The Bernard van Leer Foundation is a private grant-making foundation. Our mission is to improve opportunities for children up to age 8 who are growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. We see this both as a valuable end in itself and as a long-term means to promote more cohesive, considerate and creative societies with equal opportunities and rights for all.
Latest news from the Bernard van Leer Foundation
Foundations are generally a demanding lot when it comes to the organizations we fund. We want evaluations, progress reports, audits, indicators, scorecards. But are we also as demanding of ourselves? It seems not. Many foundations do not look rigorously at their own practice to ask themselves if they are using their resources as effectively as they could be.
Why is this? I joined with like-minded partners (Bertlesmann, Cariplo, Erasmus Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, the European Foundation Centre, and the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace) to find out. We surveyed 54 European foundations about their attitudes to assessing their own work, and where they feel they could use more knowledge.
This six-month process led to a recent workshop at the European Foundation Centre’s annual conference in Cascais, Portugal. The conference’s theme was sustainable oceans, so we called our workshop “Impact Island”. On this video, Bettina Windau of Bertelsmann and I briefly explain what Impact Island is all about. Read more
Increasing choice or inequality? Pathways through early education in Andhra Pradesh, India is the latest working paper to emerge from the Young Lives project, a 15-year longitudinal study of early childhood in four countries: Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. Like all BvLF publications, it is free to download or order.
Combining qualitative research with data from tracking 1950 children born in Andhra Pradesh in 2001, this paper explores the divergence in pre-school and primary services as those offered by the government increasingly compete with a rapidly-growing and poorly-regulated private sector.
Previous working papers in the Young Lives project's Studies in Early Transitions series are Early childhood transitions research: A review of concepts, theory, and practice (Working Paper 48, by Pia Vogler, Gina Crivello and Martin Woodhead); Equity and quality? Challenges for early childhood and primary education in Ethiopia, India and Peru (Working Paper 55, by Martin Woodhead, Patricia Ames, Uma Vennam, Workneh Abebe and Natalia Streuli); and Continuity and respect for diversity: Strengthening early transitions in Peru (Working Paper 56, by Patricia Ames, Vanessa Rojas and Tamia Portugal).
Reducing violence in young children’s lives is one BvLF's three strategic goals - and an issue we have been working on in Juarez, Mexico, for over three years. Today we join the chorus of praise for Martha Rivera, a kindergarten teacher from Monterey (a city in Mexico as afflicted by drugs violence as Juarez) who is being honoured in Mexico for the way in which she kept the children in her class safe and calm during a deadly gun battle between drug gangs going on right outside of the school. The video below has already been seen over 200,000 times on YouTube.
Her actions illustrate the important role adults can play in protecting young children from violence and limiting the influence of that violence on their development. Our programmes in Brazil and Israel also focus on finding out more about how societal violence effects young children and what adults and society at large can do to limit the impact of that violence on the development of young children.
Amal Elsana Alhjooj and Hagit Damri of the Hagar bilingual school - a partner of the Bernard van Leer Foundation in Israel, where children from Jewish and Arab backgrounds learn together - recently visited the United States on an informational and fundraising tour.
You can read about the background to the visit on the Hagar website, and local accounts of their meetings in Tacoma in Soundly Jewish, and in Los Angeles in the Jewish Journal. For a short introduction to Hagar's work (subtitled in English), see the below video.
As part of our work to highlight the effects of violence on children growing up in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, we funded an independent journalist named Jean Friedman-Rudovsky whose article was picked up by the Village Voice Media and published in a number of their newspapers around the United States as part of the "Amongst U.S." series on immigration. You can read the report here. The "Amongst U.S." series has now won the 2010 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.
The cycle of violence in the Israeli conflict goes something like this: Violence leads to trauma, trauma leads to revenge, and revenge leads to violence. In adolescent girls, these feelings are most acute and result in action. In very young children where there is no difference in the effects of witnessing or experiencing violence, the brain matter is developed in accordance to the level of violence the child experiences: The more trauma, the thicker the brain stem becomes, and the less space there is for cortical, limbic development, which moderates primitive behaviour. Read more
Professor Nathaniel Laor delivered the Van Leer Lecture at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in Philadelphia on Sunday April 10th. You can read more about the research on which Professor Laor's lecture was based in a press release from the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Teachers-based Intervention Provides Stress Resistance in War-Exposed Children.