From my first visit in 2011, Dominica has stolen my heart. I fell in love with her lush natural beauty, the friendly people, and the delicious food. My name is Marieke van Asten. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and I moved to Dominica in 2016 and have made it my home.

I love being creative and working with children. I just wasn’t sure how exactly. Until I spoke with locals in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath and learned about the many challenges, children face here in Dominica. I envisioned the Child-Friendly Spaces that UNICEF had set up, to become permanent, a place where they feel seen and heard for who they are.

And from my own experience, I know creativity can be just that, an outlet, and a safe way to express yourself without using words. I developed and implemented The Foundation and its programs next to my full-time job, and I am excited about the progress realized.

My dream for the coming two years is to:

  • Establish weekly programs for five groups of 10 children max
  • Extend the program further stimulating the children’s creative skills that could benefit them throughout their lives, helping them to grow as people, face life’s difficulties, and ultimately help make the world around them a much better place to live
  • Have our Breadfruit location to assure a safe and inviting space for the program, equipment, and materials
  • Ensure enough, and environmentally-friendly equipment and material to develop and encourage creativity, social skills, and emotional resilience
  • Offer a warm meal to all children participating
  • Organize safe transportation for the children to and from the Breadfruit location
  • Assure a long term and consistent program


In Dominica, a small island nation in the Caribbean, young children have many things to worry about. Not only do they suffer trauma from natural disasters, such as Category 5 Hurricane Maria which devastated the island in September 2017, but many of them live in poverty as well. Those circumstances create challenges such as hunger and neglect and an environment where child abuse, and domestic violence are all too common.

Schools are focusing on cognitive education, trying to catch up with the closure or destruction of schools due to Hurricane Maria or, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. However, schools lack the means and resources to provide children with more than reading, writing, and math. Most parents don’t have funds or time available to offer more than their children’s basic needs, which is, in itself already challenging for many.


Ever since my trip to Costa Rica, the idea of working with children creatively was always at the back of my mind; and living here in Dominica, I’ve found the inspiration and the room to provide a space for children to express themselves creatively. Due to a lack of resources and funds, most children only do a very limited amount of creative work in school here. Most schools are primarily focused on academic knowledge and skill. After Hurricane Maria completely devastated the island of Dominica in September of 2017, I can see a great need for the children here to have an outlet to express themselves. Exploring their creativity will help them face adversities throughout their lives; whether it be another natural disaster, or a difficult situation at school or at home. The ability to express themselves creatively provides them with tools to help build up their emotional resilience.

Help children in Dominica

In building the Breadfruit House (named after one of my most favourite foods on the island) I am creating a safe space for children between the ages of 6-12 years old with the idea of inspiring each child to feel free to explore their creative abilities through various different methods and media, including (but not necessarily limited to): arts and crafts, music, dance, photography, writing and story-telling. I intend it to be a warm, inviting and inspiring environment for children all levels of creative ability, and warm meals will also be available.


Our vision for the Breadfruit House Dominica Foundation is to offer the children of Dominica a warm, inviting, inspiring and safe environment designed to let them tell their stories with the help of creativity. It should be a place where children can develop their social skills, build character and emotional resilience to become empowered adults.


The Breadfruit House Dominica Foundation is registered with the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands with registration number: 69880964

The Foundation’s board:

Marieke van Asten

Marieke van Asten

Chair & founder

Jacqueline Pieters


Pamela Vermeulen