The faces of missing children have been appearing on billboards, and in the famous missing children milk carton campaign in the U.S., since the 1980s. Now, in Europe, all the countries in the Eurozone block have co-operated to allow the face of a missing child to be depicted on legal currency. To get this done at all is, in itself, a remarkable feat.
Belgian NGO, Child Focus, which focuses on missing and sexually exploited children, marked International Day of Missing Children by imprinting the face of Liam Vanden Branden, missing for twenty years, on one million 2 Euro coins. The "Coins of Hope", which were struck by the Royal Mint in Brussels, are going into general circulation via the Lidl supermarket chain in Belgium.
The idea was conceived by agency Wunderman/These Days in Belgium. CEO Erwin Jansen explains how this improbable initiative became a reality. "The more people say, ‘No, this can't be done,’ the more persistent you have to be to get ‘crazy’ ideas realized," he says and reveals it took 10 seconds to convince the client, 10 minutes to convince the King of Belgium, and one hour to convince the Ministry of Finance. But next they had to persuade the governments of all 19 countries in the Eurozone. "The worry was every single country could veto this," he says.
Jansen says the idea came after a brainstorming session about how to bring children who have been missing for a very long period to the attention of the general public. "Every year across the globe, children are found again after being reported missing for five years, nine years, 13 years," he says. "So it does make sense to keep the hope alive. And, when a child goes missing, it is key to spread a picture of them as quickly and as broadly as possible."
This led the team to consider what medium could be used for the purpose. "We thought, ‘What is a medium that we all have on us that we could reinvent?" Jansen says. "So we came to money, and especially the Euro coin, which is known for having the face of royalty, very important politicians, etc. In Belgium, it typically is His Majesty the King, so we decided to go for the challenge to have, as a first in the world, the face of a missing child minted on a coin, and, as this is about keeping the hope alive, we called them the 'Coins of Hope.' The process from conception to the release of the coins this week took two years."
The coins are accompanied by a heart-rending film, which features, among other parents of missing children, the father of Liam Vanden Branden, the child depicted on the coin, and the oldest known missing child case in Belgium.
As the coins make their way around Europe, Child Focus is asking people to post pictures using the hashtag, #CoinsofHope, each time they change hands and has created a website to host photos. For those outside the Eurozone or unable to wait until they happen to receive one, it's possible to purchase coins direct from the Belgian Royal Mint.