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March 2020

Working Together to Keep Vulnerable Children on the Global Agenda

The biennial meeting of all Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) is scheduled to take place in June in Kigali, Rwanda and Hopeland has been working with a group of like-minded organizations to ensure that care reform for children without parental care is on the agenda.

Rwanda has made great progress and has been a global leader in curtailing the use of orphanages, and instituting alternative positive interventions to allow every child to grow up in a safe family environment. Since 2012, the country has closed 25 of 39 orphanages. This means that the next CHOGM meeting will be a great opportunity to highlight this issue and see the governments of one-third of the world’s population take action to support the most vulnerable children.

CHOGM is an important meeting where key decisions impacting the 2.4 billion people who live in the Commonwealth are made. It is also an important opportunity for development focused non-profit organizations (such as Hopeland) to make progress on vital goals.

For example at the last CHOGM in London in 2018 Hopeland’s CEO had important meetings with various officials that allowed us to develop our international work.

However, as with all other gatherings large and small – the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is threatening the event and may mean there is a need to postpone until 2021. Africa is beginning to confirm more cases of the COVID-19 disease and Rwanda has just this week ordered a shutdown of the type we have seen in Europe and North America.

In any case, Hopeland is part of the Civil Society Working Group for Care Reform in the Commonwealth which has been working together to ensure that children without a safe, loving family are supported and in the hope that a policy agreement can be made on the importance of ending orphanage care and ensuring family care is valued across all 54 commonwealth countries.

This work has included Hopeland’s Campaign Director taking part in monthly video calls with colleagues in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Australia to ensure we do all that we can to get this issue high up the CHOGM agenda. The group is drafting text that highlights the importance of taking action in this area, outreach to various organizations and officials involved in planning the event, and working together on the possibility of a side event at CHOGM to highlight this vital issue.

Of course the safety and well-being of the people of Rwanda and all those who would attend the event is the most important thing – but when the event is able to go ahead we hope to be able to advocate for this vital issue on the global stage. 

Maintaining the 2020 Vision

As the clocks chimed heralding in 2020 there was a real sense of hope and focus that many enjoyed. However, as the year has continued this hope and focus has certainly dwindled. Recently, I have heard many say that they are looking forward to 2021 as this year has brought so many challenges. With the bushfires in Australia, the political quagmire surrounding the impeachment of the US President, the untimely death of the basketball legend Kobe Bryant, and now the global pandemic caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) it is not surprising that many are struggling to feel hopeful for 2020. Yet, hope and a determined focus is exactly what we need right now.

Because having 2020 focus means maintaining that visual acuity – a clarity and sharpness of vision. 2020 vision does not mean perfect vision, as we all struggle with distractions and concerns, but, the ability to make the main thing the main thing is crucial right now.

This focus is crucial because coronavirus is adversely affecting children around the world, in horrible ways. The insidious impact on children includes increases in exploitation, gender-based violence, the death of a parent or caregiver, financial hardship, social exclusion and separation from caregivers. An understanding that the plight of vulnerable, abandoned and orphaned children is severely impacted by this global pandemic must spur us on and prompt us to take action.

Indeed, this is not simply conjecture, we know that “School closures during the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, for example, contributed to spikes in child labor, neglect, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies. In Sierra Leone, cases of teenage pregnancy more than doubled to 14,000 from before the outbreak.”

And this is not a problem just overseas, in America there are already reports of the coronavirus negatively impacting children in the foster care system in crucial areas such as family-visits.

What motivates me, is that I think of the children who have bounced around the foster care system who are trying desperately to believe that their new family will love and accept them, this understanding of the pain children endure and need to find better ways to help them drives Hopeland forward. Indeed, we don’t minimize the situation and we are keenly aware of the need for appropriate precautions to keep ourselves and others safe, but we are motivated by a deep conviction that we must and can do more for this vulnerable group.

We keep this focus because the vision is greater than the vehicle, the vehicles we use to achieve the vision can change but the vision holds firm as we press towards the ultimate goal. Indeed, technology offers us an opportunity to keep that connection. For example, we know that our friends at New York’s Administration for Children’s Services need to source desperately needed smartphones and technology to ensure children can maintain education and virtual family visits. If you can help please do so on this website.

We are guided by the belief that just because we need to be distant socially doesn’t mean we need to be socially distant. This is because technology allows us the gift of communicating and finding clever and more agile ways of communicating. This is also because, in moments like this, we are often able to recognize what really matters, which is family. In these uncertain times, it doesn’t mean we ignore the suffering we see around us, quite the opposite; instead, this hardship fuels our conviction that we must fight for others. It is understandable to be afraid of Coronavirus, but what we should be most afraid of is that we lose our humanity and the 2020 vision that guides us forward.

