Global ARCH / Member Spotlight  / Neistinn‘s Children’s Heart Foundation in Iceland

Neistinn‘s Children’s Heart Foundation in Iceland

I’m a mother of two, my daughter who is about to turn 15 has a complex congenital heart defect and has had several heart operations throughout her life at Children’s hospital in Boston.

When I was pregnant with her and found out that she had CHD, I immediately started to look if there was a community where we could seek support and that’s when I got to know Neistinn. There, I immediately received invaluable help and support during a difficult time. I knew then that I wanted to help others when I had the strength to do so. I became a part of the organization after her first operation as a board member, then Chairman and today I am the only employee of the organization. My top goal for Neistinn is that all parents of children with congenital heart defect will know that they can contact us and get the help they need.

Neistinn‘s  Children’s Heart Foundation in Iceland was founded in 1995 by a group of parents. Neistinn’s goal is to make medical information for parents regarding children with congenital heart defects readily available, as well as upholding parents’ rights to assistance. Both can require a lot of translation and interpretation for the parents as procedures, as well as some words and concepts, can be hard to understand, especially when you are dealing with the shock of learning about what awaits your child. Neistinn also runs an endowment fund to support heart families financially.

Neistinn helps families who have children with a congenital heart defect; educates them about what lies ahead and supports them socially and financially. Since we are a small nation, no surgical heart operations on children are performed in Iceland and therefore all children who need such an operation have to go abroad to have them. The children either go to Lund in Sweden or Boston in the USA.

It can be very difficult for these families to be away in a foreign country, away from their family and friends for a long time, and to deal with the stress of having their child operated on along with the financial stress that inevitably is a part of the package. We put a lot of effort into trying our best to prepare and support them for the task ahead. We counsel the parents and connect them with other families that have children with the same defect or similar. Since we are a parent organization, we understand what others are going through and can guide them through our experience. We organize events for families and events that are just for the parents so they can get to know each other and find support in other families who have been through the same thing as them.

You can find Neistinn on Facebook and on Instagram.

Frida Arnardóttir

Nahimeh Jaffar 

Nahimeh Jaffar has worked as a certified Project Manager (PMP) in various fields, including Public Health, Biotech, and Pharmaceuticals, working within clinical settings such as hospitals and clinics. In addition, she worked with global communities in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, supporting various social impact projects. Ms. Jaffar has been involved in preventive health initiatives in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control (CDC, USA) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, USA).


Ms. Jaffar holds an MBA in Business Development from the Swiss Institute of Higher Management, Vevey, Switzerland, and a bachelor’s degree in Consumer Affairs from California State University, Northridge, USA.

Amy Verstappen, President

Amy Verstappen has been a patient advocate and health educator since 1996, when her own challenges living with a complex heart defect led her to the Adult Congenital Heart Association, where she served as president from 2001 to 2013. She has served as an advisor to the Centers for Disease Control the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and the International Society for Adult Congenital Cardiac Disease, and worked with congenital heart patient and professional groups throughout the USA and the world.  Ms. Verstappen received a Masters in Education in 1990 and a Masters in Global Health in 2019.