Nationale Stichting ter Bevordering van Vrolijkheid
The National Foundation for the
Promotion of Happiness (abbreviated “the Happiness”) is a
multicultural, not-for-profit network of artists, play writers,
actors, musicians and volunteers who invest in children and teenagers
in asylum-seeking centres. The Happiness organises creative
activities on a regular basis in 30 asylum-seeking centres in the
Netherlands. Creativity provides space. Art challenges, but doesn’t
force. For children and teenagers it is of great importance to be
able to demonstrate during their development who they are and who
they can be. This can be done through music, sculpture, theatre, play
and game, in brief, during creative activities.
group was, and still is a blind spot for public and private
institutions both in terms of refugee-policies and in terms of
working for asylum-seekers or children and teenagers. While the
children and teenagers of the Happiness are mentioned in the
International Covenant for the Rights of Children, they do not ‘fit’
into any mandate of the Dutch government. The Happiness has a unique
role through the diversity of its flexible regional network; a large
amount of the projects are executed by employees with a refugee
background. The Happiness is an independent organisation supported by
individuals and private funding.
Mission and vision
are talking about children who are victims of armed conflicts,
torture, neglect, abuse or exploitation. They have the right to
receive special care. ‘Such recovery and reintegration shall take
place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and
dignity of the child” (article 39 of the Convention on the Rights
of the Child)
The Happiness provides attention and ensures
activities for children who are stuck in the no-man’s land of
asylum-seeking procedures.The resilience of children inspires us. We
need to invest in that and dare others to do so as well.
Happiness is involved and professional, we develop concepts, projects
and activities to brighten the lives of children and support everyone
who wants to participate.
We want to realise activities in all
asylum-seeking centres for children and teenagers. Creativity and art
are instruments that we can give them; which they can use to share
and shape their story, which gives them self-confidence and develops
their talents, and of course, which allows them to be burden free for
The Happiness provides opportunities for
society. Special art projects, meetings with companies, expositions,
entertainment, and a website for and by kids for example, allow for
What we do
has been present in asylum-seeking centres since 2000. We work with
children in different age groups, who receive weekly workshops. With
the children and teenagers we make theatre-plays, movies, music and
art. It is about creating value, something for the children to
express their feelings, dreams, ideas and stories. Something that has
value and fosters dignity.
We travel around with our
story-tent in which parents and children tell stories and write about
their lives. We make short films and animation, and have a
‘happy-house’ in which children tell their secrets to a camera.
We have a photo project in which the World is captured from different
perspectives. We build dream-houses and castles, make art-dioramas
through which you can look to see the childrens’ dreams of the
future. We make powerful and surprising theatre-plays with teenagers
and put scarecrows in the neighbourhoods of the asylum-seeking
centres to scare away people who want to steal or ruin our dreams.
Some structural aspects of the
situation of the Young asylum-seekers cannot be changed by the
Happiness; the insecurity of the asylum-seeking procedure, the
housing, or the memories of the past. The Happiness therefore focuses
on strengthening their resilience; an attribute to support the
children to stabilise their step in to the future. The Happiness
offers these children and youth the possibility to temporarily escape
the misery that life in an asylum-seeking centre can cause. Their own
place, where they can encounter beautiful moments, develop their
talent and enjoy themselves. This, with guidance from people who
accept them, who will listen to them and want to give their dream a
Offer of the Happiness to other organisations
With the support of, among others, the European
Refugee Fund, the Happiness has developed experience over the past
ten years and many example projects and trainings which have
strengthened the coping mechanisms for children who have fled to
Europe with or without parents.
The Happiness is a Dutch
network organisation consisting of former refugees and other Dutch
people. You can always contact us. We want and can deliver, in
exchange for compensation of overhead costs:
Translate our methodologies or project examples in your
Cooperate with a local partner to research if our project
methodologies would suit your situation
Training of trainers and the organisation of inception phases
at your preferred location
Provide advice and coaching
We think it is important that the abundance of information,
knowledge and practical experience that we have can be developed and
used to support as many refugee children in Europe as possible.
The 5 Principles of the Happiness
he Happiness works with content methodology
from a central point of interest; to offer positive action in the
structural surroundings of the child, to allow a child to be a child,
and to express themselves non-verbally. This is about offering
children the opportunity to develop healthily from their own
strength. In this manner we are working on prevention.
