Sophie Ellis-Bextor has told of the heartache she felt after meeting children in Ukraine who had been left to live in orphanages due to poverty and poor eyesight.
The singer, who made the visit in her new role as ambassador for the JK Rowling-founded international children’s charity Lumos, said the conditions she witnessed were “pretty horrific”.
Ellis-Bextor met children as young as six forced to live in an institution just because they have to wear glasses.
These children are deemed unable to go to mainstream schools, the charity said, so their families are forced to send them to special institutions.
Ellis-Bextor, who has four sons with The Feeling’s bassist Richard Jones, said she was unable to contemplate having to make the same choices about her own children.
She said: “As a mother I can’t imagine having to choose whether to keep my child at home or send them away for an education simply because they have to wear glasses.
“The kids had no toys, they had no personality to their living quarters, no time that was their own. When are they having one-on-one time with a grown-up?
“You can’t emphasise enough the impact of love and nurture and those nuances that let people be individuals.”
According to Lumos, there are more than 100,000 children living in orphanages and institutions in Ukraine.
Of these, more than 90% have a living parent who lacks the appropriate support to care for them.
Ellis-Bextor also travelled to a school in Moldova that provides inclusive education for children with disabilities.
The charity says the number of children in Moldova living in institutions has fallen by 86% since 2007.
Ellis-Bextor said: “I am so happy and excited to be working with Lumos.
“I love the scale and the ambition of their objective – aiming to abolish children’s orphanages and institutions worldwide by 2050.
“I’m completely behind doing whatever I can to help them achieve this and getting those children reunited with their families.”
Rowling’s charity, founded in 2005, was named after the spell from the Harry Potter books that brings light to the darkest of places.
Georgette Mulheir, Lumos’s chief executive, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have Sophie Ellis-Bextor join Lumos as our newest ambassador.
“Sophie has been a passionate advocate for children, both in the UK and globally, for many years.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Sophie’s support as we strive to end the institutionalisation of all children.”