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History: The Holland Office for Personal Encouragement was founded in 1996 (Chamber of Commerce number 04058566). In preceding years visits to Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip were made. The history of the Open Studio is the history of people. It’s about a couple of Dutch people rising against the fundamental injustice that people on the other side of the Mediterranean are subjected to, to- gether with people living ‘under occupation’. Because HOPE is about the story of people we will describe their history. 

Founders: Holland Office for Personal Encouragement was established in 1996. Five people laid the foundations for HOPE.


From The Netherlands: 

Riekus Feyen 

Educationalist and director of Mental Health Care Drenthe was already very well informed about developments in the field of psychological trauma counseling. His sense of justice, his drive, major organizational talent and huge network made him the ideal chairman of the HOPE Foundation. Riekus died in 2010. 

Willem Vugteveen 

Willem Vugteveen was also working at Mental Health Care Drenthe, where he specialized in rehabilitation. In 1994 Willem organized the first trip to Gaza with a number of artists. These first trips were not yet very structured and sooner resembled big, festive statements against the injustice that the local people had to put up with in their daily lives. On the second trip Ingrid Rollema joined the group. After this trip the participants came to the conclusion that although they would continue their efforts, they would set up a structure in which people would be able to work independently. Willem’s main strength lies in his ability to make connections. 

Ingrid Rollema 

Ingrid Rollema is a visual artist and international lawyer. From the very beginning she has been recruiting groups of artists who all contribute their own individual expertise in the fields of photography, dance, music and various kinds of visual art. By mutual agreement the group decided to focus attention on the arts while still asking psychologists to watch from the sidelines and intervene to give children individual counseling whenever necessary. However, the power of art still occupies center stage. Ingrid fully mobilizes her personal network. 

From the Palestine Red Crescent Society:

Dr. Fathi Arafat 

Dr. Fathi Arafat, pediatrician, was President of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society [PRCS], and one of the founders of the Society in 1968. He established a number of hospitals in the Middle East. Dr. Fathi was a warm-hearted man and an art lover who had the gift to kindle enthusiasm in people and to break down boundaries: an innovator.

As a friend of Willem Vugteveen (of HOPE), Dr. Fathi requested Willem’s assistance in setting up a program for traumatized children. Aiming to make the connection between head, heart and matter, he thought of asking a sculptor who worked with basic materials to join the program.

Dr. Fathi Arafat died in 2004. 

Dr. Jean Calder  

Dr. Jean Calder is an educator working with the PRCS in the Khan Younis. She is specialized in working with children with disabilities. Forced to leave Lebanon in 1983, she went to Cairo. In 1995 she moved to Gaza, where she now lives with ‘her’ two adult children [children of PRCS]. Dr. Jean is an Australian national. She immediately saw possibilities in using art to help psychologically traumatized children and together with Dr. Fathi started collaborating with Willem, Riekus and Ingrid to set up the Open Studio. 

Watch: Who is Dr Jean?


Harry Cock and Sake Elzinga
From the very first visit to Gaza Harry Cock and Sake Elzinga were involved in the Open Studio’s development. Harry is involved to this day. He has, for instance, recorded life in Gaza, in photos, over a continuous period of time.

Niek van Nieuwenhuijzen and Gaby Wijzenbeek
Niek and Gaby gave a lot of advice on how to professionalize the HOPE foundation, especially where it concerned music and making the connection with psycho-social problems. They initiated the collaboration with PRCS University College of Ability Development in Khan Younis; and they also contributed their own specific knowledge of art and music therapy. Although the Open Studio uses a very different working method, it is hugely important to continually explore and guard the boundaries. Niek died on 23 November 2013. This was an enormous loss for the Hope Foundation.

In the Netherlands:
The Dutch Red Cross - Stichting de Vrolijkheid
Rosh Abdelfatah - Ibrahim Al-Baz - Khaddouj Barghout - Paul Robbert Bruijninckx - Hekmat Dirbas - Robert Goddyn - Marsel Loermans - Jessy Rahman

In Palestine:
Palestinian Red Crescent - The Palestinian Museum - Shababeek - Tamer Institute
People: Jehad Abu Hattab - Mohammed Al Hawajri - Amal Nasr - Shareef Sarhan - Mohammed Shurrab

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