03 April 2020

Coronavirus: A letter to supporters


Mark Waddington CBE

Dear Supporter,

Never has the importance of ‘keeping safe at home with family’ been a more universal message.

On behalf of everyone at Hope and Homes for Children, I hope that you are healthy and safe and that, where possible, you are able to stay at home with your closest family. If you have been directly affected by Coronavirus then please know that our deepest thoughts and hopes for recovery are with you and your loved ones.

Over the past few weeks, during an increasingly uncertain and worrying time, community and collective endeavour have provided inspiration and much needed assurance that we can protect ourselves and each other when we work together.

Working together and showing compassion is, I hope, how we will distinguish ourselves as we adapt to our changing day-to-day lives. In fact, at no other time can I recall when the need for kindness, in abundance, has been so important.

Your kindness will protect children and families at real risk through this emergency. And that is why I ask for your urgent help.

Your support has never been more needed as our team on the ground rapidly adapt and create new ways to ensure that some of the most vulnerable children and their families are not forgotten in this time of global crisis. And, as I call on our entire Hope and Homes for Children family of supporters I ask, that in these unprecedented times, if you would consider making an exceptional gift—in any way that is appropriate to you. Let me explain why.

I won’t sugar-coat it. Right now, there are three groups of children for whom Coronavirus is not just a health crisis but a very real emergency: children in danger of being ignored, forgotten or worse still, put at risk of lifelong consequences if we don’t act now.

First are children in vulnerable families who we are protecting from the orphanage system, children whose families we’ve been supporting because of poor housing, or because Mum and Dad don’t earn enough to buy the food or basic necessities they need. Likewise, there are children who have already suffered in orphanages and who are now back with their families or in alternative forms of family care—children we must protect from the horror of being dragged back to a life they have only recently escaped because of the increased pressures this pandemic will place on their family.

Second are the children still confined in institutions. These are the children hidden from the public eye and locked away, children who already live with neglect and abuse, and whose unsanitary conditions increase their risk of infection. We already know that for every three months that a child under three spends in an orphanage they lose one month of physical growth because of neglect and this pandemic will only expose them to greater risk. With many orphanage staff now unable to work, neglect will become more acute, intensifying lifelong consequences especially for young children and babies.

Third are children with disabilities who are living with serious health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to infection whether at home or in institutions.

We must act now to ensure these children are protected today and in the future.

In a matter of days the environment changed fundamentally for our team of social workers and child psychologists who now find themselves unable to remain side by side with the children and families they work with. But it hasn’t changed their resolve.

Our frontline teams are working hard to maintain communication with children, families and orphanage staff to understand the greatest needs and to create the solutions needed right now. Working around the lock-down situation, we’re:

  • ensuring food supplies and healthcare are provided and livelihoods protected so families can stay together and stay healthy
  • developing new ways to provide vital counselling and advice to children and parents using mobile communications
  • responding to staff shortages in orphanages by developing training that will help reduce the risk of increased neglect and infection
  • prioritising focus on children with disabilities to ensure the isolation they already experience is not increased and ensuring their medical care is prioritised.

One thing is critical in all of this: our people.

I can’t bring to life what our teams are facing on the ground, but my colleagues can. In one of the many messages I’ve received this week my colleague, Liliana in Moldova, shared the poignant words ‘Never has the importance of keeping safe at home with family been a more universal message.’ It is her work that I am desperately trying to protect by asking for your support today.

It is through individuals like Liliana that your donations, whenever and however they come, are put to work to help children and it is this vital work that is at risk not just today, but in the future because of Coronavirus. This is why I am writing, calling and reaching out to everyone in the Hope and Homes for Children family of supporters, from individuals to organisations, and asking for commitment and emergency funding. We must ensure our teams are able to adapt what they do to provide the support that children and families so desperately need today and once the crisis has passed. Right now, I cannot guarantee that we can.

Put simply we face a significant challenge on two fronts: the first is that our work with children and families will cost us more. We need to provide extra support through this crisis and most likely, we’ll need to support children and families for longer than we usually do. Secondly, our fundraising is not immune to the challenge Coronavirus presents. With fundraising events cancelled, activities postponed and corporate partners under threat, our ability to raise the funds that keep people like Liliana at work is hugely compromised. This presents us with a compound impact that I’m doing all I can to mitigate.

I’m aware that this situation is affecting everyone and I don’t make my ask lightly, but please, if you are able, look to your support of Hope and Homes for Children as a beacon of hope you are shining in these uncertain times and make an exceptional gift today that we can put to work immediately. And, if your circumstances allow, consider making a small regular commitment that will contribute to our ability to come through this crisis stronger, so we can continue to fight for children and families once we have recovered from this pandemic.

In support of my letter, and because we have always aspired to treat our supporters as part of our Hope and Homes for Children family, I’ve taken the liberty of including some of the messages shared with me following an email I sent to our team last week. I hope it will give you a small insight into what our teams are facing and confidence and hope that we can continue to protect children together.

As my colleague Liliana said, ‘never has the importance of keeping safe at home with family been a more universal message’, and it is my greatest hope that children and families everywhere will be able to do so because of our collective endeavour.

With my very best wishes to you and your family,

Mark Waddington’s signature

Mark Waddington CBE