A COUPLE from Steeple Langford have been honoured for their work helping children dumped in institutions around the world.

Mark and Caroline Cook, the founders of Hope and Homes for Children have received a lifetime achievement award for their work.

They received the St. James's Place Foundation Award at the O2 Arena in London.

The award coincides with the 20th anniversary of their charity, which is based in East Clyffe near Salisbury and specialises in the global eradication of children's institutions. It helps governments to develop foster, adoption and family support services.

Mr Cook said: “Our award came as a complete surprise and it was a huge honour. St. James's Place Foundation has played a vital role in the development and expansion of Hope and Homes for Children during the past 17 years.

“It has raised an incredible amount of money for us. We are extremely grateful.”

Mr Cook is a former Colonel who set up the charity after commanding the British UN contingent in the Balkans War. He and his wife returned to Sarajevo to find children living in a ruined institution in appalling conditions during the continuing civil war.

Hope and Homes for Children has developed an alternative to institutional care - one which is family-based, more cost-effective and delivers superior outcomes.

Formed in 1992, the St. James's Place Foundation is the charitable arm of St. James's Place Wealth Management and has raised more than £30 million for charitable causes across the world.

David Bellamy, chief executive of St. James's Place Wealth Management, said: “Mark and Caroline's award recognises the immeasurable difference they have made to our foundation and our culture of giving.”

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states how children have a right to grow up in a family environment. Despite this, there are still eight million children warehoused in institutions across the world - often with devastating consequences for their development.