Charity celebration event at Blickling

It was tea and cakes – and also a generous round of thanks at a special fundraising event held by a Norfolk support group for a charity with strong links to the county.

The group, which raises money for Hope and Homes for Children, staged a garden party and afternoon tea at Blickling Hall near Aylsham on Tuesday to celebrate 15 years of fundraising.

In its 15 years, it has pulled in tens of thousands of pounds for the Wiltshire-based charity, which was set up by Earsham-born Col Mark Cook and his wife Caroline.

Col Cook, was the guest of honour at the Blickling Hall event, with his wife unable to attend because of family commitments.

Speaking about the Norfolk support group, he said: 'These are very special supporters as they were the first support group we had and this is a very special event as they have been supporting us for such a long time.'

Hope and Homes for Children began when Col Cook, the former commander of British forces in Croatia, was helping to restore a children's home in the war-smashed town of Lipik.

He then turned to the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where he and Mrs Cook helped to rebuild the main city orphanage under heavy shelling and sniper fire in 1994.

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By then he had left the army and Hope and Homes for Children was born with a �25,000 start up donation from EDP readers to help it on its way.

In the ensuing years there have been countless missions of hope to many different countries with the Wiltshire-based charity.

Since the mid 1990s, EDP readers alone have donated more than �150,000 to the charity.

Col Cook said; 'The EDP has been our biggest supporting newspaper. We would not be where we are today without the support of the EDP and its leaders. 'It has been integral to our development.'

Over the years Hope and Homes has stopped building orphanages and their emphasis now is on supporting families to look after their children if possible, or find foster or adoptive parents.

Col Cook said: 'Quite soon after we started the charity we realised that what the children needed more than anything was the love of a family.

'We realised we should not be putting children into orphanages but getting them back into families.'

Norfolk support group organiser Hilary Kisby got involved after responding to an EDP appeal for money in 2003 to help children at the Maygoma Institution in Khartoum, Sudan. Readers were responsible for saving the lives of 700 children at what was known as the Baby Dump.

Ms Kisby said; 'It is wonderful to have this celebration here today. We are so passionate about the charity and for Mark to have joined us for the celebration is fantastic.' At the celebration event the group also carried on the fundraising with a raffle.

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