Reflecting on 25 years of hope for children
This year marks our 25th anniversary and what better moment to reflect on all that’s been achieved during that time, thanks to our wonderful supporters and our dedicated staff. Hope and Homes for Children is the creation of a remarkable couple, Mark and Caroline Cook, who believed that all children should have the chance to grow up in loving families, never orphanages.
In 1994, when we began, we stood alone. Today, our organisation is at the forefront of a growing global movement to make orphanages history. In this occasional series, we feature people who have played a crucial role in that journey and revisit the stories of just some of the children who have inspired us. We hope that these reflections leave you, not only encouraged, but reminded, that our vision of a world without orphanages, and your support to achieve it, is as urgent and essential now as it has always been.
1994. Our story begins
Moved by the plight of the abandoned children surviving in the rubble of the Bjelave Orphanage in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, Mark and Caroline Cook create Hope and Homes for Children and rebuild the orphanage, against all odds.
Our Founders, Mark and Caroline Cook, in the remains of the Bjelave orphanage, Sarajevo, 1994
1998. Children transform our mission
We are rebuilding and refurbishing orphanages in other countries but, by asking vulnerable children around the world what they really want, we learn that their answer is always the same: “Please, please find me a family.” We change our mission to closing orphanages and finding safe, loving families for children instead.
Caroline Cook, listening to children, Sierra Leone, 1999
1999. First orphanage closed
We undertake our first orphanage closure, after discovering 96 babies and toddlers, surviving in appalling conditions in the Cavnic Institution in Romania. By finding caring family or community-based care for every child, we prove that deinstitutionalisation is a viable alternative to orphanages. This is the first step towards realising ‘Caroline’s dream’: our founder’s vision of closing every last orphanage in Romania.
Around 100,000 children were struggling to survive in Romania’s notorious Soviet-era orphanages when we began work there in 1999.
2007. Becoming a global organisation
Hope and Homes for Children is now operating in ten countries across Africa and eastern and southern Europe, working in Belarus, Bosnia, Eritrea, Moldova and Transnistria, Romania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Ukraine to close orphanages by reuniting families, finding new families and keeping families together.
Mark and Caroline Cook in Sudan. Our work in Sudan since 2005 has supported vulnerable mothers and their babies to stay together and so reduce the numbers of children entering the orphanage system.
2009. UN Guidelines reinforce our approach
The UN Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children are adopted by the General Assembly, providing an internationally recognised framework for our work. The Guidelines seek to enhance the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes in its preamble that “the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
Like this little boy and his sisters in Bosnia & Herzegovina, tens of thousands of children around the world have been able to grow up in families and not in orphanages because of the work of Hope and Homes for Children since 1994.
2012. Breakthrough in Africa
Rwanda becomes the first country in Africa to commit to closing orphanages. Since 2012, we have worked with the Rwandan Government to see the number of children without disabilities in orphanages fall from 3,500 to 500. But 4,300 children with disabilities remain confined to orphanages in the country today.
Marie Claire’s life was transformed when she left an orphanage closed by Hope and Homes for Children in Rwanda and joined a loving family.
2012. Building a global movement to make orphanages history
We redefine our vision as “a world in which children no longer suffer institutional care” and our mission “to be the catalyst for the global elimination of institutional care for children.” Acknowledging that we cannot achieve this alone, we increase work with partners across the globe to end institutional care for children within a generation.
Camin Spital in Romania—one of 109 orphanges closed by Hope and Homes for Children around the world since 1994.
2014. Turning point in Romania
The Romanian Government commits to replacing its orphanages with family-based care for vulnerable children. Since 1999 the number of children in institutions in Romania has fallen from 100,000 to just 6,500 and Hope and Homes for Children has played a fundamental part in bringing about that change. Our aim now is to realise Caroline’s Dream and see all Romania’s Soviet-era institutions closed by 2026.
Vasile and his brothers and sisters are growing up together and not in an orphanage because Hope and Homes for Children in Romania was able to support their family when times were tough.
2018. UK backs family, never orphanages, worldwide
In a landmark statement, International Development Minister, Penny Mordaunt, confirms that “the UK Government recognises that institutionalisation harms children’s physical, emotional and psychological development” and states that the UK “is committed to ensuring all children realise their right to family care and that no child is left behind.”
Tatiana spent the earliest years of her life confined to an orphanage cot, neglected and ignored, because no one believed she had a future. Our team in Moldova found a wonderful foster family to care for her and today she is enjoying school.
2019. Approaching the tipping point
Hope and Homes for Children has local teams on the ground, working directly in seven countries: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Sudan and Ukraine (view our global impact map). We are also influencing local and national policy in a further 24 countries across central and eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and south Asia. At the same time, we are helping to lay the foundations for reform through strategic projects in India, Nepal, South Africa and Uganda. This year, the Bjelave orphanage in Sarajevo—where our story began—will finally close.
Five year-old Sanu is reunited with her mother after leaving an orphanage in Kathmandu. In 2018, Hope and Homes for Children began work with local partners in Nepal to protect children who are trafficked into orphanages and exploited for profit there.
2028. Orphanages are unacceptable
Our work with partners across the globe means orphanages are now seen as an unacceptable way to look after children, creating the extra momentum needed for worldwide reform to ensure that always family, never orphanages becomes the reality for children everywhere.
Twenty or more children share the beds in this orphanage dormitory in Kenya. Like the 8 million other children confined to similar institutions around the world today, they have nothing and no-one to call their own.
The final institution closes its doors and orphanages are consigned to history.
All children, wherever they live, are able to grow up in loving families as governments, charities and other funders redirect their resources to family care.