It was some 16 or 17 years ago that Mark Cook, retired British UN Commander, visited Titsey Club with some harrowing stories of children in Sarajevo who were orphaned or abandoned, living in poverty, fear and misery, with little hope for a happier future. In 1994 Mark and his wife Caroline set up Hope and Homes for Children to improve the living conditions of these children.
This month Dan Ward, a volunteer from Hope and Homes , gave us a talk on what the charity is currently doing. They are now very much focussed on deinstitutionalisation, transforming outdated childcare systems into ones based on family care. i.e closing institutions and orphanages so no one else can go there. Children left in orphanages often end up with little or no life skills which can result in homelessness, prostitution and even worst, suicide. Whatever, the effect of institutionalisation on children can last a lifetime.
Today H & H are working in 8 countries, 2 of which are in Africa and the rest could be termed as being eastern Europe. This includes Romania which had some 100,000 children institutionalised; now down to about 8,000 but still a lot of work to do. One of the considerations when embarking on deinstitutionalisation in a country is that the government will be supportive, and indeed to be able to leave with a network of trained staff and social workers to carry on the work of providing family based care for the children. Four out of five children found in orphanages do in fact have families who have put them there because they cannot afford to keep them. With the right support they can be placed back with their families or, be provided family based care elsewhere.
Over the years Rotary has raised about £3m to support Hope and Homes for Children, and one final point; for every pound raised 87p goes directly to the charity's work with children.
Our thanks goes to Dan for bringing us up to date with the terrific work that Hope and Homes does for children.