Principles and methodology

Happiness offer positive action in the structural surroundings of the child, allows children to be a child, and express themselves non-verbally. This is about offering children the opportunity to develop healthily from their own strength. In this manner we are working on prevention. 

Happiness maintains five principles. On the basis of these principles we develop and evaluate programmes. Research has shown that these five principles are in line with the needs of the children and teenagers in asylum-seekers centers. We don’t ‘help’ but provide opportunities and chances. The instruments we offer with art and creativity are ‘keys’. The children and youth ‘open the door’ themselves. The five principles are central in developing and evaluating each activity.

1. The environment and atmosphere are light and goals are modest. We try to create positive experiences which connect to the child’s perspective of the world.

2. We want to make it clear that we are there for each child. We do not promise what we cannot deliver. We do what we promise. For these children it is important that you are present and that you are predictable.

3. Our activities are structured and our communication is clear so that the child can feel safe to share experiences and feelings. We value continuity, structure in programmes, individual spaces and space not to participate.

4. We trust in the resilience of each child and invest in the positive side of their stories.

5. There is space for everyone’s individuality, expressed through art and creativity. We offer opportunities and instruments (assignments and materials) to create form. Yet, there is never a ‘must’.  Recognition, giving form and not necessary telling, adding their own culture is central.

Methodologies and project examples
Through the years we have developed a large number of methodologies for each activity. In First Aid for Vrolijkheid you find a description of our main methodology. It's also shared through training and special workshops.

Some examples are given here:

Storytelling tent
"The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is ravaged by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise. But the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us -for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.” Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize receipient speech, 10 December 2007.
Two basic components of this workshop are the storytelling tent and the storytelling stone. The tent is a light, colourful tent which will give a concrete face to the workings of a story. The tent offers safety, structure and a cozy atmosphere. In the tent the children listen to stories from different cultures, which a mentor tells. Telling stories together is also important. Each child makes his or her own book.

Farewell project “Memory”
Children who have fled and are received somewhere in Europe, often still have to move from place to place. For children this is often a lot; you leave comfort behind, say goodbye to your friends and embark on a new future. This farewell project consists of ten creative workshops in which children work on personal memorabilia; of a memory of a place they have left behind and of people they have had to say goodbye to. The project begins and ends with a day of celebrations. From start to finish they work their way to becoming a safe and trustworthy group in which children have the space to express themselves.

Teenagers to us are those who are older than 15. For them, Happiness has a special approach to the methodologies of the activities. Teenagers in asylum-seekers centers are people with talent, opportunities and chances. Looking for a place in the world, to their own identity with a strong need to recognize themselves in a group and feel at home. Just as all other teenagers, they look to the future full of energy to discover the world and full of ideals to change things. The following approaches have developed from our experience with teenagers throughout the years.

  • Let teenagers formulate their own needs and goals
  • Always approach teenagers positively, focussing on opportunities and chances
  • Work in phases, start with the building of trust and gradually work towards participation in external projects
  • Work to create individual expressions and styles
  • Work with good and realistic examples
  • Work with set frequency
  • Be sound and trustworthy
  • Work towards building a group in which safety and trust is a central theme
  • Focus on a large target group, not excluding any subgroups
  • Choose a personal approach and a combination between local and national offers

Parent-child methodologies
If we want to provide a positive contribution to the lives of children in asylum-seekers centers, then we need to involve their parents. Children cannot be seen as separate from the family they live in (even if not complete). It is invaluable for children to involve the parents. For Happiness this means that there are great chances and also responsibilities.