Anja and Leon take care of Finn (2) like a family next door, so Mum can relax: “They’ve already been called Grandpa and Grandma”

Last year they didn’t know each other yet, and now they are called Grandpa and Grandma by Finn. Anja and Leon take care of a two-year-old boy one day a week. Both the couple and his overburdened mother benefit greatly from this. “It enriches us.”

Every Friday, Finn is visited by Anja and Leon van der A from Eindhoven. It is one of many matches resulting from the Neighborhood Families initiative. The concept is simple: families in need of support are matched with a stable family in the neighborhood. This family takes care, on a voluntary basis, one or more days a week of a child from a family in difficulty.

“Keeps you young”

Families live not far from each other. For example, Finn lives with his mother, Diet Hendrix, a few hundred meters from Anja and Leon. However, they did not know each other before they were paired up. But that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment the older couple gets from each visit from Finn.

“She yields a lot. We have our hands full with her, but she makes a very comfortable home.” “And that keeps us young,” Anja adds. “Now we know all the children’s songs and TV series: we are well informed.”

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The couple also thinks it’s OK to mean something to someone else. “You are helping someone.” So they also take care of two other children every Thursday. They came from two other families who turned to the neighborhood families for help.

Aside from the gratitude Anja and Leon receive in return, they also find it helpful. The two say you see this especially when stable families have their kids. “Children see that things can be done differently. They especially learn that not everything that is obvious to them is obvious to others,” Lyon says.

divorce or surgery

Buurtgefamilies founder Leontine Bibo says the home situations of families in difficulty can vary greatly. For example, there may be divorce or stress, but there are also situations in which a parent can provide less care because of the process.

With mom Diet Hendrix, the need to seek help in the neighborhood had another reason. With all the obligations surrounding him, caring for Finn as a single mother is challenging at times.

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Single mother

“I’m a single mom. My parents live in France, so you guys don’t just go there,” she says. “Fenn already has a treat for grandpa, grandma, uncle and aunt where he can go, but this is an hour away. This is great for planned weekends, but not for the sharp stuff.”

Anja and Leon’s help comes at the right time. “It’s the support system in my upbringing that I need right now. It gives me more space for things I don’t have time for or if I’m sick, for example. From pole to pole.”

Little break

As a single mom, you’re all in 1, she says. “The animation team, the technical service, the chef and I have my job. In other words: you’re always working. And it’s so nice to be able to come back to a warm and loving place in the area.”

A single mother takes advantage of the available time to relax. “Friday afternoon is a break for me. I really need that to still be a nice mom.”

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Help from specialists

Leontine Bibo started the Neighborhood Family in 2015. According to her, the initiative can prevent problems in families from getting out of control. Her motto is “You don’t have to be a scholar to help each other.”

We often seek help from professionals, but in many cases it is not necessary, she says. “It has to change,” she criticizes the “overestimation of professional aid workers.” “Problems are part of life, but you don’t immediately need someone who has studied them.”


“Most problems start small,” she explains. “Youth care only comes when problems get out of control. But we help when the domestic situation gets stuck.”

By linking a stable family with a family in need, you prevent the situation from worsening, says Bebo, who is now active in more than 100 municipalities on her initiative. “We don’t need big systems with protocols. I believe in decentralization: residents for residents.”

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home after dinner

Anyway, Diet Hendrix is ​​very happy to support the older couple. This is mutual. The single mother still remembers the letter she received when Finn first stayed with Anja and Leon.

“I remember very well that they sent me a letter that day. Finn won’t be returned until after dinner.”

Grandpa and Grandma will stay for your life.

If it were up to “Grandpa and Grandma” Anja and Leon, they would remain a supportive family to other families in trouble for a long time to come.

“Until we can’t, we’ll keep doing it. They’ll be Grandpa and Grandma your whole life.”

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