The Anouk Foundation adds light and spirit via music and art to health institutions across Europe. It is celebrating a prestigious humanitarian honour that it hopes will help to expand its life-enhancing work. The Foundation, which creates soothing environments for children and adults in hospitals, special needs centres and nursing homes, has received the prestigious 2012 Clarins Prize for the impact of its work, lifting the spirits of those in need.

“It was a moment of great honour and strong motivation for the whole Anouk Foundation,” says the charity’s co-founder Vanessa von Richter.

Across Europe the charity’s team of artists decorate and enliven the walls of health care institutions in a highly personalized and subtle way, focusing on the individual needs of the young and old via uplifting decor and arts across each building and, even beyond, in each corridor, room, nook and cranny…

However, the foundation has been recognised by Clarins for the impact of its work that goes beyond mere bricks, mortar and paint. The charity uplifts people’s spirit, breaking down the barriers and fear that are often present in such institutions and clinical settings.

“For us it is very much to bring a lightness into a place which is threatening, because you don’t know exactly what is going to happen; you are away from home, you are away from everything that is familiar to you. People are possibly even poking around on you, in you, asking you questions, it hurts… Just to help in those moments of insecurity of fear… We work in old people’s homes where people feel also they were pushed aside, forgotten. They lose orientation. Because we work a lot in Alzheimer and dementia home wards.”

There are other, added benefits to the creativity and art Anouk Foundation brings to the health institutions.  “People say now since [a space] has been decorated, not only friends and family come to visit more often and stay longer but also people from different floors also visit. That ward which is closed off is less taboo. So it is all about creating, for us, an environment that is more welcoming.”

The charity’s founders have anecdotes about the often quite dramatic impact of their artists’ creative and therapeutic work. One child who had been anxious about going to the hospital for chemo treatments was appeased after the charity revamped the centre into a more comforting environment. Another child in an orphanage stopped having nightmares once the child-friendly decor with animals was introduced.

Anouk currently works in 12 countries, mainly across Europe, but there is a universal need for the charity’s approach, especially in public institutions. The foundation was launched in 2008 in Geneva, with a mission to improve the experiences of those in hospitals, retirement homes, and other specialist centres.

Supported by fundraisers, philanthropists and volunteers as well as partner organisations, it’s a simple strategy that is based on an individual approach to the needs of each location and that is developed holistically and with great care and attention to enhance the experiences of patients and their families. Even the health care teams provide input.

“Everything is individual, explains Beatriz Aristimuno, co-founder. “Nothing is pre-painted. We adapt to the needs of every single room, wall, on a case-by-case basis. We add an element of joy and a soothing environment, it becomes another factor to make the treatments work.” The warm and reassuring environment, using colour therapy and other simple techniques as well as music, have a profound effect and impact. 

So far the Anouk Foundation has completed 53 projects in 43 medical institutions in 12 countries. The projects are supported by donors and are tax deductible. Its latest mission is the surgery ward at the Bambino Gesú Children’s Hospital in Rome.

Congratulations to Anouk Foundation for having received the Clarins Prize and for its uplifting work that makes all the difference in the world to those who need comfort most.

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