Influencer Dioröna Spaans

Interview May 2023.

Could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in Curaçao 25 years ago, my father is Dutch and my mother is from Curaçao. I grew up as an only child, but I do have two half-brothers and one half-sister. I am unmarried and I have no children. When I was 12 years old, I went to live with my mother as my parents divorced. I went to study in Holland at an early age, I was only 16 years old. It is important to mention that, as the only child in a family, one is often alone, but I grew up in a very caring environment with lots of caretakers, giving meaning to the African proverb: “It takes a village to educate a child”. I had lots of friends, and my extended family was big consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Both my parents in their unique way played an important role in who I have become. My mother is more of a free spirit type of person, let life be as it comes and go with the Flow. If you don’t make it the first time, there will another possibility to make it happen. My father is a very rational person and pressed me to go after and achieve results. He taught me to go after my dreams and go after my degrees. I have the mindset of both my parents, which has created a balance in my well-being.

Could you share something about your educational background and your experience? Where do you work at this moment?
I came to Holland to study Social Work when I was 16 years old and after graduating, I decided to expand my knowledge and continued studying. I graduated last year in the Social-Judicial direction, as I loved mastering this subject matter. This could help improve services, including legal services, for those studying. I was brainstorming with my study coordinator at my school on my thesis and I expressed my desire to work on something related to the youth with a Caribbean background and this topic came up.

I loved it and did this study as an assignment from Hogeschool InHolland, which is my employer where I work at this moment. The coordinator loved the idea, based on my personal experiences and background, coming to Holland. Based on my thesis, In-Holland recruited me in September 2022 and made me responsible to implement the suggestions. So I just started working.

As a community manager, I have created a network, that offers social help to students with a Caribbean migration background, or that have language issues and we offer workshops. Expanding the social safety net and platforms where students can meet each other and undertake joint activities. There is a great need for this as students are relatively lonely. Myself, I had regular contact via my phone with people daily with no physical contact meeting them, as I was studying.

During my first years in Holland, I did have contact with some classmates, but these contacts were superficial as they were not from the Caribbean and as we have had a different upbringing and don’t talk about the same things. I could not connect, even on small things like humor for example.

Did you read the book ‘De zeven vinkjes’, written by Joris Luyendijk? In this book, he describes how difficult it was to get connected with colleagues while working at The Guardian. Most of these colleagues have been at Cambridge or Oxford and he experienced exclusion from this group.
Yes, I have, recently. I was shocked because I didn’t comply with any of the ‘7 vinkjes’. For me, it was an eye-opener. When I arrived in Holland I was 16 years old, which was much younger than the average student. But it was at this age that one develops an identity, which is very important. I went to study in Utrecht and all my fellow students were white and I couldn’t identify myself with them. I experienced an identity crisis as I had two choices, either connect and integrate completely with my fellow students or stay connected with people that I know from back home even if it was only possible via the telephone. On a personal, social and mental level there is a lot on your plate to deal with.

We know you have to make a study on the challenges students encounter when they study in Holland. How did you get involved?
I am a student with a Caribbean migration background myself, and I am doing my work with a lot of passion. I look at the challenges and solutions, with an emphasis on the solution. There are so many things that one can do.

There is so much ignorance, and lack of awareness of what new students are dealing with when they arrive at the different organizations, and institutions that these students need to deal with. It is not discerned nor understood, they are seen as Dutch citizens because they have a Dutch passport, and they are seen as Dutch students that need to know or can find out everything by themselves. When you make them aware it is an eye-opener and surprise. When you don’t know there is not so much you can do.  This was an eye-opener for me, so I concluded that I needed to focus and work on lowering this ignorance and lack of understanding.

When I was a student I had a different perception of the students and teachers, now I know that they don’t know. Once you raise their understanding you see that their willingness to adapt and be a little bit more considerate changes, as they then know that there are different types of students in their classrooms. Being late by a student of Caribbean descent could be explained when asked why it happened, because of the student not knowing how public transportation works. With this insight teachers can start a different type of dialogue with the student and the students need to be taught some tips and tops, some tools as they prepare and arrive in Holland.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now? And why is it that you want to find ways and means to contribute?
Being an experienced expert myself, this subject is very close to my heart. If I can come as far as I have come, others are also able to be successful. My BIG WHY is how can I help and contribute to the success of others. In one single conversation, I could mention 10 different things that happened to me and what to do in case it happens to them so that they preferably can prevent things from happening. That would make their lives so much easier.