The Power of Family

In difficult times Hopeland wants to highlight those most vulnerable in society and how to support them, but also the importance of family and supporting each other.

Hopeland’s CEO, Nicholas Evans, provides an update on our organization’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing significant disruption into our daily lives with concerns about friends and relatives, changes to our regular habits, and the uncertainty of what is happening around us.

Like many organizations in New York City and across the country Hopeland has closed its offices – but our dedicated team are continuing to work from home to move forward our campaigns and raise awareness of the importance of supporting safe, loving families.

Here in the U.S. and around the world there are many people living in extremely vulnerable situations. At times like these it is important to think about those who need our support – that might mean contacting an elderly neighbor, buying groceries for a friend who is a healthcare worker and has their kids home from school, or heeding the warnings of the authorities and staying at home unless absolutely necessary. We encourage all of our family members to think of those less fortunate than themselves at this time.

However, it is also important to remember the strength of family during a crisis. Wherever you live and whatever family means to you we can all draw strength from the love and support we give each other and the safety that comes from family. We hope that in these worrying times we can all harness the power of family.

Hopeland is continuing to function during the Coronavirus outbreak as our team works from home to promote the importance of family and to ensure that some of the most vulnerable, including children who are orphaned and abandoned or in the foster system are supported through our campaigns. We’ll be in touch with more updates soon.

Nonetheless, the health and safety of every one of our family members is the most important thing right now. If there is anything we can do to help anyone reading this please let us know by using the contact link on this website.

With love and strength from the whole Hopeland team!

– Nicholas Evans, Hopeland CEO

If you or your family have any concerns about the Coronavirus please follow the advice on the Center for Disease Control’s Website:

Hopeland Recognized for Outstanding Women’s Advocacy

On International Women’s Day, Hopeland was honored to be awarded the EPIQ Women’s Advocacy Award in recognition of our work to empower safe, loving families, and the women who play such an important role in them.

Hopeland is a proud recipient of the EPIQ Women’s Advocacy Award

The award ceremony took place as part of the New York City Bar Association’s International Law Conference on the Status of Women at the Bar Association’s Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. The event saw influential female speakers from around the world speaking on what there was to celebrate in the fight to defend and expand women’s rights but also highlighting what more needs to be done.

Hopeland’s CEO Nick Evans (center) with board members Raegan Moya-Jones (left) and Fiona Bassett (right)

Hopeland was delighted to be included amongst some incredible winners, from fighters for justice for Yazidi women to those making waves in the boardroom and the United Nations! We were moved by their stories of injustice, and inspired by their fight to change the world.

As part of the conference, Hopeland’s newest Board Member Fiona Bassett spoke about the gender economics separating women from their children and Hopeland’s work to tackle this. Fiona is a Managing Director at Deutsche Bank’s subsidiary DWS and is widely recognized for her leadership and innovation in the financial services industry receiving acclaim from American Banker, the Institute of International Finance, Mutual Fund Industry and Crain’s New York Business.

Addressing the room, Fiona said “Hopeland is seeking to effect change through policy, through advocacy, and through campaigns that focus on mobilizing a movement to support the most vulnerable to family separation, to deliver better futures to people, and drive long term equality and opportunity”.

Fiona Bassett addresses the NYC Bar Association on Hopeland’s work

Hopeland’s number one policy goal is to prevent family separation. This forum, which focused on the progress of women internationally, was a particularly significant one at which to discuss this issue because if we improve the lives of women worldwide we also can reduce family separation.

Extreme poverty is the major factor in causing family separation and the World Bank tells us it is one that affects women and girls disproportionately. For every 100 boys in extreme poverty there are 105 girls and, extraordinarily, in the key childbearing age cohort of 25-34 there are 122 women in extreme poverty for every 100 men.

Additionally, female-headed single parent families are more likely to be vulnerable to family separation – in Indonesia for example 75% of single-headed families are female-led and those families are three times more likely to live in poverty.

This fact and the high prevalence of family separation (up to 500,000 children are growing up apart from their families) is why Hopeland’s global work is currently focused on Indonesia.

Hopeland and our partners are developing a landmark intervention to evaluate the impact of community support and economic empowerment tools as a cost-effective solution to address the drivers of family separation, and improve the overall wellbeing of at-risk children and families, with a special focus on households living in poverty.

Fiona discussed this work at the conference and encouraged support for it. The initiative is incredibly important because it aims to support some of the most vulnerable families in Indonesia whilst also developing vital data to change the way the world cares for families vulnerable to separation. If successful our first of its kind project can disrupt a centuries old funding model that supports orphanages and other institutions.

For too long international development and philanthropic efforts have promoted efforts that too often hurt not help vulnerable children – Hopeland is working to change that and so we were proud to be involved in such an important event and to have the opportunity to spread the message of our work.