In the United States, where about 91 percent of children are covered under some form of health insurance (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011) and have access to health and social services, it can be difficult to acknowledge the stark, contrasting conditions for children in countries like Malawi. There, poverty, food insecurity, HIV/AIDS prevalence and weak social service capacity have led to child abuse, neglect and exploitation. The needs of Malawian children are physical, spiritual, emotional and social. However, care is limited: only six percent of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi receive medical support, four percent receive psychosocial support, nine percent receive material support and six percent receive educational support (UNICEF, 2011).
Community-based child care centers serve as vital spaces for children to play, receive nutrition and hygiene education and access clean water. They are viable solutions for Malawian communities, yet only 30 percent of Malawian children have access to them. Local churches, in collaboration with key stakeholders, have the capacity to increase the provision of child protection and development initiatives in their communities through the establishment of more centers.
World Relief in Malawi is responding to God’s heart for justice, particularly for children. World Relief in Malawi is empowering local churches to create sustainable programs that promote self-efficacy, self-worth and hope for the future of 500 children between 3 and 18 years of age, most of whom are from HIV-affected, rural communities. Through the formation of 10 church-run, community-based childcare centers and the renovation of four existing centers, children will have better access to cutting edge, holistic services. At centers, volunteer caregivers provide children with nutritious food, facilitate games, assist with homework and provide life and psychosocial skill services. As an integral aspect of meeting the holistic needs of these children, caregivers also help children memorize Scripture and gain a better understanding of Jesus Christ.
Recently, World Relief staff shared its mission and vision for Malawian childcare improvement with Salima district’s traditional leaders, including Chief Khombedza. The Chinkhali Presbyterian Church decided to reopen its childcare center, which closed in December 2012 from a lack of resources, training and community involvement. “We did not know recommended ways of handling children at a childcare center,” said Paulina Katoma, one of the church’s volunteer caregivers. “We just did it anyhow.”
Now, through its partnership with World Relief, Chinkhali Presbyterian has access to the resources, training and empowerment necessary for meeting vulnerable children’s physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs. In word and deed, the church is able to share the transforming power of Jesus Christ with Malawi’s orphans and vulnerable children.
“In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:14