What are your plans for the coming years for the coming 5 years from now?
Hard to tell as life has a tendency to surprise you and unfolds differently at times than you planned. These surprises are also opportunities, so it is ok to be surprised at times by life events. If I pointed out something, I would say: passionately coaching young adults so that they can move from A to B and achieve their goals. That is the crux of the path that I want to follow. Personal development and the mental health of our youth are very important elements. That is what I want to be doing in the next 5 years.

I am so grateful to have traits of both my parents, following the middle ground and not falling into extremes of either over-planning or being too flexible. I am using those elements that are important to me.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
My thesis triggered a lot of unexpected responses in the media forcing me to make some choices, like in which parts I want to dig in deeper, where to draw boundaries, learning that “no” is also an answer, my original enthusiasm to wanting to do everything forced me at a certain moment to make choices in those parts that I liked and those that I didn’t like. What are the things that inspire me and what are the things that expire me? Especially as people expect more from me and that what I do, will be better.

It was an intense learning process, that wasn’t easy, but a blessing in a way, but I learned a lot the hard way. It affected me as it has been an overwhelming experience because I am a low-key humble person that keeps my emotions to myself and people don’t easily discern when I am struggling, and now I was suddenly doing a lot of interviews with the media in Holland and Curaçao. I didn’t know that a lot of people close to me, that appreciated me a lot initiated this to reach as many people as possible and to create more understanding and sensitivity among each other. Now after I have gone through this roller coaster, I want to reap what has been sewn.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up?
I am a sensitive person. In the end, I take decisions based on my intuition. But first I make my list of pros and cons. Early on I made decisions based on my ratio and that didn’t make me happy. Of late I use my gut feeling more often and that has been very helpful to me. I have a strong intuition.

How does that work for you?
I start with ratio. I make my list of pros and cons and visualize the outcome. I talk with some people and this adds to my insights, as in the very beginning I am very short-sighted I have noticed. After that, I start an inner dialogue with myself usually. It is combined with physical symptoms, when I feel that I should not to do something, like sweating, stomach ache, and a feeling that it doesn’t feel right. That can be very confrontational. Like you make a choice and rationally it seems too good to be true and nothing can go wrong and after a while, you regret your choice as you have dismissed your intuition. 

How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skill levels?
I am applying the knowledge I gained by studying over all these years and discovering what works and what doesn’t work for me and all my clients. Learning by doing, that you don’t learn from the books. I follow master classes and webinars on personal development. I practice yoga, meditate, and journal a lot on my personal development, they are all parts of my daily routines to get to the core of whom I am and know myself better.

What are your strengths?
I am very good at adjusting myself to people and situations. I am good at connecting with the youth and young adults, as I understand their world and I am good at focusing on the other person. Lots of people in a conversation react to other people based on their own experiences. I am very aware of this trap. I am very capable to put my own experiences aside and I can share this, if this would be useful, or if I was asked to share these. I am interested to understand the problem so that we can go deeper. I want to know what is wrong and be in the best possible position to give advice that is customized.

I know so many tools but I ask myself what this person needs and we will continue to explore until we find what works for you.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I love reading books. I can get passionate when a book is interesting. I just read a book about a police officer sharing her experience on duty. My half-sister is also a police officer. I read the books looking for lessons to be learned like a part where the life of illegal prostitutes is described. Or another book titled ‘My Life in the hell’. It’s about a 19-year-old girl from England, that had a difficult upbringing of being beaten and misused by her father, is recruited based on a newspaper advertisement, to come to Amsterdam and work as a children’s attendant and is high jacked at gunpoint and stripped from her passport, cell phone and ends up working as a prostitute in The Hague and given in to drugs use, disconnecting the mind and the body. In the end, she manages to escape, but her life because of all her trauma doesn’t improve. It teaches me what is going on in the world. Some books are beautiful stories some horror stories.

It makes me aware that if I meet 10 people on a bus, all of them will have their own stories. And that I should show more empathy and understanding towards my fellow human being.

If you Dioröna would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in New York or Quito Ecuador) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I come from a warm island, warm in the sense of the weather and the people. I will tell them that I come from Curaçao and that I like traveling, discovering new things, get to know new cultures and new ways how people get along with each other. I will pitch them to pay a visit to Curaçao.

How would you describe Dioröna in one word or one sentence?
I am a trustworthy, caring young lady that is persistent in doing what I think is important and close to my core values.

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My parents, friends, family, everybody that I meet. All have contributed, not one person per se. 

I am a role model in a certain sense being the oldest grandchild and the first who went to Holland to study. I got a lot of inspiration from the support from the family, but I have also inspired them.

