As the proud President of Barnardo’s, I am delighted to welcome you to Clarence House tonight to salute the achievements of this unique charity.
Everybody knows Barnardo’s but not many know the story of Dr Thomas Barnardo's arrival in London from Dublin in 1866 to train as a medical missionary. At that time, he was so shocked to see thousands of children begging for food and sleeping on the streets in the East End that he found a new vocation, and decided to devote himself to helping them. He set up a Ragged School where poor children could get a basic education the first step in the charity’s long history of caring for the young and vulnerable. In those harsh Victorian times, his vision was a world where ‘no child is turned away', and that belief is still the cornerstone of the charity today.
Everybody knows Barnardo’s and its history of helping children with nowhere else to turn, but it has changed over the years and risen to the challenges of modern times. It still holds true to its Founder’s vision to help the forgotten and unheard and it still runs vital fostering and adoption services. But we must remember that it is addressing today’s needs as well. Barnardo's is working to help children who have been abused, and those who are at risk of being sexually exploited. It is also supporting young adults as they leave to find their place in the world, by offering them training schemes, and giving a helping hand when needed.
Over the past few years I have visited several of these inspirational projects which are not only very impressive but very humbling too, and I believe that it is thanks to the dedication of Barnardo's highly skilled staff that these places exist at all without their care and counselling these young people would still be floundering alone in a frightening world.
It all started as the mission of one compassionate man. Today, Barnardo’s is a huge charity, working directly with over 200,000 children, young people and their families every year. In a world where so many things have changed for the better, there are sadly - still many vulnerable, forgotten and neglected children. Each one of them has a unique story. Barnardo’s listens, and speaks for those whose needs are unheard.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know Barnardo's long history, but its future is just as important. I know that it will continue to believe in children, and ensure that its vital work carries on for many years to come.