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You Can Be Part of the Solution

Have you ever had a situation that challenged everything you thought you knew? I had one of those when I met a young girl called Hannah in Liverpool, England.

I had just started working after completing my Bachelor’s Degree as a 22 year old drug treatment counselor. In this role one of my major, and most difficult, tasks was running police cell sweeps assessing the needs of children who had come into contact with the Police.

Hannah told me she had an older boyfriend. When I asked her a little more, however, it became clear that in fact it was a series of older men she was being passed between. After a comprehensive assessment it became clear that although Hannah was 16, due to some severe trauma she had suffered she had a mental age of 10 – and yet she was being trafficked, exploited, and raped by a series of men on a daily basis through the children’s home that should have been providing her care.

CEO Nick Evans Speaking at Hopeland’s 2018 Gala

I came across many disturbing cases in this job but Hannah’s case particularly upset me. I knew I had to try to do something about it and so I raised it with my superiors. Having done so they immediately told me to drop it. Clearly there was no appetite to help Hannah. This attitude would never sit right with me so I raised it again, and again, and again, and always got the same response. I should drop this now or my young career would be ruined. 

This episode taught me some uncomfortable, but important truths:

When children are out of sight, they are out of mind;

Children raised in less fortunate circumstances are much more likely to be trafficked or abused and need our help;

We must always challenge existing practices when they are wrong;

Powerful and haunting experiences like this one are what has led us to create Hopeland: children need someone to step up and fight for them so that they can have the safe, loving family they deserve.

I’m so pleased with the progress Hopeland has already made and I’m excited to share with you Hopeland’s 2018 achievements:

Hopeland’s first campaign ‘All Children Count’ has now received support from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who has called for $1billion of extra funding to ensure all children are counted. The UN Foundation’s Global Mom’s Challenge also recognized our FAMILY campaign and called on its supporters to get behind our work.

Hopeland has also been at the forefront of several important partnerships this year, including ReThink Orphanages, Destination Family, and work with The Share Trust. I am also proud that my incredible Co-Founder, Deborra-lee Furness, again hosted the Global Citizen Festival with her husband Hugh Jackman in Central Park. Our new video featuring Deborra-lee also debuted at the Festival. I was also proud to see Deborra-lee recognized for her work at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival Disruptor Awards.

Global Citizen Festival 2018

      Our important advocacy work continued as we have connected the Australian and UK Government’s experts on Modern Slavery as we further develop our FAMILY campaign which has the goal of testing the impact of direct cash transfers and support services on female-led households in preventing family separation, increasing education, and reducing violence.

Hopeland also held its first ever Hackathon at the Boston Consulting Group’s NYC offices and partnered with Paramount Pictures on its new movie Instant Family which explores the reality of adopting and foster care in America.

All this progress makes me so proud to be the CEO of Hopeland and I am so excited for 2019. I’m sure, though, that you are wondering what happened to Hannah.

The story ended with me sat in a community center in Liverpool with an investigator interviewing one of the men involved in the ring that they had exposed. In spite of the threats to my career I persevered. Working hard to do what was right taught me this:

Just because you didn’t cause the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the solution.

By being part of Hopeland’s family you are being part of the solution!

How Being Thankful Can Empower Families

Hopeland is proud to announce that in partnership with Thankful we will be a leading organization in the #Thankful4Women campaign.

The spirit behind the campaign is that the mere act of being thankful has the power to increase attention, mood, energy, and many other important aspects of our lives. If we stopped more often to be thankful for what we have our world would be a happier, more peaceful place.

We all have a lot to be thankful for and we at Hopeland are especially thankful for the many inspirational and impactful women in our lives – that’s why we’re part of this campaign! We believe that by empowering women and girls they will strengthen their families and allow them to grow.

Check out some of the beautiful posts people from all corners of the globe have already posted here!

Take a moment to be #Thankful4 an amazing woman or girl by:

  1. Letting us know about them on social media by posting on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook
  2. Tag the person you’re thankful for as well as @OurHopeland and @Thankfulorg
  3. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #Thankful4Women so we can celebrate them together!
  4. Encourage your friends to share and post their own messages!

Check out our pinned Instagram story for a template that you can use!

We’re thankful for our amazing Co-Founder Deborra-lee Furness and the many other women who are fighting for justice. Thankfulness is a virtue we can all appreciate the strength of; it encourages us to practice gratefulness and truly value the sweet and tender things in life – like a safe, loving, family.

We hope you will join this incredible campaign!

UN Secretary General Wants to Make Sure All Children are Counted

All children count but not all children are counted. In 2016, Hopeland rallied a campaign with these words and, in partnership with over 160 different organizations, pleaded that the United Nations reconsider its approach to counting the numbers of vulnerable children in the world. You can read more about the campaign and why it is important here.

