Vulnerable babies are referred
They come via hospitals and Social Welfare Department and are often in desperate need of help. Once at Open Arms they receive medical care, shelter and nourishment that their extended families are not able to give. Through this vital support in their early years, children grow up healthy and strong ready to return to their home communities.
85% of children return home
Guardians are encouraged to visit while their children are at Open Arms to keep the family bonds strong. When a child is ready to go back home, we invite the guardian to come to stay at Open Arms for a few days. This is a chance to teach their guardian 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 many of our 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.
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).
200 families are monitored through our outreach programme
Our outreach programme is designed to support children in their home communities. Our team will visit families and monitor the children who have returned from Open Arms. Providing advice, medicines and food until children are settled and the families can support themselves, it is essential to supporting a child's return to their family. The families who are most at need, can receive extra sponsorship and support from Open Arms if needed.
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.
Over 400 children get an early education and daily meal at our nursery schools
Education through play starts in our Infant Homes but we are extremely proud of our nursery school programme, which began in 2003. We strive to provide nursery education to the children who return to their communities whenever possible. Getting them into education as early as possible sets them up well for primary school and beyond.
Sometimes, in rural villages there are no education facilities and so we have built Nursery Schools with the community. This is a place where children can receive free basic nursery education. And just as importantly they get a hot nutritious meal every day. Sometimes this will be the only meal that a child gets and so it is essential for their early years development and growth.
We work closely with the village 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 eight Nursery Schools, reaching an estimated 400 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 (such as adult literacy and health testing).
Children who have no home to return to
Our principal aim is to return a fit and healthy toddler back to his or her home community. Sadly this is not always possible. In some situations, such as abandonment, health conditions or further deaths of relatives, going home may not be possible.
When this happens the child moves into Harrogate house, a home specifically built for children ages between two and five years old. Children will stay here until they are about five years old. Harrogate House has its own house mother and staff and although is situated next door to our Blantyre infant home, it is run separately. Here the children start their early education with our qualified nursery Teacher.
Harrogate house was built in 2004 and is named after the town in North Yorkshire who raised the funds to make it a reality.
Five foster families are home to 35 children
Our foster homes are family units created for children that are over five and have no family to return to. They are all within Blantyre and are reasonably near to each other. They are owned and managed by Open Arms but are run like any other family.
A house mother and assistant house mother appointed from within the infant home live in the home with their own families and care for around 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, go on holidays together and become an independent family.