In response to a major flooding disaster in Malawi earlier this year, the Malawi Ministry of Health asked Grassroot Soccer to be part of their emergency response and deliver its MindSKILLZ mental health promotion and prevention program for hundreds of displaced youth living in temporary camps.

In late February, relentless downpours caused rivers in Malawi’s Nkhotakota and Karonga districts to overflow, leading to widespread flooding impacting over 157,000 people (almost 39,000 households) and moving many displaced residents to seek refuge in makeshift internally displaced person (IDP) camps.

Grassroot Soccer MindSKILLZ facilitators make their way to the internally displaced person (IDP) camps.

In the camps, people had no access to mental health and psychological support services; children were not attending school; and women and girls lacked access to hygiene products, family planning services, and safe spaces. After a week of delivering aid, the Malawi Ministry of Health identified a major gap in mental health support for adolescents and young people given the trauma and emotional distress they were experiencing, and called on Grassroot Soccer to join its response and deliver MindSKILLZ to young people in the camps. 

MindSKILLZ is a play-based mental health promotion and prevention intervention that uses soccer language, metaphors, and activities to draw connections to mental health, and is delivered by trained near-peer Coaches. Employing a positive approach to mental health, MindSKILLZ was designed with meaningful input from young people to improve the mental

health of all young people: to help those who are currently struggling with their mental health, as well as preventing others from experiencing poor mental health in the future.

Grassroot Soccer quickly mobilized a team to adapt MindSKILLZ for use in camp settings. Focusing heavily on play, coping skills development, and creating psychological and physical safe spaces given the camp environment, MindSKILLZ provided more than 200 young people in the camps with crucial trauma-informed support, as well as a much-needed space for fun and recreation, which many had not experienced since the floods.

Read more about this story, and the potential of MindSKILLZ as an emergency response program, in our new case study. For more information on GRS’s work in Malawi please contact Judith Lungu (GRS Partnerships Programme Manager, Malawi) at