Harrogate charity rebuilding lives in flood-hit Malawi

15-month-old twins Priscilla and Frascisca, from one of the districts affected by the floods, Chiradzulo, came to Open Arms in January 2015. (S)
15-month-old twins Priscilla and Frascisca, from one of the districts affected by the floods, Chiradzulo, came to Open Arms in January 2015. (S)

As thousands of children in Malawi are suffering in storms and floods, Harrogate charity Open Arms continues to rise to the challenge.

An incredible £6,000 has been raised since January 15, 2015, when an emergency fund was set up by the charity, run by former Ashville College teacher Neville Bevis for 15 years.

This money is helping members of staff rebuild their homes which, made of sun-dried mud, are washed away, and this means they can support and provide a home for children in urgent need of the most basic levels of care.

Mr Bevis was in Harrogate this week and he told the Advertiser: “Possibly more difficult to deal with is the run off from the surrounding hills and mountains which have been deforested in a major way over the past 60 to 80 years.

“Water just rushes off so you can get a flash flood 10 feet deep in 24 hours, which is what destroys roads and bridges very rapidly.

“We have 93 members of staff and 30 per cent had their houses affected by the floods - 10 per cent lost them, so we have used money from people in Harrogate to rebuild houses that have ceased to exist.

“It also means that some children have nowhere to live. Some have been brought in already by the social welfare department and it is definite that there will be an inflow of people into our place.”

The twins pictured above, 15-month-old Priscilla and Frascisca, could not reach Open Arms for over a week because the road from their native area Chiradzulo was completely cut off.

Their mother died three months ago and they lived with their aunt Agness, who is caring for 17 children - 12 of them her late sister’s orphans.

Agness’ house was destroyed and she has been looking after the twins and their siblings in a small kitchen, but now they are with Open Arms staff in Malawi’s capital Blantyre and will have shelter, food, and attention from people who have been looking after children just like them for many years.

More than 100 people have been confirmed dead in the floods, but 200 are still missing, and the number of people affected by the devastating weather has gone up to 300,000.

And then there is the problem of what to do in the future.

Mr Bevis said: “We are in the middle of the growing season and only maize is grown, so the big worry is in four months’ time what will people be eating, because the crops have gone.

“That is a very real difficulty staring them in the face, but people are not dealing with that at the moment because they are dealing with the immediate effects of the floods.”

To support the emergency relief fund go to www.justgiving.com/MalawiFloods/ or text OAIH47 £3 to 70070 to donate £3.