The Root Of It All: The Importance of Family & Collaboration


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel with ‘Helping Children Worldwide’ (HCW) and film the first part of a documentary called ‘The Root of It All’. HCW has been a partner of 1MILLIONHOME for many years and we’ve collaborated on a number of great projects across the world. As their name suggests, they do incredible, often unsung, work helping children by empowering family preservation, strengthening, reunification, and orphanage transition support for other organizations both in Sierra Leone and around the world.

 "The Root Of It All," (working title) coming soon will be a powerful exploration of family preservation and its transformative impact on communities. Through captivating storytelling and immersive visuals, this documentary aims to bring viewers on a journey and show them the profound transformation that occurs when families are recognized and championed as the driving force behind resilience, hope, and society.

Social workers, George & David

Traveling to Mozambique for the first time, I was reminded again of the critical nature of families thriving. I joined social workers, George and David, from the Child Reintegration Centre in Sierra Leone, filmmaker, Marianna Makiniemi from, and Melody Curtiss and Dr. Laura Horvath from HCW USA who were consulting and advising orphanages taking steps to transform into family strengthening/reunification centres.


Walking Alongside and Transforming Together:

Throughout my time with George, David, and the HCW team, I was moved and impressed by their commitment to building relationships and fostering collaboration with other organizations. 

Rather than imposing a top-down approach, I saw firsthand how they emphasized the value of walking alongside others, listening attentively, and providing relatable guidance. They are experts, there is no doubt about that. However, George and David have realised that it’s one thing to be an expert but that expertise is much more effective if you are relatable and approachable, and the approach is built on trust and relationship.

This relational mindset has helped them before in transforming orphanages in Sierra Leone and consulting with directors and donors of the traditional orphanage model across Africa. 

Part of this relational model of care involved many meaningful conversations with social workers and orphanage directors to help them understand the reasons for transitioning to a family preservation/strengthening model. The team openly discussed the challenges that arise (fantastic content for the documentary).

Above all, we emphasized the importance of adequately preparing families and children for the transition, as well as the critical role of family follow-up visits to ensure their ongoing well-being. This is all part of building ongoing, healthy relationships, including with the families and children who are being supported.


Family: The Root of It All:

While there, I was immersed in the world of family preservation, and my view on the foundational importance of family was confirmed and deepened. The impact families have on society cannot be overstated.

Years ago, I was challenged, ‘Think of an injustice unrelated to family breakdown and separation’ I couldn’t think of one injustice that could not be alleviated or even stopped by healthy loving families.

Family is the very foundation that nurtures healthy growth in children and develops resilience, serving as the root from which everything else grows. 

Therefore I don’t think it’s reaching too far to say ‘family is the root of it all’. In my opinion, helping families is the most strategic thing I can be a part of to bring about lasting change, not just at the local but at the national level too.

Family Reintegration.00_09_14_33.Still120

If we shift our focus from individual children to strengthening the entire family, which in turn strengthens the community, we cultivate resilience and foster growth in every aspect of life. Furthermore, if we are going to see this family preservation model spread further it will be by reliably walking alongside others on this care reform journey. A top-down approach to care reformation often creates harm —switching off and turning away many who could have been instrumental in seeing families strengthened and reunited.

I hope in the documentary next year,  many including you, Reader, will be deeply impacted by George and David’s dedication as they travel through Mozambique, Nigeria, Liberia, and across their native Sierra Leone to remind whoever will listen, family is the root of it all.





Samuel Rich is a British filmmaker, photographer, and advocate for children at risk.

Samuel Rich is a British filmmaker, photographer, and advocate for children at risk. Best known for his direction of the documentary Lost Kites, Samuel has traveled to over 30 countries and is passionate about telling stories that raise awareness of the dangers vulnerable children face, as well as the innovative solutions that help them thrive in families.


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