A record GBP2.3m for charity partner Hope and Homes for Children
27 August 2021
Our Global Charity Partnership with Hope and Homes for Children has drawn to a close, having contributed a record-breaking GBP2.3m to the charity’s campaign to end the institutional care of children around the world.
Throughout the partnership, A&O offices have donated money and fundraised – from a 70km team trek across the Carpathian Mountains, to nearly 200 people collectively covering 40,000km in a virtual Around the World Challenge, and staff and alumni staging a production of the musical Guys and Dolls – together raising GBP1.83m.
“Our partnership was due to end in September 2020, having run for two years,” says Hilde van der Baan, Amsterdam partner and co-head of A&O’s pro bono and community investment programme. “But we took the decision to extend it throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The past 18 months have been hard, so to reach GBP2.3m shows how incredibly committed our people have been.”
Reforming child protection in India and Nepal
At the outset, a key aim of our partnership was to raise GBP500,000 to fund work in India and Nepal to tackle the root causes of orphanage confinement.
As Kate Welsby from Hope and Homes for Children explains: “Many children in India and Nepal are at high risk of separation from families because of neglect, child labour and trafficking. Families living in extreme poverty are often coerced into sending their children to institutions, believing they’ll have access to a better education and life – in fact, globally, eight out of ten children in orphanages have a living parent who, with the right support, can provide their children with a stable, loving family.
“Many institutions exist solely to exploit children for profit. In Nepal, for example, most of the 567 orphanages are located in popular holiday destinations and, once confined there, children are at risk of being neglected, abused and exploited to elicit donations from tourists.
“Despite the extra challenges Covid-19 has brought, we’ve continued to work with our partners to support high-risk children,” Kate says. “In our two target districts within Jharkhand State in India, over the past three years we have ensured that no children were sent to orphanages; re-integrated 469 children into their families; supported the placement of 14 into foster care and enrolled 218 children in school.
“We identified a further 10,783 at-risk children and either provided them with direct support or linked them to government services. Four new community hubs are supporting this by providing catch-up education, safe spaces, life-skills training and parenting groups,” says Kate.
In Nepal, Hope and Homes for Children and its partners have reunited 101 children from a single orphanage with their families and are in the process of reintegrating a further 93 children. In partnership with the National Child Rights Council, more illegal and abusive childcare homes have been identified in the Kathmandu Valley, of which five have already been closed and 167 children resettled into family-based care.
Significant progress has also been made in driving broader action on child protection reform in Nepal, with 125 international NGOs agreeing for the first time on the harm caused by institutions and committing to promote family-based care alternatives.
Becoming first responders during Covid-19
Covid-19 has been more than a health crisis for families already living in poverty. "At the start of the pandemic, our frontline teams became first responders in many countries,” Kate says, “particularly as we were already in communication with some of the most marginalised families who, in many cases, didn’t have access to basic information about safety measures and lockdowns.
“Our first priority was to provide essential food and healthcare supplies, but as the pandemic continued our social workers were also supporting the mental wellbeing of families struggling with the isolation of lockdowns, which can lead to higher instances of family breakdown and child abandonment.”
Unrestricted funding for an ambitious goal
While the Covid-19 crisis has dominated Hope and Homes for Children’s efforts for nearly two years, its longer-term campaign to end the institutional confinement of children continues.
Having directed funds specifically to projects in India and Nepal, the rest of the money raised by A&O has been provided as unrestricted funding, meaning Hope and Homes for Children can invest it where it will have most impact.
“A&O’s support over the past three years has been vital in bringing us closer to consigning orphanages to history,” Kate says. “We’ve succeeded in closing all but four orphanages in Bulgaria and we’re moving closer to the finish line in Romania, Rwanda and Moldova too. It’s within our grasp to prove to the world that eliminating harmful institutionalised childcare really is achievable. This simply would not have been possible without A&O’s involvement.”
Influencing international stakeholders
An important part of this is undertaking advocacy with governments and international bodies – an area that A&O’s pro bono work has supported by helping to build practical tools and resources to advance reform across the child protection sector.
A key project was researching how the Convention on the Rights of the Child is implemented in eight South Asian countries, highlighting where more action is needed to translate laws into outcomes for children. This formed the basis of an article for a leading academic journal and will also feed into a major conference on childcare reform for policy makers across Asia.
An A&O team has also been developing a tech solution to enable easier access to India’s child protection laws and policies for those working in its courts and administrative system to support children and prevent family separation. The project met delays during the pandemic but is ongoing and once completed will provide an invaluable tool for social workers in the region.
136,000 children protected in one year
“A&O’s efforts have been incredible,” says Mark Waddington, CEO at Hope and Homes for Children.
“Extending our partnership enabled us to plan projects strategically, thereby maximising their impact so that in 2020 alone we prevented 136,000 children from being separated from their families – more than we’ve managed in any other year.
“We’ve also achieved a number of major advocacy goals, including a commitment by the EU to reform childcare across Europe, which we hope will influence EU delegations to support these reforms in up to 140 countries,” says Mark.
“All of this has been possible because of A&O’s commitment, expertise and generosity, which have given thousands of children a chance to go home and be with a family that loves them.”