Since 2004 Kingswood has had strong links with Open Arms, a charity in Malawi. Open Arms has two children’s homes which provide shelter, nourishment and care to orphaned and abandoned infants. The aim is to get the children healthy and back in their own communities with their extended families. If this is not possible they go to a foster home and live in a small family unit with a Malawi foster mother. The charity also runs an outreach programme which includes supporting extended families, and providing medical care and education in surrounding villages. Over the last 13 years the whole Kingswood School community has raised more than £250,000 and this has provided direct funding for a range of projects at Open Arms. Many pupils are committed to running annual fundraising events at Kingswood and in recent years these have included a ‘Market for Malawi’, a Year 10 and 11 Christmas ball, bag-packing in Waitrose, a grand jumble sale and collecting donated clothes and shoes for Rag Bag collections. A number of the younger pupils have also set up accounts for donations instead of receiving birthday and Christmas presents. Every two years a group of about 20 Year 11 and 12 pupils and four staff visit Malawi for three weeks. During the trip they spend time with the children the charity looks after, as well helping with some of the building projects. The work is always varied and has included painting murals, making mud bricks, lime washing classroom walls and digging pit latrines. The people in the villages who have so little are so happy to share what they have and it is a trip full of smiles. Pupils come back with a different outlook on what is really important in life and in a number of cases this has shaped their future careers. For many pupils, it is a life-changing experience.
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