HOPE FOR CHILDREN
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH BORGHESE
Founder & Ceo, “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center
Hope for Children’ Joseph Borghese is the Founder and CEO of “Hope for Children” CRC Policy Center and of Borghese Ventures Ltd. Throughout his childhood, he lived in many countries due to his parent’s professions but always had a base in Singapore. Joseph did his first degree in Philosophy in Singapore followed by a Masters in Social Work and another Masters in International Relations at the University of Nicosia. He came to live permanently in Cyprus in 2006. While studying in Nicosia, he was struck by the plight of children and the lack of organisations to protect them. In 2007, he started the registration process to establish Hope for Children which began in 2008. Today it is an international organisation with offices in eight countries. Soon to be nine with the opening of another office in New York this year. He lives in Nicosia with his fiancée Andria.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO FOUND HOPE FOR CHILDREN?
When I was studying in Nicosia, I was involved in a European Human Rights project, and I was struck by how few rights children had on the Island and in other countries. Effective child protection mechanisms were not there, and that is when we decided it was the right time to establish our organisation. One of the most important structures established is a similar model from Iceland named “Children’s House” that we started to replicate in Cyprus. Before we began in Cyprus, child victims of sexual abuse were dealt with by various departments which meant there was a lot of repeating in the system. Our main aim was to put all the child services in one place. Bringing the social workers, psychologists, police, Ministry of Health representatives and medical examiners all together resulted in a less traumatic experience for the child. For example, now, if we interview a child, they are interviewed by just one person, but all other professionals are unseen in the next room. This means that the child can get the therapeutic support they need.
In the court now in Nicosia, a child can give testimony through a video conferencing system from the Children’s House rather than the child having to appear physically in court. We are aiming to expand this to all cities in Cyprus for child victims of sexual abuse who need to give evidence. In 2019 in Cyprus, there were over 360 child sexual abuse cases reported, so we want to make the children’s court appearances to be as easy as possible for the child.
WHY DID YOU START HOPE FOR CHILDREN?
I founded Hope for Children not to create a philanthropic organisation or charity but because I consider it to be the responsibility of every human being to support other human beings. This especially applies to the children of our future who sometimes do not have a voice. I do it because I believe you should just do it.
For me, the most satisfying part of my job is to see a child who is broken, through the circumstances they have endured, smiling again after our support. Once a child has been abused, I consider it to be worse than cancer. We need a whole support system to help them recover. Help for Children is for all nationalities.
As a child, I always wanted to do something special. My mother showed me this by her example of helping others, and she is the one who inspired me.
Our main aim today is to respond to any child in need. We work hard to raise funds so that when we get the call for help, we are in a position to react. If we see a problem, we will go right in and respond. Our offices across Cyprus in Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos and Larnaca are there to support the children of Cyprus.
TELL US MORE ABOUT HOPE FOR CHILDREN AND THE AIMS OF THE ORGANISATION.
The vision of Hope for Children is to contribute to the protection and promotion of the rights of the child and to support the active participation of children and youths within our society. Our main aims are to advocate and protect children’s rights based on the standards and principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and European Union Law, regardless of their background.
WHAT PROGRAMMES DO YOU HAVE IN PLACE?
The Children’s House is one of the structures we operate. This is a rehabilitation centre for sexually abused children. Under the same roof, our staff support the children together with representatives from the Cyprus Police, Social Welfare Services, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and Culture, which provide rehabilitation services to victims of child sexual abuse.
Our Homes for Hope are private shelters for unaccompanied children. The Homes for Hope offer rehabilitation, integration and long-term solution services for the children. It has been established with the approval of the Social Welfare Services. We also operate a Foster Care Programme which aims to identify, train and assess potential foster parents to undertake the care of children who are under the legal guardianship of the Social Welfare Services.
Another part of Hope for Children is to arrange seminars on human rights through non-formal activities, using the manuals of the Council for Europe which we have translated into Greek. We also cooperate with the Council of Europe for the implementation of the ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children in Europe.
