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Charity founders awarded top honour by Romanian president

PUBLISHED: 12:19 08 August 2018 | UPDATED: 13:22 08 August 2018

Stefan Darabus, with Caroline and Mark Cook. Picture: Steve Coffey

Stefan Darabus, with Caroline and Mark Cook. Picture: Steve Coffey

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Founders of a children’s charity have been awarded one of Romania’s highest honours for their work in the country.

Mark and Caroline Cook in Sarajevo in 1994. Picture: Hope and Homes for ChildrenMark and Caroline Cook in Sarajevo in 1994. Picture: Hope and Homes for Children

Mark and Caroline Cook, who founded Hope and Homes for Children, were awarded the National Order of Loyal Service in the rank of Knight, the equivalent of a knighthood, by the Romanian ambassador in London, Dan Mihalache.

The couple helped build new lives for millions of children released from orphanages across the world, and Beccles-born Mr Cook praised readers of this newspaper for 30 years of aid and dedicated work which has rescued trapped children in many countries.

EDP readers launched one of the first and biggest support groups and have made huge efforts to back the Cooks’ work in many countries since, from Sierra Leone and Albania, to Sudan, Eritra and Moldova.

Mr Cook said: “None of this would have been possible without the amazing support received from the generous readers of the EDP and our wonderful Norfolk Support Group.

Mark and Caroline Cook. Picture: Hope and Homes for ChildrenMark and Caroline Cook. Picture: Hope and Homes for Children

“They have backed us right from the very beginning – for three decades in which we have built a global movement to find loving families for the eight million children trapped in overseas orphanages.

The founder was speaking after being presented with the award alongside his wife and co-founder at a private ceremony in London, together with the charity’s Romania country director, Stefan Darabus.

Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, said the honour had been given: “in recognition of Mark, Caroline and Stefan’s on-going and outstanding support for the reform of the child protection system in Romania.”

The charity’s work across the globe have propelled the charity into becoming a global expert in the field of deinstitutionalisation which involves closing institutions, supporting children into loving, stable families and working with governments to tackle the root causes of family breakdown.

Stefan Darabus, with Caroline and Mark Cook. Picture: Steve CoffeyStefan Darabus, with Caroline and Mark Cook. Picture: Steve Coffey

In Romania, the work started in 1999 and has raised more than £40 million and helped cut the number of children trapped in institutions from 100,000 to 6,500.

The charity was set up in 1994 following Mr Cook’s retirement from the British Army during the height of the Bosnian war, in which both he and his wife had risked their lives bringing aid to trapped orphans in besieged Sarajevo.

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