By putting pressure on the UN, Hopeland and its partner organizations successfully prompted new methods of collecting data that ensured that vulnerable children, no matter their circumstances, were accounted for. This meant street children, children in unregistered orphanages, refugee children and any child that would otherwise remain invisible should now be considered when monitoring the SDGs.

But now we need to keep applying that same pressure.

Just last year the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, called for a huge increase in funding so that all countries can meet the targets and provide adequate data to show that they are doing this for every person in their countries. His 2018 report, just released, however shows that there is much more work to do. We need to raise our voices for all the children, even those the global community isn’t listening too, so we can hold global leaders accountable and ensure they follow through on their commitments.

Mr. Guterres says in the foreword of the annual report “in some areas, progress is insufficient to meet the Agenda’s goals and targets by 2030.” Sadly, he adds that “this is especially true for the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups.”

Specifically regarding the results of the ‘All Children Count’ campaign the Secretary General says that “Today’s technology makes it possible to collate the data we need to keep the promise to leave no one behind” but yet we have not seen enough progress to be confident that all children will be counted by 2030.

Guterres says we need to “inject a sense of urgency”, Hopeland couldn’t agree more and supports his call for more “political leadership, resources, and commitment to use the tools now available.”

You can be sure that we will keep the pressure on – because nothing can be more important than making sure that all children are counted, not just those who are easiest to find.  

– Andrew Stone

Addressing Family Separation

As a father of two young children I’ve found the images of children separated from their parents at our U.S. southern border particularly painful to see, as I know parents all over the world have too.

Hopeland was created expressly to advocate for the innate value a safe, loving family can provide a child and to find better ways to keep children in families. It must be clear to anyone looking at these images that there has to be better ways to care for these children.

When millions of children live without families around the world, it is our responsibility to fight for these children, ensuring that they too can one day have a family to call their own. That’s why our first campaign was aimed to ensure ‘All Children Count’ – because it doesn’t matter what a child’s upbringing is; she will always deserve nothing less than an environment where she can be loved, and nurtured.

The more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents couldn’t be any further from their loving family and seeing the distressing images reminds me why I come in every day to work hard so that all children can have the upbringing that will let them thrive.

Anyone looking at the images of children sleeping on thin mattresses, under foil blankets, in hastily adapted facilities can imagine the distress this causes to the children. Heartbreakingly, the trauma this has caused for these children will be carried with them, likely, for the rest of their lives.

Even for the 500 children that have now been reunited with their parents the damage can be lasting. 60 years of undisputed brain science tells us that even a limited period of separation from a child’s parents can have serious developmental consequences. This 2015 study by Berens & Nelson confirms that as little as three months is needed to cause long term impacts; every three months in an institution causes one month of developmental loss. This can lead to impaired brain, social-emotional, and psychological development.

The same study also tells us that institutionalization can cause decreased weight, height, and head circumference for the children affected.

These developmental problems extend into adulthood too. The research of Sonugo-Barke et al established that an institutionalized child carries with them the scars of this trauma into adulthood. Low educational achievement, higher unemployment, and mental health problems are all seen amongst adults who had spent part of their childhoods separated from their families.

These facts alone show the impact of the parent-child separation policy and why it is imperative even after the policy has been rescinded to ensure the speedy reunification of the children affected with their parents.

I know the impact that this has had on everyone who has seen the images. As a parent, and the CEO of Hopeland, I’ve found it difficult to put into words the way this crisis has made me feel. The simple truth, however, that I want everyone to know is the damage that this separation will have on the children involved and therefore how important reuniting these children with their families is.

– Nicholas Evans

The Power of Focusing on the One

 

As Hopeland grows and our impact increases, I have had a nagging feeling that I want to express to the many faithful people who diligently, and without fanfare, invest in children. I struggled to find the words to do so until I stumbled across this powerful saying of Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary-General of the United Nations: “It is more important to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”

I feel anyone committed to the welfare of children should take away one thing from this: the best and most noble thing you can do is to provide steadfast, faithful love to draw out the best in a child. With a committed, patient focus we truly give the best of ourselves and as a result bring out the best in a child.

Hammarskjold says to me that the people that are the real champions are people like my friends Phil and Helena who have committed themselves to a young boy who had spent too long in the foster system and desperately needed a consistent, loving care giver to tell him how precious he was.

I feel thankful to have those people around me as they point to a ‘true north’, they help ensure our direction of travel is always for the benefit of the one, thereby ensuring that our campaigns positively impact the many.

This work must always connect and benefit the one, the child who lacks a loving family, the refugee who could be separated from their family, the child in foster care who may be able to be returned to their parent when they recover from the drug addiction or may need to be tenderly and patiently supported as a better alternative situation is found for them.

When we lose the focus on the one, we lose what this work is about.