Happiness maintains five principles. On the basis of these principles
we develop and evaluate programmes. Research has shown that these
five principles are in line with the needs of the children and
teenagers in asylum-seeking centres. We don’t ‘help’ but
provide opportunities and chances. The instruments we offer with art
and creativity are ‘keys’. The children and youth ‘open the
door’ themselves. The five principles are central in the developing
and evaluating of each activity.
1. The environment and
atmosphere is light and goals are modest. We try to create positive
experiences which connect to the child’s perspective of the world.
2. We want to give the impression that we are there for each
child. We do not promise what we cannot deliver. We do what we
promise. For these children it is important that you are there and
that you are predictable.
3. Our activities are structured
and our communication is clear so that the child can feel safe to
share experiences and feelings. We value continuity, structure in
programmes, individual spaces and space to not participate.
We trust in the resilience of each child and invest in the positive
side of the scale.
5. There is space for everyone’s
individuality, expressed through art and creativity. We offer
opportunities and instruments (assignments and materials) to create
form. Yet, there is never a ‘must’.
Recognition, giving form and not necessary tell, adding their own
Methodologies and example
Through the years we have developed a large
number of methodologies for each activity. We would like to share a
short introduction to a sample of our methodologies. All
methodologies are on paper but are always shared through training. We
prefer providing example workshops with refugee children and
The storyteller is
deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let
us suppose our world is ravaged by war, by the horrors that we all of
us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the
seas rise. But the storyteller will be there, for it is our
imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us -for good and for
ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt,
even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the
myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and
at our most creative.”
Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize receipient speech, 10 December 2007.
Two basic components of this workshop are the storytelling tent
and the storytelling stone. The tent is a light, colourful tent which
will give a concrete face to the workings of a story. The tent offers
safety, structure and a cozy atmosphere. In the tent the children
listen to stories from different cultures, which a mentor tells.
Telling stories together is also important. Each child makes his or
her own book.
Farewell project “Memory”
Children who have
fled and are received somewhere in Europe, often still have to move
from place to place. For children this is often a lot; you leave
comfort behind, say goodbye to your friends and embark on a new
future. This farewell project consists of ten creative workshops in
which children work on personal memorabilia; of a memory of a place
they have left behind and of people they have had to say goodbye to.
The project begins and ends with a day of celebrations. From start to
finish they work their way to becoming a safe and trustworthy group
in which children have the space to express themselves.
Teenagers to us are those who are
older than 15. For them, the Happiness has a special approach to the
methodologies of the activities. Teenagers in asylum-seeking centres
are people with talent, opportunities and chances. Looking for a
place in the world, to their own identity with a strong need to
recognize themselves in a group and feel at home. Just as all other
teenagers, they look to the future full of energy to discover the
world and full of ideals to change things. The next approaches have
developed from the experience the Happiness has undergone with
teenagers throughout its years.
- Let teenagers formulate their own
needs and goals
- Always approach teenagers
positively, focused on opportunities and chances
- Work in phases, start with the
building of trust and gradually work towards participation in
- Work to create individual
expressions and styles
- Work with good and realistic
- Work with set frequency
- Be sound and trustworthy
- Work towards building a group in
which safety and trust is a central theme
- Focus on a large target group, not
excluding any subgroups
- Choose a personal approach and a combination between local
and national offers
we want to provide a positive contribution to the lives of children
in asylum-seeking centres, then we cannot avoid including parents.
Children cannot be seen as separate from the family they are from and
live in (even if not complete). It is invaluable for children to
involve the parent. For the Happiness this means that there are large
chances and also responsibilities.Why and
Resilience: By involving the talent of everyone in
the family and build on that to create trust, it can increase the
resilience of the family
Active: From some families this is
literally the first opportunity to be active
pride: It is important and comforting if children see their parents
working (again) on something positive. To see their parents be
passionate makes children proud.
Grip: Responding to questions
and needs of parents and children gives families grip on their own
New and beautiful memories: By building on and
undertaking positive activities. For families these values are
moments to remember.
We work needs-based and thus invite
parents to formulate their own ideas for projects. We ask parents to
help us set up projects resulting in them becoming ‘co-owners’ of
the activities. This is of invaluable importance for the feeling of
dignity of the parents.