What could be more rewarding than making a child’s dreams come true? Doing something that helps others and that really makes a difference? To celebrate the centenary of Aartsen in 2007, Hellen Aartsen (53) launched the Aartsen Kids Foundation. Not knowing that now, 15 years later, it would still be such a huge success. ‘For me, it’s time to move on but, luckily, I know I’m leaving things in the safe hands of my young and enthusiastic colleagues.’ Meet Synthia van Breemen and Soof van der Put, and find out about the future plans of this brilliant foundation.
All four women radiate a passion for the part that they play in Aartsen Kids Foundation. Annick Bezemer (43) has been involved with the foundation from the outset: ‘I’m lucky enough to have had a great childhood but the older you get, the more you realise how important that is and that many people haven’t been as lucky as you.’ So, when Aartsen started looking for new people to work for the foundation, she didn’t think twice. ‘Even close to home, there’s so much you can do to help others.’
Do you know someone you’d like to make happy? And why do you want to make them happy? Hellen and Annick look back with gratitude to Aartsen Kids Foundation’s very first project. With the ‘Happy Child’ project, they started small with the help of the children of Aartsen’s employees. Hellen: ‘In this initiative, children were asked to suggest other children who needed our help.’ From a tandem for a visually impaired child to a barbie for a friend of the sports club, the organisation took all the ideas on board to make the project a success. The children themselves handed out the surprises, which brought a huge amount of joy. Annick: ‘One child literally made another child happy. To this day, we’re still impressed by what we managed to achieve through this project. Everyone working for Aartsen was involved and it really made people happy.’
The employees of Aartsen Kids Foundation were delighted to have got the ball rolling. It was an amazing achievement. ‘But increasingly we asked ourselves: How can we really make a difference? Not just to a handful of children but to a far larger group?’ The first links were forged with social services and this proved to be ground-breaking for the foundation. It grew from small-scale to large, commercial projects. From a personal learning process which aimed to help make children happy to a professional organisation that makes a difference to kids from all kinds of different backgrounds. ‘We started to think far more in terms of concepts. Social workers were our eyes and ears, they put kids forward and we were engaged to provide support through one of our four projects.’
With the help of the fresh, new perspective of colleagues Synthia van Breemen (37) and Soof van der Put (24), over the next few years, Aartsen Kids Foundation will embark on a new journey. Synthia has been involved with our organisation for ten years now and started working for the foundation back in March: ‘It’s so rewarding to think that what I do in my work can really make a difference to children’. Soof has recently started fulfilling two roles at Aartsen: in the marketing department and for Aartsen Kids Foundation. ‘For the foundation, I’ll mainly be doing a lot of operational tasks and my main aim will be to raise the profile of the foundation among Aartsen’s employees.’ Aartsen Kids Foundation runs four projects, which focus on: school supplies for secondary school pupils, the organisation of children’s birthday parties, the giving of presents in December and Cool Treats. Hellen and Annick may be taking a step back but Synthia and Soof will carry on their work with renewed vigour.
Synthia is really looking forward to the school visits that she’ll be making as part of the Cool treats project. Annick will remain involved as coordinator and will share valuable experiences with her new colleagues: ‘This project was born out of our intrinsic motivation. In an earlier project with the theme children with a healthy weight we had children playing sports supervised by sports instructors and experts in nutrition. We realised at that time that there was a real lack of knowledge around these topics among both parents and children. In consultation with doctors, teachers and experts, we devised a learning programme which would create an environment in which children themselves could discover just how tasty and healthy fruit actually is. In this learning programme we take children aged between seven and ten on a journey into the world of fruit and veg. Through games, stories and videos, they go on a voyage of discovery to explore the benefits of fruit and veg. And we’ve now rolled this out nationwide.’ The learning programme still stands and it’s up to Synthia and Soof to raise the profile of the project.
The future of the foundation looks bright. Hellen: ‘I’m moving on but I’ll be only too happy to remain involved in the fabulous projects that we do for the foundation.’ The professionalisation efforts that have taken place over the past 15 years have provided a strong foundation for us to build on. Synthia adds: ‘We have loads of ideas and we want to get Aartsen’s employees involved, so they feel more connected to our foundation and can tell us where we can be of use.’
If you have a bright idea for Aartsen Kids Foundation please share it with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
15 years of AKF:
300 children’s dreams fulfilled in the first 9 years.
5,000 children have gone on a voyage of discovery with a Cool Treats learning package
Over 700 birthday parties were organised
1,600 children have been made happy with presents in December