Hammarskjold also reminds us that by focusing on the one, we can then build this work to benefit the many. After 15 years as a practitioner working in the toughest and most deprived districts of England, I have found that by remembering the one we can scale this work to impact the masses. However, if we lose that focus on the individual, our work drifts and drags into an ethereal place that ultimately falls short of the goal, which is a child knowing that they are precious to a loving parent.

As Hopeland’s work continues to gain recognition and appreciation, I hope that we’ll never lose sight of who this is for:

the One.

– Nicholas Evans

Deborra-lee Furness: Disruptor

What happens when you’re unafraid and willing to lift the voices of vulnerable children around the world?

Well, add some passion, charm, and a genuine desire to ensure that children have safe loving families, as well as a few secret ingredients and you have our Co-Founder: Deborra-lee Furness, who was honored earlier this week at the 2018 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards.

 

The ‘Disruptor Awards’ honor those who are unafraid to go against the grain to fight for the causes they believe in.  This year’s honorees included 11-year old March for Our Lives activist, Naomi Wadler, influential music journalist and late night TV drummer, Questlove renowned HBO Documentary film director and female activist, Sheila Nevins and our very own Deborra-lee.

“There are 157 million orphans in the world and of these numbers 80% have at least one living parent. We’re going to the root of the cause and getting creative with solutions that will derail negative trajectories.” she said as she walked to the stage to accept her award – a bright red hammer, meant to symbolize the unabashed confidence each of the disruptors exhibit when standing for their causes.

“We are working on prevention, reunification, and mobilization because we believe every single child deserves to belong in a loving family and have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.” she continued.

You can also watch this video of Deborra-lee on the red carpet after accepting her award. She jokes: “I used to be disruptive as a child, I got detention, and now they’re giving awards for it!”, but we all know that she really deserves this award and are so proud of her and her amazing work!

You can find more about the Disruptor Awards here.

The World Needs Better Solutions for Children in Orphanages

On March 8th, the world collectively recognized women who empower and strengthen one another by celebrating their social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

For Hopeland, this recognition lasts year-round and is an integral part of our identity; which is why we’ve developed the FAMILY Campaign. As part of FAMILY, Hopeland will provide financial support to some of the most impoverished women in the world, truly empowering them to make decisions that are best for their families.

But why is such a campaign needed?

Often the poorest women in the world face difficult choices about whether they can keep their children with them at home. Sadly many women face such hardship that they are forced into an incredible bind where they truly believe their children are better off in an orphanage than at home.

Unfortunately, the fact that more than 80% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent is testimony to the fact that this is happening every day.

This means children in orphanages quite often aren’t “orphans” at all – and it absolutely stings to think about how detrimental institutionalized care is for the growth of the child:

  • For every three months spent in an orphanage a child loses one month of brain development.
  • Children in orphanages are often exploited for tourist dollars. This is disgusting, especially when you consider that orphanage tourism can lead to children developing attachments to strangers they’ll never see again – perpetuating feelings of abandonment
  • In many cases, children living in orphanages are being denied basic supplies of food, education, and safety

If poverty is causing family separation and putting children at risk of abuse, trafficking, and violence then we can all agree that something must be done.

There is not enough awareness of the reality of orphanages and that solutions do exist.

Hopeland is working to prevent children from being placed in orphanages in the first place, to reunite the 80% of children in orphanages who have living parents, and to mobilize families around the world to care for those who truly have no one.

Together we can follow through on the commitments made on International Women’s Day and ensure that even the poorest children in the world have a safe, loving family, not a life of despair and abuse in an orphanage – all thanks to the fierce and powerful mothers that we – and you – have supported.

Finding Better Ways to Tackle Family Separation Globally

There are an estimated 25 million children growing up without their families around the world, including 8 million in institutions, 12 million on the streets, and 5 million trafficked or unaccompanied minor refugees. The reality is that most of these children, even those in orphanages have living parents.

Imagine the hardship you would have to go through before you felt that it was better for your child to be separated from you than living in your loving care and you will know the importance of helping the poorest mothers in the world.

Sadly there are many reasons why this heart-wrenching separation happens but some of the major factors are poverty, forced displacement, and lack of education. This month Hopeland is bringing specific attention to these issues because we are committed to working with others to advocate for children suffering without the loving care of their family.

We know from research by UNICEF that children make up nearly half of the 900 million people worldwide living in extreme poverty. Even those children who are not yet separated from their families are at daily risk of becoming the next child who will grow up alone. We at Hopeland can’t accept even one more child facing that situation.

There are many ways that vulnerable children around the world can be helped – for example a child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5. By tackling the causes of poverty, not just the symptoms, we can make it easier for families to stay together, making lives for children around the world safer.

The All Children Count campaign shows how Hopeland can partner with other organizations to change thinking. Our campaigns help children and families across the world and here in the US – you can read more about our FAMILY campaign and how together we can find better ways to keep children in families. This month, if you can imagine how painful it would be for your child to grow up without your love and support, please take time to support Hopeland by sharing our story.