When the AIDS pandemic hit Malawi, the already stretched health system was unable to care for the influx of patients suffering from AIDS related illnesses. Inability to cope with the large numbers had hospitals sending many patients home to be cared for by family members, most not knowing how to care for their sick and often leave them to suffer alone while they attend to other responsibilities.
The HOPE for AIDS team in Malawi worked on helping to meet some of the community needs. In 6 locations, volunteers from the local Africa Evangelical Church now bring nutritional, medical and domestic supplies, visiting on a weekly basis, to the homes of people in the community living with HIV. Our Home Based Care (HBC) coordinator meets and visits with the volunteers monthly, where the volunteers share experiences and talk about various challenges that come up with treatment. Training courses for the local volunteers are arranged on how to properly care for someone living with HIV (use of medicines, nutrition, counseling, devotion preparation and paperwork), so that the volunteers can help families better care for their own members. Together with partners such as Opportunity International and the MicroLoan Foundation in the UK, we bring together groups of patients and volunteers with loan officers who provide training in small business skills, loans and on-going follow-up and support. These small business start-ups serve to generate funds and support beneficiaries as part of the church’s own HBC program.
The AIDS epidemic continues to maintain its grip on Malawi where 1 in 10 of the adult population are HIV positive. HIV related illnesses combined with overstretched hospital systems continue to result in a need for long term palliative care in the home. The Malawi HBC is working to meet the need by training church volunteers to be able to provide such care through weekly visits to patients & their carers to give practical, emotional & spiritual support as well as nutritional supplements. The project is working in 6 rural locations, with more than 110 volunteers caring for300 patients & their families. The program has also provided basic pastoral care training to 2 additional churches who are mobilising their own resources to start project sin their communities and it is planned to replicate this more locally self-sustainable approach in other churches over the coming years.
The program also promotes and seed funds the introduction of small income generating projects and local savings & loan schemes to help alleviate poverty of beneficiaries who have no alternative income, and also to work towards greater program self-sustainability.
There are over 1 million orphans in Malawi, many as a direct result of HIV. These children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition, abuse, dropping out of school and lack of basic care. The Malawi Orphan care project trains church volunteers to visit orphans in their home to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support to orphans and their guardians and act as advocates for the children where necessary. Other volunteers are trained in Early Childhood Development and operate an under-5’s day care centre to provide a basic preschool education, a daily nutritious meal, a dose of love and some much needed respite for the guardians so they can work their gardens or earn an income. An associated secondary school scholarship program also enables especially vulnerable students to complete their secondary education. The program operates in 5 locations with more than 100 volunteers visiting 200 families, over 440 preschoolers attending the day care centres and 125 sponsored secondary school students.
In Malawi, although the overall HIV prevalence rate has begun to fall slightly to 10.8%, the rate amongst youth in the 15-24 age group has actually been rising with the highest rates for the girls. Sex before marriage and unfaithfulness in marriage still account for over 85% of new HIV infections in Malawi and to date, National AIDS prevention campaigns have had little impact on behaviour change. This leaves the church with a real opportunity to promote godly lifestyle choices of abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage as the best way to prevent the spread of HIV. The Malawi HOPE for AIDS Prevention project has two peer education programs working with youth and married couples respectively. The project has supported the development of specially written teaching materials in Chichewa, which are used by peer educators who aim to reach their peers within the context of long term friendships which encourages positive peer pressure and provides a more conducive environment for genuine behaviour change. To date 150 peer educators have been trained representing over 50 churches. The program also works with peer educators to seed fund on-going AIDS related ministries in their churches after completion of the church & community courses.
Church Leadership Training
The Church Leadership Training project desires to strengthen the capacity of church pastors and lay leaders in their ability to faithfully apply biblical teachings in the context of HIV/AIDS and mobilise their churches to respond to the needs in their community. This is achieved through specially designed trainings for church leaders covering topics such as Christian marriage, church mobilisation, stigma & discrimination and traditional cultural practices.
EBC HIV Course
The Evangelical Bible College of Malawi Education project is designed to strengthen the capacity of church pastors and lay leaders in their ability to faithfully apply biblical teachings in the context of HIV/AIDS and mobilise their churches to respond to the needs in their community. This is achieved through support of suitable faculty training and provision of resources at the bible college to equip lecturers to teach the HIV/AIDS course more effectively.
The Malawi HOPE for AIDS Master project provides for the shared infrastructure needed to support all of the H, O, P and E related projects operating in Malawi. This covers the needs to run a small office (maintenance, furniture, utilities etc), national staff training, and shared resources. The master project also allows for rapid response for seed funding of new AIDS ministry initiatives within our partner church which fall outside the scope of the other projects.