Every day there are children all over the world celebrating their birthdays surrounded by the people who love them the most. For children in orphanages there is no celebration, no loving family to sing happy birthday and help blow out the candles. Often children in orphanages don’t even know their date of birth and so their birthdays are no different to any other day. Orphanages do not protect children. They harm them. Which is why we are working towards a day where every child can grow up in a loving family. Hope and Homes for Children is a global expert in the field of deinstitutionalisation – supporting children into loving families and preventing family breakdown. With your support we are building a global movement that will eradicate orphanages in our lifetime.
Every child wants a safe, loving family to grow up in. But over 8 million children, confined to orphanages and other forms of institutional care around the world are being denied this, with often catastrophic effects. Orphanages do not protect children. They harm them. Children in orphanages are often subject to high levels of abuse and neglect. Without family to care for them, or friends to play alongside they live in a world without love. The impact of this can last a lifetime. Some don’t survive at all. Orphanages deny children their voice, giving them no say or control over the decisions that affect them. Over 80% of the children confined to orphanages today are not orphans. They have at least one living parent or relative. With the right support, we can give children what they want and need most – a stable, loving family. Family-based care has been proven to provide far better outcomes for children and communities and is more cost effective. With the right support children who live in orphanages can be safely and successfully returned to their birth families; they can join loving foster families or, if they are old enough, they can be supported to live independently. Hope and Homes for Children is recognised as a global expert in the field of deinstitutionalisation. By closing orphanages, supporting children into loving families and preventing family break down, we are working towards a day where orphanages have been eradicated for good. We know we will only realise our vision of a world in which children no longer suffer in orphanages by working with others. Through our partnerships with national governments, civil society organisations, local NGOs, international agencies, corporate donors and committed individuals, we are building a global movement that will eradicate orphanages in our lifetime. Your support is vital to our continued success.
Hope and Homes for Children exists because of the energy, courage and conviction of two remarkable people: our founders, Mark and Caroline Cook. Their story encapsulates the values that underpin our work today and is a powerful tool for engaging supporters in our cause. Here’s a summary of their story for you to adapt for use in your communications:
In 1994, Mark Cook, a retired British army officer, read about the plight of a group of children, struggling to survive in Sarajevo’s main orphanage at the height of the Bosnian war. He told his wife Caroline and within weeks the couple had boarded a plane to the city to see what they could do to help. When they first set eyes on the Bjelave orphanage the building was in a terrible state. It had sustained hits from mortars and heavy weapons in its exposed position on top of one of the city’s hills. The teenagers who lived there had been left to run wild, living a semi-feral existence in the ruined building and scavenging food and supplies out in the streets. The babies were down in the basement, crammed inside the only warm room in the building. The Cooks visited the orphanage for a week and promised the children that they would find a way to rebuild their home. “In order to keep that promise, we decided to start our own charity to provide homes for orphans of war or disaster”, Mark says. “We wanted to give them hope, hence Hope and Homes for Children”.
The Cooks set up an office in a converted hay barn on a farm near their home in Wiltshire and this site remains the headquarters of Hope and Homes for Children today.
In the early days, Mark and Caroline’s plan was to create a worldwide network of small, well-run orphanages but, by listening to the children that they were trying to help, they soon realised that they were on the wrong track. It did not matter what race, colour or creed the children were, or whether they were living in an orphanage, on the streets or in the sewers, whenever they were asked what they really wanted, their answer was always the same, “Please, please find me a family”. Mark asked one small boy on the streets of Khartoum what he thought a family and a home were and his answer was “Love”. That response was to have a defining influence on the future focus of Hope and Homes for Children. “We had presumed that what these children needed was food, a roof over their heads, a safe place to sleep and an education”, Caroline says, “but the children themselves guided us to the heart of our mission – they desperately wanted and needed to be loved. “Over the years we have visited numerous orphanages in many countries. Some were awful and smelled so bad that we felt sick and wanted to leave; others were better, being reasonably equipped and staffed. But the one thing we never found in any orphanage was the feeling of unconditional love that is at the heart of a caring family. Love became the key to our work and we have quite unashamedly focused on and talked about it ever since”.