21 December 2016

Rediscovering the power of stories

I’ve always loved stories. I remember lying in bed spellbound as my parents read The Adventures of the Wishing Chair and The Wind in the Willows. When I was a bit older I could lose myself for days in lands of giants, snozzcumbers and frobscottles; become part of an Elven battalion protecting Middle Earth or siding with the Capulets against the Montagues.

It wasn’t until later I began to understand the power of stories. Not just as an opportunity to escape for a few hours, but a way to tackle more challenging subjects.

My English teacher, Mrs Cryne loved the war poets. She used to prowl the classroom reading from Sassoon, Owen and Brooke. Most of all she loved Kipling. She recognised his poems for what they were. A way of telling the truth, even when that truth might be unpalatable and even at times undesired.

Kipling has lots of quotes attributed to him, but the one I love the most is “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”. People will not always remember exact dates or the order of Kings and Queens, but, thanks to the poets and storytellers, my children, 100 years after the first World War, are still able to get a sense of the cold, pain, fear and lonely dread soldiers must have felt in those dark, damp trenches as they waited to go over the top.

I don’t know if Mark and Caroline were aware of Kipling’s quote when they started Hope and Homes for Children 22 years ago, but they certainly embraced his philosophy. With one small difference. Instead of history, they set about telling people what was happening right then in Orphanages not so very far away from home. They used stories to give children who had never been heard a voice and to educate, inform and inspire people to act on their behalves. They brought, and continue to bring, a love and humanity to our work that makes Hope and Homes for Children a very special and unique organisation.

Over the years, as our work has expanded and our expertise has developed, our ambitions have grown too. Caroline once said that she wanted every orphanage in Romania closed and for all its children to grow up in a loving family. At the time no-one believed it was possible. Today, the number of children in orphanages across Romania is less than 8,000 and, by 2022, Caroline’s ambition will have been realised. And with this is we have reset our own vision of success – a vision where no child in the world suffers institutional care. It is a bold ambition but one that together and for the sake of the estimated 8 million children still suffering in orphanages we must deliver on.

To achieve this we need more people to hear our story and join our movement. Therefore, over the next few weeks and months you might notice a few changes in how we talk about our work.

We will continue be scientifically accurate in everything we do, growing and sharing the evidence base that is so important in gaining traction for our work on the ground. But alongside this you will hear more stories from the people that matter the most – the families and children who we are here to serve. This will be supported by a redesigned website, making it easier for you to find, read and then share stories with others. You’ll also notice similar changes to publications like Hope and our Annual Report.

By going back to our roots and rediscovering the power stories can have, we can educate and inspire a new generation of long-term partners, supporters and friends in the same way as Mark and Caroline did over 20 years ago. And by doing so accelerate the day where every child is able to grow up in a loving and stable family.

Author: Boris Pomroy, Head of Major Partnerships and Brand