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The Rotary Club of Frome Selwood recently welcomed Mark Cook.
Mark, with his wife Caroline founded the Salisbury based charity ‘Hope & Homes for Children’ 20 years ago after Mark, as Commander of the British UN contingent in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, had witnessed how the brutalities of war ruined young vulnerable lives.
Starting in Sarajevo their mission in life has been to ensure that all children of war, disaster and poverty grow up in a secure and caring environment. The initial aim was to create or restore institutions where the children could be properly cared for. That was until the children themselves were asked what they really wanted. Their wish was for the love of a family and the security of a home.
This changed the objective of the Cook’s endeavours. They have now closed 52 institutions in nine countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, and prevented 20,000 children from spending their youth on the streets or in large institutions. The efforts are concentrated on keeping families together to avoid separation. ‘Hope and Homes for Children; (‘H&H’) also aims to find alternative family care arrangements such as adoption, fostering and small family homes.
The de-institutionalisation that has been developed has been recognised as best practice by Unicef and the WHO. Despite their efforts and those of many other charities, Mr Cook estimates that there are still eight million children in institutions across the world.
Fortunate circumstances brought the Cooks and Rotary together at the beginning in the mid 1990s. The Rotary Club of Frome Selwood has contributed to ‘H&H’ no less than £15,500 over the years, while the close relationship with Rotary nationwide has raised £6million. Globally the charity has found support in excess of £80million.
After 20 years of devoting their lives to ‘Hope & Homes for Children’ Mark and Caroline are now retiring from their day-to-day involvement and came to the Club to thank them.
Club President Dick Collins said that the Club was proud to have made the Cooks honorary members and to present them with a Paul Harris Fellowship in 2002. He continued, “It is my great pleasure on behalf of the Club to now present both of you with a Sapphire Paul Harris Fellowship Award for your truly fantastic life time achievement and certainly upholding the Rotary motto of ‘Service Above Self’.”
The Paul Harris Fellowship is named after the founder of Rotary International and is awarded by Rotary Clubs in this country to those who have given exceptional service.
Mark and Caroline Cook have received many honours, including OBEs and widespread recognition for their work. More information about ‘H&H’ is on their website – www.hopeandhomes.org while the Rotary Club of Frome Selwood’s website is www.fromeselwoodrotary.org.uk