What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
Drawing clear boundaries for myself. Don’t give all of myself, to help others at my own expense. I am working on this. I am beginning to understand that if I treat myself well, I will be in a better position to help others. It requires planning more ‘Me-Time’.

It is a challenge to do everything on your own, as it can be boring, lonely, and stupid on the one hand. But there is a paradox in wanting to have more Me-Time and enjoying more time with myself alone because I am a people person. I love being among other people, preferably the whole day.

What was a defining moment in your life?
When I moved to Holland when I was 16 years old. I have had some great experiences, and my struggles and pain, were necessary for me to grow through them.  My life would have been completely different if I have opted to stay in Curaçao.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
That I am someone that has started to love myself and also those around me, more and more. That I have this urge, passion, and life mission to be there for others and teach them something so that we can create a better world. That I contributed to making the world a better place. That I am a caring person, I am always available when needed, that is trustworthy, and is staying close to her core values. That I am pursuing my dreams and that I am persistent in everything that I consider important.
That I can enjoy life to the fullest and I can enjoy the small things of life (I hope to be doing this more).

What makes you stay optimistic about the future?
Concerning my personal development, I will continue to grow. If I look back 8 years from now and look at where I have come to where I am now, my development has been insane. In the coming 8 years I will have for sure some more special experiences. I can choose and do things that I like to do, while I will stay close to my core values. Following my path, that is freedom. My generation can make her own choices independently from our parents or the society wants us to do. I cherish the fact and appreciate the freedom that I have to be able to listen to my inner voice and follow my dreams. That makes me optimistic about the future.

Connect with Dioröna Spaans
Read the thesis: Studiando na Hulanda.

One of the 250 Influencers

Dioröna Spaans is a passionate, curious, caring, trustworthy, dedicated mentor & coach. Using her ability to adjust to people and situations, connecting with youth and young adults, and customizing her advice are one of the things that make her unique. Following the middle road of rational thinking from her left brain and intuition and creativity from her right brain, developed through her upbringing from her parents, helped her form a balanced personality. Being an experienced expert, as she overcame an identity crisis when she arrived in Holland for her studies when she was 16 years old, has let her discover her passion, which is helping students of Dutch Caribbean origin on the one hand and organizations and institutions at the other hand become aware of cultural differences. Her drive to continue to grow personally, while staying close to her core values, appreciating her freedom to make her own choices and follow her dreams, is letting her become her best self. All these above-mentioned traits make her an excellent mediator and bridge builder between people from different cultural backgrounds, as she is also determined to serve and contribute to the success of others. Because of this, we consider Dioröna one of the 250 Influencers of the Dutch Caribbean, representing the Educational and Coaching Sector.  Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now. 

The goal of the core group of Share2Uplift for 2023

The goal of the Share2Uplift movement is to: “Identify 250 leaders from all walks of life to connect, align and create impactful changes in all walks of life, which includes intergenerational collaboration by the end of 2022.” We will use interviewing Influencers, meet-and-greet events, “train-the-trainers”-programs on “Emotional Mastery” and “Intentionality “as national intervention strategies, to reach this goal on top of our goal to scale up the possibilities to connect, align and create impact via a virtual platform. We believe that by collaborating with Miguel Goede on the virtual Vision 2030 platform, we will accelerate the possibilities to connect the diaspora and others elsewhere in the world and on the island willing to constructively create impactful changes in Curaçao, to join.

As Share2Uplift, we are fully trying to align with this thinking of Center for Curriculum Redesign to promote this agenda in our educational systems and workplace. So, in that sense, we fully support any initiative to make our educational system 21st-century proof.

Share2Uplift aligners are those that:
– Create an inspiring vision of the future;
– Motivate and inspire people to engage with that vision;
– Manage the delivery of the vision;
– Coach and build a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision. These criteria are now being polished.

We also consider these 5 values the most important ones for Share2Uplift aligners. They are:

• Peace from within;
• Compassion;
• Respectfulness;
• Integrity;
• Responsibility.

As we will progress towards this goal, we will update you on the progress.

Personal Coaching Tips

This week we will share some videos on ‘Culture Shock’. We will upload one of these videos every day on our page.

Culture Shock – YouTube

Seminar: Stages of Cultural Shock – YouTube

Culture Shock and The Cultural Adaptation Cycle [What It Is and What to Do About It] – YouTube

Studying abroad: culture shock – YouTube

Cultural differences – From all over the world… to Italy! – YouTube

The importance of intercultural awareness | Mynd & Testo – YouTube

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