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It is an absolute joy to observe a group of little institutionalised children sitting calmly and quietly and enjoying a puppet story together, wearing their 'school uniform'.

To most this may seem nothing out of the ordinary and perfectly normal, but for these children who once spent hours alone in silence without routine, interaction or stimulation, it shows a total transformation of behaviour and well being.

By creating this early learning space and providing specialist training for housemothers and teachers we are seeing calmer and happier children with improved emotional and physical health, which will ultimately help in their transition to adapt to family life in the future.

Our childcare specialists Richard Lynas and Stephanie Lord, returned to Ruhunu in February to monitor progress and continue the Childcare training programme to up-skill 22 TFT housemothers and teachers.

This is an unimaginably challenging environment all round, where it has always been two steps forward and three steps back, but the results are undeniable and almost unimaginable to some including our new Patron David Nash MCC, who visited Ruhunu ten years ago and said he couldn't believe such change was possible.

Matron is showing strong leadership to make Ruhunu a Centre of Excellence, which many have said would be impossible. She is working hard to reduce numbers by actively promoting adoption, and asking visiting mothers if they have extended families to help look after the child as a better option for the child than in orphanage care.

The children with complex special needs have been moved to a specialist centre, and the Commissioner is explaining to mothers who want to leave their children to work in the Middle East about the long term physical and mental damage caused to children in orphanages. Culturally there is a belief that orphanages are good for children.

As a result, and for the first time in years, numbers have decreased from 84 children in March 2018 to 58 children in February 2019.

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