And this is how it all started…..

The founder of the Self-help Network Southeast Brabant foundation is Joke de Haas. At this moment she is involved as an advisor for the Self-help Network and as a member of the Self-help Board. She still knows exactly how it all started. This is her story.

‘Ín the mid-eighties Hans and Hetty Flaman from the AA were looking for one of their members for a self-help group dealing with the issues around incest. During their search  they encountered all kinds of groups. But not the one they were looking for. Then Hans brought together all the self-help groups that were known at that time and the result was the initiative group Self-help Network Eindhoven Kempenland, which I also joined as a member. After more than 6 years of negotiations, Hans and Hetty gave up but I continued to try to get something off the ground. In September 1990 the Self-help Network (ZHNW) Eindhoven Kempenland Foundation was born, thanks to the municipality of Eindhoven’.

Meetings in the living room

‘Next to the subsidy, the non-subsidised self-help and patient organisations were given copying and dispatching facilities. At the start we had 8 groups connected. The office? It was my spare room; my living room was used as group- and meeting room. Thus it was important to find a location. We got the support from a Board of Advice. This board consisted of employees from the mental health care sector (GGZ), addiction care, social care, a GP, a notary and a banking director. The chairman was a public servant from the municipality. Thanks to this board the doors to the institutions opened slightly. After a lot of deliberations with the Municipal Health Services (GGD), the municipality of Eindhoven and various patient organisations, approval was granted by the municipality of Eindhoven in 1993 for the Pand Informele Zorg (Informal Care Building)’.

And it began to grow

‘The ZNHW was able to grow as of that moment and spread its wings from Eindhoven Kempenland to Southeast Brabant with a subsidiary location in Helmond. From the entire country queries came in to support the creation of self-help initiatives. The foundation Kenniscentrum Zelfhulp (Knowledge Center Self-help) was founded to find funding for new initiatives. The Province of North Brabant freed up finances to create supporting points Self-help in North Brabant and some board members of the ZHNW took part in the Kenniscentrum Zelfhulp. At this moment ZHNW facilitates and supports104 groups and organisations.

After a while the workgroup Ervaringsdeskundigheid (Experience Expertise) asked whether they could join the Kenniscentrum.  After some consultation the Kenniscentrum Zelfhulp en Ervaringsdeskundigheid was created. The ZHNW withdrew after a few years from the Kenniscentrum, because  this center was mainly focusing on the experience expertise.’

The questions kept coming

‘At its twentieth anniversary the Board of Advice was dissolved. By that time we were quite capable of setting out the path by ourselves. The questions kept on coming in at the ZHNW because the supporting points Self-help in North Brabant also withdrew from the Kenniscentrum. Originating from the collaboration and support of the joint supporting points, the idea had emerged to create a Zelfhulp Nederland (Self-help Netherlands). Other regions joined in; there were discussions with Weert, Almere, Groningen, Ede-Wageningen and Nijmegen. Zelfhulp Nederland i.o. is now active and together with the Fontys Hogeschool and Movisie we are currently collaborating to get Zelfhulp integrated into the national policy frameworks.’

Raad van de Zelfhulp (Board of the Self-help)

‘As my departure caused that there were no more self-help people having a seat in the board of the ZHNW, it has been decided to form the Board of the Self-help. The board consists of seven persons: an independent chairman and 6 contact persons from the self-help groups. The main task of the Board is to ensure that the board takes the right decisions to convey the essence of Self-help. Furthermore, the board is co-responsible for substantive questions around self-help. Where necessary, the members contribute ideas to enhance the expertise of the contact persons of the groups.’