I can’t believe it.
“I’m a bit nervous, too, because I know the children’s lives here are so different to our own in Britain.
“I can’t believe how hot it is. It’s absolutely boiling. We’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
Martha, Dave, GP mum Rebecca, sister Polly, brother Joe and grandad John were driven from the airport by staff from Scottish charity Mary’s Meals.
They feed needy children around the world and Martha supports them through her blog NeverSeconds.
Dave said: “When all this started, we never thought we’d actually get the chance to come to Malawi.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Martha to see such a different culture.
“When the money raised from the blog went through £100,000, we decided it was the right thing to do to bring Martha here.
“I’m a bit worried about how she will react because the school we are visiting will have 2000 kids singing for her and desperate to meet her, so it could be quite overwhelming. It could be a huge shock for her because you can’t really prepare for a visit like this until you see what it is like.
“This will be a trip she will never forget and there’s been huge excitement in the house as weprepared for it.
“But we are aware that our lives and those of the children we are going to meet are poles apart, so it’s going to be difficult.”
Dave also revealed that Martha’s fame has spread so far around the world that she was recognised on the flight. He said: “I couldn’t believe it. We were talking to a South African lady and she said she recognised Martha from all the coverage.
“She said that’s the ‘rocket, lolly and single croquet girl’.”
Martha will spend a week with Mary’s Meals visiting schools who have benefited from her amazing charity efforts.
The highlight of her trip will be a visit to Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre where she will see a £21,000 school canteen built with money raised on her blog.
Her cash will also provide 1960 children with daily food from Mary’s Meals for a year.
She will complete the painting of a sign in her honour at the school as a thank-you from the pupils.
Martha hit the headlines in June when council bosses tried to ban her from taking photos of school meals at Lochgilphead Primary to post on her blog.
But Argyll and Bute Council backed down in the face of a huge backlash as more than five million visited her blog and donated more than £114,500 for Mary’s Meals.
Martha’s log began with daily photos and descriptions of her bland-looking school meals but became an internet sensation after the council ban.
Schoolchildren around the world now post daily photos of their lunches to raise awareness of quality school food.
• Martha put the 12-hour flight from London to Johannesburg to good use – rating her airline meal.
But she was less than impressed with South African Airlines’ fare.
Martha said: “I had chicken tikka which was OK. But it had a bone in it which wasn’t very good.
“I was woken up at 5am for breakfast – a mushroom omelette which was pretty horrible.”
Things improved on the second leg of her journey, flying from Jo’burg to Blantyre.
She tucked into a creamy chicken and roast veg dinner and a fruit cheesecake.
She said: “That was much better. I loved it. It was very tasty.”
The little girl, from Lochgilphead, Argyll, arrived in Malawi after an overnight flight from Heathrow with her family.
Just 10 minutes after leaving Chileka Airport in Blantyre, the Paynes stopped to visit roadside food stalls.
Despite stories that some of the hawkers cook in industrial oil stolen from electricity sub-stations, Martha’s dad Dave couldn’t resist trying their chips.
Last night Martha – who has the support of celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn – admitted she was both excited and nervous about the trip.