Vulnerable babies are referred by Social Welfare
Referred babies are often in desperate need of help. Once at Open Arms they receive medical care, shelter and nourishment. Vital support in their early years means they can grow up healthy ready to return to their families.
Returning fit and healthy children to their families
Extended family members are encouraged to visit babies at Open Arms to keep any family bonds strong. When a child is growing and developing well they are ready to move back home and several home visits will be made.
The care team will invite the guardian to come to stay at Open Arms for a few days. This is a chance to teach guardians our daily routine and help the child adjust to their new way of life.
In the grounds of Open Arms we have a traditional house, which is similar to what children will go home to. Here the child and guardian will stay for a few days until the child is comfortable with their new home environment and the guardian is happy with their care.
When they do go home, they are given the essentials for a good start. These include a blanket, mosquito net, their favourite toy, clothes and 25kg of Likuni Phala (a nutrient rich maize and soya porridge).
300 families are monitored through our community outreach programme
Our team will visit families and monitor the children who have returned to their home communities. Providing advice, medicines and food until children are settled and the families can support them. Long term independence and self sufficiency depends on this transition support and the team will work closely with the individual needs of each child and family. The families who are most at need, can receive extra sponsorship and support from Open Arms and this will be recommended by our Matron.
Communities are often very poor and rely on farming for food and income. To help ease the burden on the families who are looking after an extra child, we deliver annual packs of maize seed and fertiliser to the families and community based organisations that look after children who have been in our care.
Due to the lack of nutrition, almost 50% of children under five in Malawi have stunted growth. Without help such as these packs the statistics would be worse.
500 children get a nursery education and daily meal at our nine nursery schools
Sometimes, in rural villages there are no education facilities and so we have built Nursery Schools in partnership with the communities that children have returned home to. This is a place where children can receive free basic nursery education. And just as importantly they get a hot nutritious meal every day. This can be the only meal that a child gets in a day and so it is essential for development and growth.
We work closely with the village leaders to build the Nursery and then hand it over to be run by the local community. A teacher, an assistant and food will be paid for by Open Arms, but the village own and run the schools. We currently support nine Nursery Schools, reaching an estimated 514 children every day.
They have become an invaluable resource to local communities who are also encouraged to use them for activities that benefit the whole village.
Support for older children and young adults
Our principal aim is to return a fit and healthy toddler back to his or her home community. Sadly this was not always possible in the past. In some situations, such as abandonment, health conditions or further deaths of relatives, going home was not always successful.
Our family homes were created for a small group of older children who needed further support. They now support around 20 older children and young adults and are all within Blantyre. They are owned and managed by Open Arms but run as small families as much as possible.
A house mother and assistant house mother appointed from within the infant home live in the home and care for up to six children. The mothers have known the children from the very early stages of development and have extremely close ties to them. Children go to local schools, make local friends and learn the skills they need to live independently one day. Where family or community links exist we encourage them to develop so that the children can visit regularly and move back to their families as soon as they are ready.