Friday, 13 March 2009

Comic Relief, Tearfund and Malawi

In Feb 2007 I was able to visit Malawi on a Tearfund study tour. In Blantyre we visited the Chisomo Club, a work of the Living Waters Community Church, supported by Tearfund and also by Comic Relief.
Here are some extracts from my trip diary for Mon 12 Feb 2007.

We visited the work of the Chisomo Children’s club. Chisomo means ‘grace’ and there are two offices in Blantyre and one in Lilongwe.

Having encountered a starving child dying on the street in Blantyre the pastor of the Living Waters church decided that it was not enough only to preach the gospel to the spirit of a human but that the church had to care for the whole person. In 1998 the church started to meet with children and employed one member of staff, Mcdonald, whom we met during our visit.
The workers on the project would go out to where the children were and meet them. The beginning of the work was meeting with the children and playing games with them, there was a trip to the Lake.

A centre was purchased, with help from various supporters, and this is for short stay so that the children need not be sleeping on the streets. The centre is therefore kept purposefully Spartan so that children will be encouraged to want to go back home to their families. The work of Chisomo is to seek to reconcile children, who often have run away from the poverty at home, with their families. Most children are reintegrated with their families within three months. The centre in Blantyre successfully helps about 500 children each year, with about 2,000 being helped in other centres around Malawi.

The aim of this project is to strengthen the bond between the children and their family. When the family is contacted and the children go home the project is now beginning to work with families to help in the situations of poverty that have initially caused the child to run away from home.
The programmes running at the centre are on relationship building, family and community integration, education and health advocacy.

The children who come through the centre have mostly left home to escape from poverty, thinking they will not be poor in the city. Some have experienced sexual abuse and exploitation at home. Some children have been orphaned through bereavement and then are taken in by other family members seeking to gain the property of the deceased parents; children may then be abused by their new carers.
The centre offers counselling to help reintegration with families and is seeing a 95% success rate in their work.

A core value of the project is child involvement and seeking the views of the children. The children are involved in staff interviews and policy regarding the centre.

Some photographs from Chisomo:

This is the club centre building in Blantyre, a place of safety for children who would otherwise be in danger on the streets.

Some of the boys who were in the club on the day we visited.

It is good to know that Comic Relief supports such wonderful work, so let’s do something funny for money!

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