OUR VISION

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

WHY ACTION IS NEEDED

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 already challenging for many.

WHAT DO WE OFFER

Following the child-friendly spaces offered by UNICEF (in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria), our Foundation provides young children (6-12 years) a safe and inspiring environment to tell their stories. We do this with the help of creativity, as it’s often difficult for young children to find the right words to express their feelings and what they are going through.

Often, they may not even feel safe enough to share what is going on in their lives. Creativity can serve as an outlet and a coping tool to face current and future adversities in life. While it doesn’t change the situation, we can change the way children handle these setbacks.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS

We offer a weekly one-hour after-school program, enabling them to become inspired and feel free to explore their creative abilities. Our program includes various media methods, including arts and crafts, music, dance, photography, writing, and story-telling. A warm meal is also part of the program. The 16 weeks program ends with their own personal Happy-box, filled with tangible memories of the tools we offered throughout the program.

Our recent pilot program, hosted by a primary school, confirms our vision. We see our vision validated by the principal of this primary school and the participating children. Below are some quotes on their findings:

Principal:

“They shared a special bond as they danced, shared experiences, and expressed themselves in each session.”

“The once shy and withdrawn children were now slowly becoming more outspoken and brave.”

“I believe that the sessions were both beneficial and rewarding for each student.”

Children:

“Today, I am happy because I am doing my lesson with Ms. Marieke today.”

“I like my teacher; she is kind and caring and has patience”.

“I also like my new friends and basically everything.”

“I love the silly dances we do every time.”

 

ABOUT THE FOUNDER

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. In Hurricane Maria’s aftermath, I spoke with numerous locals and learned about the many challenges children face here in Dominica. I envisioned the UNICEF Child-Friendly Spaces 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 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.

BOARD MEMBERS

The Breadfruit House Dominica Foundation is registered with the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands with registration number: 69880964. And we are currently in the process of getting a Dutch ANBI status.

The Foundation’s board:

Marieke van Asten

Marieke van Asten

Chair & founder

Jacqueline Pieters

Secretary

Pamela Vermeulen

Treasurer

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