28 June 2018

Founders honoured for work bringing hope to children in Romanian orphanages

 Mark and Caroline Cook with Stefan Darabus

Mark and Caroline Cook, the inspiring couple who founded Hope and Homes for Children, have been awarded one of Romania’s highest honours for their work to close orphanages and reform the country’s child protection system over the last 20 years.

Mark, Caroline and Stefan were awarded the National Order of Loyal Service in the Rank of Knight, the equivalent of a British Knighthood. They were presented with the award by His Excellency Dan Mihalache, the Romanian Ambassador in London, on behalf of the Romanian President, at a private ceremony in London last night.

His Excellency Dan Mihalache

Speaking  when news of the award was first announced in May, Romania’s President,  Klaus Iohannis, said the honour had been given, “in recognition of Mark, Caroline and Stefan’s on-going and outstanding support for the reform of the child protection system in Romania,” and “for their sustained efforts to ensure financing for programmes dedicated to this aim.”

On receiving the award Mark Cook commented,“It’s an honour and a surprise, but it’s also an endorsement of the work the whole Hope and Homes for Children team is doing in Romania. It also demonstrates the importance the Romanian President and Government place on ensuring children can grow up in loving, supportive families, not in harmful institutions and orphanages.” Watch the short video below to listen to Mark’s full commentary

Stefan Darabus explained, “This award tells us that the work we have carried out over the last twenty years, changing the lives of 50,000 children, is nationally relevant. It strengthens our partnership with the Romanian Government and sends out a message of trust and commitment for the future. Because here in Romania, in a few years’ time, child institutionalisation is going to be heard about only in history books. This is the true meaning of tonight’s presentation.”

Hope and Homes for Children’s CEO, Mark Waddington, also welcomed the award, saying, “This is richly deserved by Stefan, Mark and Caroline, and is also testimony to the hard work undertaken by all our staff and supporters in Romania and elsewhere.”

“We have raised over £40 million for the reform in Romania which has made a very significant contribution to the reduction in the number of children confined in institutions from 100,000 to 6,500 since 1999. And we are on track in helping local authorities to unlock EU funding for further reform while working on 15 concurrent closure programmes ourselves.”

Bogdan and Alex were abandoned to a loveless Romanian orphanage when they were born. Click below to read their story of hope: