In November 2013, four of my colleagues visited Hope and Homes for Children’s work in Romania. Here, in one of Europe’s poorest countries, over 50% of children are raised on less than £1.60 per day and grow up in a society where prejudice against disability is common. As such, many children grow up in loveless institutions because their families are too poor to look after them and for those children with disabilities institutional care has often been the only answer to meet their specialist needs.
Since 1999 Hope and Homes for Children has been working tirelessly in Romania to reform childcare by replacing institutions with alternative family based care. Visiting one former institution my colleagues were able to see for themselves the poor conditions the children had grown up in, deprived of the love of a family and their right to an identity. Suffering the emotional, physical and psychological effects of institutional life, these children could not even hope for the most basic standards of care. Meeting the childcare professionals who work on the ground demonstrated what an enormous impact the charity is having on the lives of children and their families by providing alternative family based care as well as helping families to stay together. Their work is far reaching and includes working in partnership with the Romanian Government and the local authorities to create lasting change. Since 1998 60% of institutions have closed and there is agreement to close the remaining 184 institutions by 2020.
Rwanda is another country where Hope and Homes for Children is leading in childcare reform, and where I was fortunate enough to see their work first hand back in 2004. I am delighted to report that Hope and Homes for Children has closed the first institution in Rwanda and secured commitment from the Rwandan Government to close the remaining 33 institutions. This will position Rwanda as the first African nation to “rid” itself entirely of institutions - a significant milestone which will act as a catalyst for similar reform throughout the region.
When reflecting on our visits to Romania and Rwanda it is overwhelmingly clear that ALL children need love, a sense of belonging, and the framework of a family – in order to have the very best chance of ever developing into rounded adults. I find it hard to believe in this day and age, and in the face of such overwhelming evidence, such institutions are even remotely accepted as childcare in so many countries. Hope and Homes for Children works in eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Africa and is creating the conditions to end the institutionalisation of children for good. And for that we are proud to continue to support them.
To move one child from an institution into a loving family environment costs on average just £600 with a far better outcome for that child’s future. To help this worthy cause Riviera Travel will continue to donate £1 for every person who travels with us and we invite you to match this so that we raise even more funds.
Michael Wright, Founder, Riviera Travel
Hope and Homes for Children
Registered Charity No. 1089490
+44 (0)1722 790111