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Venture Trust's legacy in Malawi

Venture Trust: A legacy in Malawi, 2013 and onwards

What happened in Malawi?

In 2010 Venture Trust undertook our first ever international project at the request of the Scottish Government. The focus was very much in line with our work here in Scotland; namely to set up and deliver a personal life skills programme called ‘a chance for change’.

This was to be delivered to some of Malawi’s most vulnerable young men who were languishing in Kachere Juvenile Prison in the poorest area of the country’s capital city, Lilongwe. After much planning with partners including Malawi Prison Service, the first behaviour change programme called ‘mwai wosinthika...’ (‘ a chance for change...’) was delivered to all the young men with convictions in the prison. Since then, we have worked with 375 young people in Kachere; 73% show reduced risk of reoffending upon release.

The Prison Service has also re-named the facility to ‘Kachere Reformatory Centre’ – reflecting a change in their objectives and mindset to help young men escape the cycle of re-offending.

In 2011 it became clear that even with this programme, too manyyoung men were being sent to Kachere Juvenile Prison by the Child Magistrates courts. The courts, Probation officers, Malawi Social Welfare and Malawi Police Service asked Venture Trust to help design & develop a community-based programme to begin diverting young people away from the prison.

This resulted in early 2012 in Malawi’s first dedicated diversion programme pilot for young people (boys and girls aged 12-18) who were in conflict with the law. This pilot programme was an outstanding success, with a 100% attendance rate, so more programmes were run including a community based approach with Community Police, the traditional Chiefs and other Malawian NGOs specifically in Chinsapo - one of the most deprived and notorious Lilongwe’s 50 districts.

There were calls from Police & Social Work teams in other towns and cities such as Zomba and Blantyre to roll out programmes in their own regions. Venture Trust succeeded in doing this in Zomba in conjunction with INGO The Irish Rule of Law in early 2013 just prior to the completion of our time in Malawi.

What we achieved

Over three years in Malawi, 76% of those we supported showed demonstrably increased confidence, and 71% were more employable. 73% of participants showed increased awareness about their health and local health issues, and the same proportion had reduced their risk of reconviction. 54% of those we supported were able to successfully find employment, wage earning activity, education or training on release.

So what?

As an organisation, Venture Trust has always always been determined we should leave a sustainable legacy upon completion of our work in Malawi. We identified the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship Programme as having the best potential to further boost the skills of our partner agencies to achieve this.

To this end we identified 5 individuals from Malawi’s Prison Service, Police, Social Welfare and the Courts to become ‘Commonwealth Professional Fellows’ – taking part in an intensive learning and development programme hosted by Venture Trust in Scotland. The Fellows were introduced to best practice,visiting voluntary and statutory bodies from across our criminal justice system to enhance their skills, knowledge, and belief in themselves to take the ‘Mwai Wosinthika’ programme forward on return to Malawi.

The Commonwealth Professional Fellowship has also proved to be a catalyst for change in at least 5 Scottish Statutory bodies whom the Fellows met (one for each fellow!). These agencies have shown great interest in supporting Malawi’s criminal justice agencies themselves, by hosting future Fellowships and exchange of knowledge. :

1. The Scottish Procurator Fiscal’s department has done some previous advocacy training work in Malawi and now (through Mr Samuel Mbweza, Commonwealth Fellow from the Malawi Ministry of Justice) have established links that look set for potentially more work in the future.

2. The Scottish Prison Service are interested in links between Polmont Young Offenders Institute near Glasgow and Kachere Reformatory Centre, with the potential for hosting similar Fellowships in future.

3. The newly formed Police Scotland has already been out to Malawi and the Police training college at Tullieallan has just sent 5 Police officers out to Malawi to work with their counterparts in the Malawi Police Service and are considering the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship Scheme to bring Malawi police officers to Scotland to share their work.

4. Finally, the Chair of Venture Trust’s board is looking into aligning with a local authority Social work department within Scotland to get involved in partnership work with Malawi’s Ministry of Gender, Children, Social work and Community Development.

Now what?

The funding for Venture Trust’s ‘Mwai Wosinthika’ work has reached an end, but through our network of ‘Fellows’ within statutory bodies across the Malawi Criminal Justice system, the work and the message that prison should only be used as a last resort for vulnerable young people is spreading.

The Commonwealth fellows have returned to Malawi and, after a well earned break, will re-connect with Irish Rule of Law who have gained funding to roll the diversion training programme out to Blantyre before the end of 2013. There are action plans to establish a steering committee on Child Justice Forum similar to Scotland’s own Child Hearing System. Everyone remains committed to the mantra:

‘Mwai wosinthika... a chance for change... towards a safer Malawi.’

Takulandirani! (or is it Slainte now!)

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