The organization of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation dates back to 1949 when Bernard Van Leer created the Bernard Van Leer Stiftung in Lucerne, Switzerland. This allowed him to channel the revenues from his fortune to charitable causes after his death. In 1971, the Bernard Van Leer Foundation was legally established as a charitable organization according to Dutch law in The Hague, The Netherlands. It is a private foundation that operates internationally, concentrating its resources on promoting the optimum development of disadvantaged children. It focuses specifically on children up to the age of 8, because research shows that interventions during this period are the most effective in yielding lasting benefits to children and society.
The Bernard Van Leer Foundation accomplishes its objective through two interconnected strategies:
- a grant-making program aimed at developing innovative approaches to early childhood care and development;
- the sharing of knowledge and know-how in the area of early childhod development with the aim of informing and influencing policy and practice.
The Foundation currently supports around 150 major projects in over 40 selected countries, both in the developing and developed world (most are in countries where Royal Packaging Industries Van Leer N.V. used to operate). In addition, the Foundation supports activies in Israel and in a number of countries that are of particular interest for the furthering of its work.
The Foundation's projects are implemented by partners that may be public, private or community-based. Although all projects focus on young children growing up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage, the context in which these projects operate varies greatly. Some are situated in urban slums and shanty towns, others in remote rural areas. They may focus on children belonging to ethnic and cultural minorities; children growing up in multicultural societies; migrant or refugee children; children of single or teenage parents; children in war or conflict stricken areas; or children orphaned by AIDS. They may seek to improve the quality of care and education in daycare centers or other programs for young children, or focus on the home environment with a view to enhancing parenting skills.
The Foundation draws lessons from these field-based experiences and shares its knowledge and know-hw with practioners and policy-makers through publications, audio-visual materials and workshops. The objective is to promote a better understanding of, and new ideas to improve opportunities for, disadvantaged children. When the Foundation was create in the late 1940's its annual budget was a few hundred thousand Dutch Guilders. Today it reaches approximately €25 million. Since its inception, the lives of millions of children around the world have been enriched by the Foundation's activities.
Learn more at the Bernard Van Leer Foundation Website