It was this time last year that Kentown Wizard Foundation CEO Margaret Ingram returned from Malawi to the news that coronavirus had made its way to the UK. It was not long after this announcement that countries all around the world including our amazing partners in Malawi were struck with the same devastating news.
The initial impact of the virus on the Cleft Free Malawi programme was huge, by spring the country was in lockdown and Operation Smile was left with no choice but to halt international medical missions and much of their in-country work while health systems battled to get on top of the virus.
Operation Smile instantly began to adapt their services to continue supporting the people that need them the most. During July and August, the staff worked from home playing proactive roles in supporting patients, partner hospitals and the wider health system. They delivered donations of PPE to hospitals, introduced soap making empowerment projects and continued with their outreach programme, so that their patients were kept fully up to date with the evolving situation and how it was affecting their care.
Continuing patient outreach throughout the pandemic was vital in order to reassure patients that whilst they could not undergo surgery during this time, they would be called on as soon as it became safe to do so.
It was during Margaret’s last visit to Malawi that she became aware of the major challenges this outreach programme faces daily. The volunteers travel mostly by foot and the distance from village to village within these rural areas is daunting. It was with this in mind that The Kentown Wizard Foundation agreed to fund the purchase and distribution of 100 bicycles to enable the community volunteers to expand their outreach and patient recruitment programmes.
After receiving our last update from the Op Smile team, we were delighted to hear that the bikes had arrived and to receive these wonderful images of the inspiring people who will be using them.
Karen Jaques, CEO, Operation Smile UK says: “The past twelve months have been very challenging for those of us working in global health. The continued support of Kentown Wizard Foundation throughout this time, whilst many of our programmes have been put on pause, has been invaluable.
Whilst we are unable to perform surgery at our normal capacity, it is vital we continue our outreach work – these bikes will help our volunteers reach patients all over Malawi and will ensure we are able to quickly resume our surgical programmes when it is safe to do so.”