Sunday, 01 August 2021

Henley Rotary Club

HOPE and Homes for Children is an international charity working to ensure that all children have

HOPE and Homes for Children is an international charity working to ensure that all children have the chance to grow up in the love of a family by trying to create a world where children no longer suffer institutional care.

Retired British UN commander Colonel Mark Cook formed the charity with his wife Caroline in 1994, when they saw the horrific conditions in which children were living in so-called homes in the former Yugoslavia.

Henley Rotary Club has had two previous talks about the charity, the last in March 2014, when it donated £750.

At last week’s meeting at the Red Lion Hotel, members were given another presentation by Neil Rorie and Trevor Drury, of Rushmoor Rotary Club in Hampshire. Mr Drury has had links with the charity since 2002.

After a five-minute DVD presentation, Mr Rorie showed several slides which showed heart-wrenching pictures of orphaned and vulnerable children, whom the charity was hoping to restore to some semblance of family life.

When Col and Mrs Cook first started the charity, the work was focused on improving the living conditions of children in state-run institutions by rebuilding and investing in equipment and facilities and sending out qualified childcare volunteers to provide training for staff.

However, as time passed, it was realised that what the children really wanted was a family and a home. The focus changed to closing the institutions and placing the children either with their own families, their close relations, fostering or adopting families, or in small family groups of not more than eight in care homes. The emphasis was on eastern Europe as well as Rwanda and Sudan in Africa.

Mr Rorie said that when the charity began work in Romania in 1999, there were 100,000 children trapped in institutional care, whereas today the figure is about 9,000. The Romanian government has committed to working with the charity to close every state-run institution by 2020.

Mr Rorie concluded by saying that the charity trains 2,500 staff every year and 87p of every £1 it receives is spent on work with children and families, the annual budget being in the region of £7.5million. He emphasised that “when the cameras leave, we stay”. After questions, the vote of thanks was given by John Luker, who hoped the club would be able to make another donation.

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