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Supporting self sufficiency in Malawi

An ongoing focus for Open Arms Infant Homes has been to support the next steps of older children who have been cared for by Open Arms since they were babies. It is a priority to make sure they are set up with the help they need to achieve an independent and fulfilling future of their own.

Growing independence as early as possible

In 2018 our team successfully secured permanent homes for the nine older children at Harrogate House. Harrogate House was an onsite toddler home in Blantyre which opened in 2004 to cater for older children who hadn't returned home after receiving infant care or whose return had been unsuccessful.

It has always been vital to support children to move back to families as soon as they are well enough and the team are committed to making this possible for all children welcomed. They worked closely with the Department of Social Welfare and local communities to make this possible for the children in Harrogate House.

It is not always an easy process though, especially with cases of abuse or abandonment which can need additional or more specialist support in remote communities.

Thanks to the hard work of our team and the ongoing improvements in our community work, we’re pleased to report that there have been no failed reintegration since this work started.

Harrogate House

In 2019 Harrogate House was closed as a toddler home. The building is now a valuable onsite staff dormitory, offering the night shift staff their own private space so that adequate breaks can be taken away from the children.

An independent adulthood

Open Arms also have five family homes that have supported 25 children for most of their lives. In 2018, as the first child approached adulthood our team worked with these individuals to prepare their plans for the future based on their skills, interests and ambitions.

We are delighted that by the end of 2022 14 individuals have successfully moved on from Open Arms back to their families, extended families or into a permanent home of their own.

Covid 19 Dorm Audria

Each person is unique and so the support needed has to be completely holistic around their needs. Some children had close relationships with their immediate family and regularly visited them but for others it has taken time to identify relatives and family history. 

In each case the bonds developed have been welcomed by the child and family members which have really fuelled this work.

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It is obviously much more complicated for an older child to move homes and so we have worked in partnership with a range of stakeholders to support this from all angles including counselling, educating and speaking to the children to work through questions and concerns over time.

Everyone who have moved on from Open Arms will continue to be monitored and supported by the community outreach team and guardians will be supported too with the ultimate aim being to help them into long term self sufficiency. Timing of moves has been self pacing around the needs of the child and the family involved. Our team have diligently organised ongoing visits, worked through housing options, supported business development and work experience to create independent income generation and arranged schooling which are all checked during regular monitoring visits and check in calls.

Supporting individual needs

Through your support of Open Arms, you are currently helping 13 children at school, 5 individuals in further / higher education, 7 people developing their own businesses and skills in their communities and much more. The long term impact already taking shape and the life skills that these individuals have developed with growing certainty and confidence will be life changing and will help shape their future.

Jackie's* story

Twenty year old Jackie grew up in one of the Family Houses at Open Arms after spending time being cared for in the Infant Homes. Along with her peers she was supported through school and attended after school clubs to pursue hobbies and interests. Academia was always a challenge due to a serious illness she suffered when she was very young but she enjoyed school and socialising with friends when she could.

School Book

As Jackie found school difficult and so our team supported her to develop skills that fitted with her interests and would serve her in the future. She found a passion for tailoring and fashion design and completed a two part vocational training course at a local tailoring school. There have been plenty of opportunities for her to hone her skills through Open Arms - such as making clothing, blankets and face masks. Her skills have really developed and she has a confident and mature approach to her work which she takes great pride in.

After ongoing visits from family, we are delighted that Jackie has recently moved home to permanently live with her uncle, aunt and wider family in the Blantyre district. She has developed a close bond with them over the years due to regular visits and her elder sister who lives nearby is pleased to have her living in the same village and is actively helping her settle.

Open Arms have given Jackie a sewing machine and materials for her to start her own small business. She is currently gaining some work experience with her uncle who is also a tailor, and he is committed to helping her develop her own sewing business when she is ready.

We are thrilled that Jackie has the opportunity to reach her full potential and can look forward to a bright, independent future where she will be able to support herself and her family.      

*name changed to protect identity

Committed to supporting children within families

The best place for a child is with their family and we are committed to making sure that any intervention is as short as possible followed by longer term support, advice and monitoring in the community where needed. Empowering families and children to thrive in this way makes sure that the resources we have are used where the need is the greatest and it avoids the long term over reliance on aid. Your help and support mean that children can access help when needed while still achieving self sufficiency for a future of their own.

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We will continue to keep in touch with children like Jackie and look forward to seeing them thrive. If you would like to find out about how you can support this vital work then contact us to find out more.

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