Digital, self-guided mental health program

Resilient youth and parents
24 June 2021

‘Build your own Buddy’ (BoB) is a group-program for mental health and psychosocial support (MH-PSS) of children, with a parallel program for parents/caregivers, to increase their resilience. TNO is now running a study how to transform this face-to-face program into a digital self-guided package for teachers . With this ‘BoB package’, far more teachers and children will be able to benefit from the program.

For children aging 5-12 years

Photo credits: Thaki

The ‘BoB package’ teaches children how to recognize and handle intense emotions and enhances teachers’ knowledge of psycho-trauma and emotions in general, so that they can provide an environment for children, adaptive to their mental health needs. We target teachers and vulnerable children in elementary education, approximately aged 5 to 12 years of age.

In this new project we target children in Lebanon: Syrian and Palestinian refugee children and children from host communities living in hardship, bearing the heavy weight of their difficult circumstances.

Investment for life

Psycho-trauma has detrimental effects on the neurobiological, emotional and social development of children. Children growing up with Adverse Childhood Experiences or living under violent, war or refugee conditions, stand a high risk of mental and behavioral problems, lower school achievements, risk behavior, delinquency, etc.

Children, and especially young children, are often overlooked in this respect because people believe they are ‘too young to understand’, while they also face other challenges such as loneliness, lack of secure attachment, unsafety and abuse. Later in life, children with unaddressed psychosocial problems are more likely to become revictimized or perpetrator of violence themselves. Research shows that specific interventions for children help, and the sooner and earlier, the better. It is an investment for life.

Digital tool

Currently, children in conflict areas have no or limited access to science-based interventions that enhance their resilience, caused by poor health literacy, a lack of resources and of trained professionals.

Professionals often depend on face-to-face training from NGO’s and need to travel to receive this. In addition the education in developing countries often lacks continuity or varies in time being able to spend with children or prioritize psychosocial support.

We now aim to bridge this gap by transforming the science based ‘Build your own buddy’ into a digital, flexible and self-guided ‘Bob-package’ for elementary school teachers and children.

Tested in South Sudan

TNO has already pioneered and tested the face-to-face ‘Build your own Buddy’ program in South Sudan. In 11 sessions, children learn from trained counsellors, to recognize and deal with emotions through the stories of ‘Bob the hare’. In each story, Bob uses another strategy to become calm and in control.

By a variety of exercises children physically experience the different strategies and increase self-confidence to use them in practice and strengthen resilience. Parents follow a parallel program.

Innovation of this program into a digital self-guided ‘Bob-package’could make it more accessible, sustainable, affordable/free and generate a larger impact.


This project is a close collaboration between NGO Thaki, TNO and RVO. TNO is owner of ‘Build your own Buddy’ and aims to scale up the use and impact. Thaki is a Dutch non-profit organization operating in Lebanon and Jordan, and providing its digital platform for teachers and vulnerable children. RVO is the Netherlands Enterprise Agency that financially supports the technical and economic feasibility study.

This TNO project supports the following sustainable development goal

Good Health and Well-Being

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