Furthermore, we are also involved in the European Hotline for Missing Children, social, psychological and legal support services, the eradication of child poverty in Cyprus, a child law clinic and child abduction alert system. We also participate in many European projects as a coordinator or a partner.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ‘BEAT BULLYING’ PROGRAMME.
This aim is to raise awareness within the educational community through the developments of methods of identification, prevention and the handling of bullying incidents. We arrange workshops in the schools and have children as Ambassadors for our campaign, as we always believe in the participation of children in our work. We have developed a mobile application “HFCBeatBullying” which is a tool that can be used to prevent and tackle bullying and can be used in 23 EU countries.
Our work also involves the European Helpline for Children and Adolescents, which is 116111.
HOW HAS ‘HOPE FOR CHILDREN’ EXPANDED?
We have offices today in eight countries which all work with the same aim and guidelines. They are all lobbying for the rights of children and researching into ways to make their lives better. We have offices in Cyprus, the UK, the USA, Nigeria, Denmark, Hungary, Portugal and Italy. While it started in Cyprus, we are delighted to see our expansion and this year, we are establishing a physical office in New York. This office will focus on fundraising and lobbying.
HOW IS THE CHARITY FINANCED?
In the beginning, we were a self-funding organisation. Still, as we have grown, we are working with many government agencies, the European Union, private sponsors and celebrities who support the work that we do. We also have several people who fundraise for us. A very successful fundraiser for us is the Blue Nose Campaign, whereby we cooperate with shops to sell the noses.
We employ over 85 staff in Cyprus, which are a combination of managers, admin staff, communication officers, psychologists, social workers, lawyers and educators. We have teams who can fully support the children. Each programme we coordinate will have its own team of professionals which are relevant to the project.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR INTEREST IN WINE.
Like many, I enjoy wine and love the wineries in Cyprus. However, together with a business partner, we have a winery in Hungary to produce wine, the ‘Borghese 365’. We have five different kinds of wines, including red, white and rosé. They are premium wines from the first pressing of select grapes. Our primary market is Southern Asia, where the wine is top-rated and available in hotels and bars. It is a niche market, and we produce about 200,000 bottles a year.
YOU ARE INVOLVED IN THE BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY. HOW DOES THIS WORK?
Pundi X 365 is founded in Cyprus and has the mandate to function as a business development entity for blockchain solutions. It works closely together with Pundi X who have offices globally but specifically in Jakarta, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, Shenzhen, Singapore and Taipei. The company has over 100 full-time staff; half of them are research and development focused. Pundi X provides new blockchain technology solutions for shipping, healthcare and insurance, the tourism industry and land management. It offers a blockchain payment solution and a digital identity. We have just opened a new office in Cyprus, as last year The Council of Ministers approved the national strategy on blockchain technology. The government is now drafting a bill on regulating the blockchain industry in Cyprus.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
My work involves long days and a lot of international travel, so I am most relaxed when spending time with my fiancée at home. I love walking my dog and regularly complete a circuit which goes around Nicosia of 12 km. It is a trail that goes through green areas, and there are some beautiful areas of nature to see. Cyprus is my home, and I love spending time here. Together with Andria, we enjoy spending time in the mountains. We love walking and seeing the birds, rivers and enjoying the Cypriot wineries together.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
This year Andria and I are planning our wedding, which will take place this summer. With Hope for Children, I am looking forward to continuing working with all stakeholders to achieve more developments in the field of child protection. We hope to work on law and practice changes in the future.
I am also planning the establishment of an eco-friendly luxury resort in the mountains called 365 Living, which will be carefully-built to have minimal impact on the delicate natural environment. The houses will not have concrete foundations so that they will not destroy the landscape. They will be solar-powered with the primary aim being that the occupants can live in and enjoy nature. There will be villas with a spa and a restaurant which will serve only organic produce. We aim to encourage the local villages to be involved in this experience as it evolves.
Interview by Sarah Coyne | Published by Cyprus in Style Magazine March 2020 | #InStyleBusinessNetwork | Portrait Photography by Alexander Tull
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