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Transforming care in Malawi

Empowering families is fundamental to building the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children.  We are excited to be adding to our community based services this year by working closely with guardians and extended family members to give training, support, and resources to care for new-borns and vulnerable infants within their own homes.

Making a change

There is no disputing that the family home is the best place for a child and there is a global support of this but in Malawi many extended members struggle to take on the care of an orphaned or abandoned baby due to poverty. Over the last nine months the Open Arms team in Blantyre have been taking their support and expertise out to guardians within local communities to support them in caring for vulnerable infants at home, managing health complications and finding ways to create an income to provide for their children over the longer term.

We started this work with a carefully designed trial of just three babies close to our Blantyre Infant Home last year.

The results speak for themselves

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence that we have seen has been the baby growth chats. They show a trend toward accelerated growth when a baby is cared for at home and their guardian is supported with the right resources and education. 

After years of working with families, our team are a trusted part of the local community which helps them give the support needed and make real changes to children's lives. The feedback from families and the district social welfare team has been incredibly positive, which is testament to the hard work and dedication of the Blantyre team.

Community based care malawi

What next

After seeing the three babies initially selected thrive at home, ten new babies were referred to the programme earlier this year and new requests for assessments and new referrals are coming through from the social welfare team all the time. We are currently supporting 18 babies in their family homes and have four babies waiting for assessments. 

As we build these services, the team have also been slowly reintegrating the babies from our Blantyre infant home back to their communities. From this summer we expect all babies referred to our Blantyre team to be supported within their communities.

This is a huge milestone for Open Arms and our Blantyre team are recruiting, restructuring and retraining so that they are ready to take this programme forwards to the many children who need this support.

As well as being a more sustainable model and pioneering best practices, this work offers the scope to significantly increase our impact and promote self-sufficiency and a future beyond poverty for vulnerable families. The only limitation to our work will be funding. It is our aim to be able to support 100 vulnerable infants from 0 to 2 years old in their communities this year. This is a huge undertaking and we can only do this with your help.

Baby in malawi

Meet Brenda

Brenda’s story is just one example of the transformative impact of community based care. Born prematurely and facing health challenges, Brenda was referred to Open Arms for emergency support. However, with the guidance of our care team, Brenda's aunt was empowered and supported in caring for her at home. Through training, help getting the resources needed and ongoing support and monitoring, Brenda's health and wellbeing flourished.

Her aunt and extended family are managing her health conditions and Brenda's weight has increased. She is achieving all of her developmental milestones and is a very happy little girl transformed from the vulnerable bundle who we first met.

But it is not just about the immediate support and infant survival. Self-sufficiency and empowerment are the the ultimate aims of this work and Open Arms is committed to supporting families into independence. Initiatives such as providing farming inputs not only give food security and protect health but they also help generate the additional income needed to raise a child successfully with the community.

The journey towards community based care is still unfolding in Malawi. It offers hope to those families wanting to raise their children at home but without the resources to do so and it prioritises family bonds, cultures and locally led solutions.

Open Arms have always used innovative approaches to childcare and the dream of seeing all babies thriving within their families is becoming a reality. Through collaboration with local stakeholders and others who work in this area we are transforming childcare for Malawi's next generation.

You can help

If you are inspired by Brenda's story and in a position to support this exciting development, a donation today will mean that the team can roll this programme out to support even more young babies and their families. If you would like to get more involved with this programme we would love to hear from you.

Thank you for making this possible

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