Christmas Appeal: Where your money will go

READERS have already responded with great generosity to our appeal launched last week, writes Sarah Wilson. Hope and Homes for Children operates in nine of the world's most war-ravaged nations, picking up the pieces of children's lives after the combatants have moved on.

Founded by Colonel Mark Cook and his wife, Caroline, when he was the first commander of British Forces in former Yugoslavia, the Salisbury- based charity is dedicated to giving desperate children a future.

The couple were responsible for bringing Tenneh Cole, nine, to London for a life-saving operation after she survived a bullet in the brain in her native Sierra Leone. She has now made a full recovery and is back in Freetown being looked after by local charity worker Dr Roland Kargbo.

Many of the orphans whom the Cooks have helped had been pressed into the sort of rag-tag armies that thrust Kalashnikovs into children's hands. Often these children cannot return to their own homes after the armies have abandoned them. They have killed so many that their own families are afraid of them. Trauma counselling in the Freetown orphanage supported by the Cooks has helped many to re-adjust to normal life and find new families.

The charity has also been raising funds to rebuild orphanages in Croatia and Bosnia. But in some countries, such as Romania and Ukraine, they are working to close down orphanages that offer little stimulation and care to the children in their charge; instead, the Cooks are helping to find foster homes for these children.