In 2009 the 4 Smiling Faces Foundation was started by Tjitske Weersma. This is her story:
I am Tjitske Weersma, the founder/initiator of the 4 Smiling Faces Foundation. Setting up the Foundation was never the plan nor the goal. For me it was, is and always will be about the children and what is best for them. All the rest just sort of happened to me. In 2008 I just went to do volunteering in a Nepalese children’s home, not knowing that that would change my life completely from day one.
After years of hard work, in 2008 it was time to broaden my horizon and look beyond borders; I wanted to see how children lived elsewhere in the world. For years Dutch children had been the centre of my working life. Now I wanted to see what the differences and similarities were between children in the Netherlands and children who grew up in a completely different environment. It was the start of an exciting adventure.
Because part of my family history has taken place there, the choice for Asia was an easy one. On many occasions, I was advised to go to Nepal. Why should I ignore good advice? My adventure started in the Disabled Rehabilitation Centre Nepal (DRC), a home for 55 children with a disease or handicap or living with all kinds of family, social and/or economic problems. That was a great experience. Later it became clear: an experience that has enriched my life and given it a totally new dimension.
It soon became clear to me that there could be lots of improvements in living conditions in the DRC. Thanks to support from family, friends, colleagues and working relationships, which continues to date, enough funds have been raised to make significant improvements in the home. In March 2009 I founded the 4 Smiling Faces Foundation to further professionalize all fundraising efforts for the DRC.
The goal was and still is to make the home an even better place to grow up in. I am very proud of the fact I can call myself part of the DRC family. I regard it as the greatest honour that the kids see me as their mother, big sister and/or best friend.
Since 2009, 4 Smiling Faces supports a second children’s home in Kathmandu: the Nepali Woman’s and Children Service Society orphanage (NWCSS). This is a home for 25 to 35 orphaned children, foundlings and former street children aged 0 to 18 years old. After the earthquakes of 2015, a third home was added: the Lotus Family Foundation Nepal, a small home for 14 former street children who were addicted to sniffing glue. Since the beginning of 2016, we also support the Second Home Child Outreach Program. This is an after school program for 26 disadvantaged children from Kathmandu’s suburb Jorpati.
Why I do what I do?
For many children in children’s homes in developing countries life is a huge challenge. They are vulnerable due to lack of help and support from trustworthy adults. This is even more true for children with an illness or disability. I would like to help them increase their resilience and self-reliance. So that they can create opportunities themselves and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. These children deserve to live as independently as possible and break the circle of poverty. With a little help and support from our side, they will succeed. In my youth, I was very lucky to get the help and support that I really needed at that moment. Now, I would like to pay it forward. For me, that would complete the circle. That something beautiful can come from such a dark time. That the bottle is always half full and that we look to the future.