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Early Childhood Development is crucial to creating opportunities for children and to shaping the prospects of society as a whole The Bernard van Leer Foundation, established in 1949, is based in the Netherlands. We actively engage in supporting early childhood development activities in around 40 countries. Our income is derived from the bequest of Bernard van Leer, a Dutch industrialist and philanthropist, who lived from 1883 to 1958. Our vision is of a world that respects the rights, dignity and equality of children, their families and communities; a world that enables young children to develop their innate potential to the full. Our mission is to improve opportunities for vulnerable children younger than eight years old, growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. Our experience, and that of our partners, supports our conviction that families are, in principle, children’s first and best carers and teachers. Children are part of a community and a wider social environment. Each culture has a rich heritage to share and invaluable resources to pass on to its children.

Building on people’s strengths is a guiding principle in our work. We therefore promote the development of local capacity, local ownership and working in partnership. We take a holistic approach to young children’s development, addressing a range of issues that include education, health, and nutrition. The Foundation also endeavours to strengthen the circles of support around each child as well as advocating for young children’s rights and for their voices to be heard.

Programme development and grantmaking The Bernard van Leer Foundation currently supports about 150 major projects for young children in both developing and industrialised countries. These projects operate in a variety of contexts, with a rich diversity of approaches. Our funding is guided by geographical priorities, but we also focus on specific themes. Projects are implemented by local actors which may be public, private or community-based organisations.

Among the groups of disadvantaged children we try to reach, special attention is given to: • children growing up in diverse and multicultural societies; • indigenous children; • migrant, refugee or internally displaced children; • children of single or teenage parents; • children in conflict or disaster-stricken areas; • children affected by hiv/aids.

We fulfil our mission through two interdependent strategies: •

Making grants and supporting programmes for culturally and contextually appropriate approaches to early childhood development;

Sharing knowledge and expertise in early childhood development, with the aim of informing and influencing policy and practice.

The projects we support seek to improve the quality of care and education for young children, by, for instance: • focusing on the home environment and the community; • seeking to enhance parenting skills; • upgrading the quality of early childhood development programming; • engaging in public education and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable children.

For information on our funding principles and criteria, please refer to our website: We also have available a separate information sheet on funding.

Children hold the key to the future Lasting benefits Investing in young children, and strengthening the circles of support around them, yields many lasting benefits: •

Children benefit through enhanced survival chances, better health, improved social skills and school performance in later years, higher self-esteem and a positive outlook. Parents and caregivers are able to strengthen their capacity to support their children, and can enrich their own self-confidence and motivation. For communities, the gains include greater self-reliance and motivation to take on new tasks, and an improvement in the social fabric of the community itself. This can provide a springboard for wider social change and community development.

For society at large, investing in early childhood can lead, in time, to better performance in the school system, lower delinquency rates, less need for welfare services, and a healthier and better educated population that takes part in productive employment and contributes to the development of society.

Sharing knowledge in early childhood development


Knowledge-sharing can help to inform policy and promote best practice, as well as supporting partner organisations who act as advocates on behalf of young children and their families.

We facilitate and create a variety of products for different audiences about work in the field of early childhood development. We analyse and distil the lessons learned, disseminating these to practitioners, trainers, academics and policy makers. Our products include books, periodicals, visual documentation, and the website.

Documenting, learning and communicating are integral to all that we do. We are committed to systematically sharing the rich variety of knowledge, know-how and lessons learned that emerge from the projects and networks we support. We also encourage and support our partners to document and disseminate their own experience.

A list of our publications is available on request, or on our website: Contact details

Our Resource Centre houses an early childhood development library as well as a collection of programme-related materials. Visits by appointment are welcomed. Photos courtesy of: César Vigo Vargas, Jim Holmes, Paula Nimpuno-Parente, Parke Wayiswa, Sevil Üzrek, Colin Nicholas, Raúl Martínez de Cevallos and María Angelica Kotliarenco © Bernard van Leer Foundation. Design and production: Homemade Cookies BV, The Hague, The Netherlands 04/03

The Bernard van Leer Foundation P.O. Box 82334, 2508 EH The Hague Visiting address: Eisenhowerlaan 156 The Netherlands Telephone +31 (070) 331 22 00 Fax +31 (070) 350 23 73 E-mail:

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About the Bernard van Leer Foundation and Early Childhood Development.