Maternal mental health problems can be extremely challenging and in Malawi the team often meet children who have been affected. Isaac was one of these children. He was born in 2007 and sadly his Mother had been suffering with her own mental health. They lived together in one of the townships in Blantyre.
Her condition meant that she could be abusive to Isaac and found it difficult to cope, which made his early life very hard. When he was very young, local community members were concerned and eventually intervened and contacted the Department of Social Welfare for help as they could see that Isaac was at risk. He was referred to Open Arms in 2009 and his mother was referred for treatment in Zomba Mental Health Hospital.
Arriving at Open Arms, Isaac was underweight but generally healthy. Sadly he had no where to live as there were no other family members. He needed care, food and a safe space to be while his mother recovered her own health.
Vital support at home
Open Arms cared for Isaac until his mother was discharged from hospital and they were both supported as he moved back with his mother. Unfortunately, after some time his mother’s mental health problems resurfaced and she was not able to care for him properly.
When a child returns home from Open Arms, the Open Arms Community Outreach team visit regularly to monitor their progress. Matron saw that Isaac was in a vulnerable position and increased the visits to the family. He was also recommended for our monthly community sponsorship so that the family could begin to receive regular financial help.
However, the team had further concerns about Isaac’s welfare when clothes and supplies that were given to Isaac disappeared, and the grass roof of their house was leaking badly. Open Arms offered help to waterproof the roof, but after a few months it was clear that the family needed more support. Isaac returned to Open Arms.
Help when it is needed the most
On second admission, he was showing signs of neglect and his mother was unwell so she was helped to seek medical treatment while Isaac stayed at Open Arms. Over the next few years Isaac thrived.
As an older child he stayed in Harrogate House, which was a purpose built toddler home where Isaac got the care he needed and started to learn and socialise with the other children. When he was six he moved into Annie’s House with older children also cared for by Open Arms. Here he built good relationships with his peers and started Primary School. He became a happy, healthy, and an energetic little boy.
The team worked hard to help his mother through a monthly sponsorship, offered support and counselling and they encouraged ongoing contact with Isaac to help his ultimate transition back home when they were both ready. Isaac had a young brother now and Open Arms gave support to help look after him too.
A future to look forward to at home
Finally Isaac’s mother’s situation began to improve. She set up a small trading business to support herself and her family using advice and support offered by Open Arms.
In 2013 she was in a much better position to take care of Isaac. Following an assessment of the home the team, together with the Social Welfare Department, agreed that Isaac should move home. Open Arms were very touched when his mother came to collect Isaac, and brought a gift of home-grown pumpkins as a ‘thank you’ for all that Open Arms had done to support her and her family.
Flood appeal helps Isaac
After being reintegrated for the second time, Isaac bonded very well with his family. Unfortunately, heavy rains and a cyclone in 2015 caused their mud-brick house to collapse. Thanks to the ongoing monitoring the family received and an overwhelming response to our flood appeal that year, we were able to step in and build a new two bedroom house out of much stronger materials for the family.
Their life today looks very different, Isaac’s mother is mentally stable and able to manage her condition and Isaac is doing extremely well at school.
Life changing impact
Isaac was extremely vulnerable and needing urgent care and security so that he could keep growing and developing while his mother could get some help. Open Arms helped by giving love, care and nutrition in a safe and welcoming environment for Isaac.
The team carried out continual assessments on Isaac’s welfare while at Open Arms and at his home so that the family could be supported with any problems or concerns they faced. Our focus is always on long term sustainability and self-sufficiency and by providing short term support where it is needed the most Open Arms is helping the family achieve that.
From a very difficult start Isaac is now a boy with a vision of becoming a doctor and he is working hard at school to achieve that. His mother is now equipped to support her children and manage her own health successfully for the future.
The Open Arms team are determined that every child has a future at home with their family and they have made tremendous progress with this mission over the last few years.
More support is going into our outreach operations to make sure each and every child’s return home is successful and to reduce reliance on long term care.
When asked to describe the impact that Open Arms has had on Isaac the team report
‘we saved his life as there was no one to care for him. Open Arms gave them a home by building them a house that changed their lives and promoted the family. Because of having good infant care and a stable home Open Arms advised his mother to send him to school and he is now the most intelligent boy in class, scoring position 1 in a class of 83 students.’
We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Isaac and his family as he continues to develop, learn and grow. Thanks to the commitment of the care team and your help he has a future to look forward to.
You can help today
If you would like to support other children like Isaac, a small gift will go a long way to securing a healthy and independent future at home. If you are able to please make your gift today to help the Open Arms team continue their work.
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