Youth worker John about his award: ‘This is who I am’

John Nabben receives prize for sheltering young people in his own house
Photo credit: Studio040

John Nabben from Eindhoven has won the Hartenhuis (heart house) Awards for his work in youth care. He has been helping young people in his own home since 2004. A unique concept in youth care.

“I always knew that I wanted to help people”, John Nabben says. He sits in the living room, which is normally used by about five young people. “In the end, I turned out to have a connection with young people, I noticed that I have an influence on what they want to learn”, he says.

On the wall are drawings made over the years by children who lived with him. “Look, if you see this, it could easily be in a comic book, right?”, he explains. He does not look at what young people cannot do, but at what they can do, what they enjoy. “It doesn’t just have to be about things that are difficult”.

Living together

In 2004 he started taking young people into his home. Back then there was a maximum of two, he lived in a smaller house with his partner at the time. The idea was his own and it was a unique way of providing youth care. For him it only had advantages. “I actually enjoy living with them”.

He helps young people with their goals and to become independent. Now he has a larger house through the foundation for even more young housemates, who are placed by youth care. “We specifically selected this house for this purpose”, he says. There are two houses that are adjacent to each other, but on the top floor there is a hall that connects the houses. John and his husband have their own place in it, but it is never possible to clock out completely. John doesn’t mind. “This is who I am. It’s not like you’re on all day”, he explains. “It’s actually part of your life”.


For his work he was rewarded with a prize from Stichting het Vergeten Kind (forgotten child foundation). “That appreciation obviously feels great”, he says. He was crowned the most attentive care provider in the South of the Netherlands. According to the jury, young people are often not heard. It’s different with John. A tailor-made plan is made for each young person or family.

And according to colleague Ellen Brekelmans, that award is justified. “When you see how much he gives to the young people, it is certainly a well-deserved award”. According to her, it is nice for young people to have a regular face they can turn to. “You really have to be an open and warm person to embrace clients in your own life”. And according to her, this does not only apply to young people. She has now been working with John for six months. “The entire team is part of it. He embraces everyone in his home”.


The prize is great, but what he can do for the young people is where he really gets his energy. In total he has already welcomed 87 young people into his home. He is still in touch with some of them. “There is nothing more beautiful than giving a person something they can use. If I can contribute to someone’s happiness or that they can participate in this complicated society, that makes me happy”.

Source: Studio040

Translated by: Bob

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