Emma volunteered with Open Arms Infant Homes back in 2016 and this year she went out again to visit. We caught up with her to see how it went...
Why did you choose to go to Malawi?
"In 2016, having just finished my degree, I wanted to have a huge life experience and adventure before locking into building my career. I wanted to be challenged and in many ways turn my world upside down to see a way of living completely different to my own and most importantly, I wanted to give back and volunteer. I had time on my hands and a strong will to help.
Through research, I discovered numerous volunteer projects abroad that I could participate in but they were all run by what seemed to be big businesses who were charging a small fortune to participate - it didn’t seem to add up to me and put simply, at that stage in my life, I couldn’t finance it.
I had almost given up on finding a place to volunteer when it was suggested I catch up with a colleague of my Dad’s who had done quite a bit of volunteer work in Malawi over the years. He suggested a few different charities locally, one of which was Open Arms - it was perfect; I believed in the amazing work they were doing, I could communicate with the team directly, all money I spent on accommodation went to them directly (I could see where it was going), it was the right amount of time (3 months or less), in a safe, English speaking country on a continent I was dying to visit, I didn’t need to have specific skills as such, it was affordable and I trusted the people I was dealing with.
And so, my dream became a reality."
What did you see and do while volunteering with Open Arms?
"Over the 3.5 months on the first trip I did and saw an incredible amount across both homes. It was truly one of the most profound experiences of my life. Days were made up of day to day care of the kids - feeds, cleaning up, class time, play, going on community visits to see children who had been reintegrated into their villages, picking up new children who needed support and were coming into the home. I helped out quite a bit with whatever driving needed to be done - hospital drop offs, picking up or dropping off supplies etc and visited other projects run by Open Arms. Local experiences were made up of visiting team member’s homes, going to the lake, local markets and local attractions.
Seven years later I returned - now as a photographer and creative producer I was able to use my professional skills to support Open Arms in a new way, with content to support their fundraising efforts. I was lucky enough to be able to bring along and share this experience with my Mum which was absolutely incredible and something we’ll never forget. I spend a lot of my time behind the camera capturing the visitors volunteering in the home and also participating in outreach, school visits and other activities across both Blantyre and Mangochi."
What was the most memorable moment while volunteering with Open Arms?
"During the first trip, my friend Charlotte and I went on outreach to an incredibly rural community where we’d been informed that two, six month old twins who had lost their parents were severely malnourished and in desperate need of care. Once we got to the village and located the twins, Charlotte and I waited in the car and watched as the team spent up to an hour with the family talking them through the process and making them feel comfortable. At one point, her Auntie and Uncle both came and shook my hand and whilst I couldn’t understand the words exchanged, I could feel their gratitude, trust and relief that we would look after and return their niece and nephew to them. I remember feeling incredibly emotional.
Visiting the place I had loved so much for a second time, alongside my incredible Mum was something I’ll never forget. We had a fantastic time volunteering together and I loved seeing her embrace the whole experience and throw herself into everything just as I had imagined she would. Very special."
Transforming lives in Malawi
Meeting Pretty and Promise really showed Emma the impact that our work has in Malawi. They were both referred to Open Arms for urgent care after their mother died shortly after their birth. Since Emma's first visit, Pretty and Promise were nurtured back to health by our team and successfully returned to live with their aunt in 2019. After being supported by our community outreach team at home, they have now been fully discharged from community support as they are healthy and their family is coping well with their care. The impact of the early support of the Open Arms team has saved their lives, kept the family together and set good foundations for their long term growth and development.
Would you like to find out more?
We are delighted to be able to invite friends and supporters to Malawi to volunteer their time and see the impact of their support, meet the children and families we work and we can also organise specific work placements for those with more specialist skills. We intentionally keep volunteering numbers small so that you can become a valued part of the team. Every experience is tailored to you and your skills. You will be welcomed to work alongside our care staff, learn from them and support where needed.
It is an incredible experience to work with Open Arms and see the impact of our work first hand in Malawi. We are extremely fortunate to have supporters visit from around the world. If you are interested in finding out more, you can register your interest today by clicking here or contact us at any time to discuss volunteering in more detail.