I am Jan Haarmeyer. I worked as a journalist in Hamburg for 39 years and have been a songwriter of children’s songs for 15 years. In recent years I have written numerous reports and stories about children. Some were controversial, others triggered changes, and others garnered awards. I have held discussions with concerned parents and foster parents, argued with the youth welfare office, and talked with lawyers and experts in the field. And my heart ached with every story that told of children growing up without the benefit of an upbringing characterized by caring and love.
Even though in the last two years of my journalistic activities I was writing about the culture of Hamburg, I still received calls for help from caregivers or reports from single mothers whose children were taken away from them, because the Youth Welfare Office considered them unfit or incapable of bringing up the children. As the father of three and grandfather of seven, this scenario disturbs me to no end.
The concept or idea for a European children’s capital arose two years ago when I was writing about the European Capital of Culture.
Thus was born the idea of a European Children’s Capital. It is like a stone cast into a pool that then sends out larger and larger circles that generate waves—a movement that requires many allies. It is a movement that needs smart and optimistic people who have compassion for and are passionate about the future of Europe’s children.