Influencer Ernestina ‘Tine’ Grigoria-Devid
Interview March 2022
Consistent, structured, amiable and trustworthy
Ernestina, could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in Curaçao as the youngest child in a family where I had 5 brothers (2 passed away) and one sister. I am married and I have one daughter that has studied and now works in Holland, which I am very proud of. Both my parents were born in Surinam. Until today, I have had warm relationships with my siblings and their children, of which 3 were born and live in Surinam. Both my parents were hard workers and although we were neither rich nor poor, we had food on the table every single day and were encouraged to do well at school which paid its fruits as all of us fared well because of that. You could say that took good care of us.
Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
As I went to the primary school, Coromoto College as I was in the 6th grade I started losing my eyesight which affected my abilities to finalized my education in Curaçao. Thanks to the enormous efforts my parents put in to get me to Holland where the possibilities to work around my disability were much bigger, in the end after some years, when a sister of mine was in Holland for her studies I managed to go to Holland for my further educational development, as gradually but surely, my eyesight worsened.
I was a very diligent and curious student and I studied braille at a specialized Institute which kick-started my further educational development.
In Holland in those days, at the beginning of the 70-ties, there weren’t a lot of colored people in Holland. I was one of the two only colored people at that school in those days. But I finished secondary school in Holland, which wasn’t easy, but I succeeded as my strong character-focused on being successful was very much appreciated by those around me. I was diligent and I am a humble person, but this doesn’t mean that I could easily be pushed around or manipulated.
After secondary school, I went to work and study at the Social Academy in Utrecht and had to do different internships, which again wasn’t easy as I experienced moments during these internships that I had some learning moments but there also were moments where my mentors and the organizations where I was doing my internship failed. I expressed it when needed which was helpful in becoming the person I am right now. After my studies, I started working in Holland and over the years developed different friendships with some Dutch people, which was great. They even invited me to their homes on the weekends. But I also visited ‘Kibra Hacha’ at a certain moment to meet people of Antillean descent again and I also developed good friendships among this group, and I still have these contacts after all these years with some of them still living in Holland.
At a certain moment, I started longing to come back to Curaçao which I did. I applied for a job and got it. I am a very structured and organized person and working in Curaçao means dealing with different kinds of challenges. I was diligent and a humble person, not easy to be pushed around or to be manipulated. I worked in the ‘bario’s’ and noticed a great acceptance among clients as I treat them with respect and where I can help I do help them. With some colleagues, I am very close to them and even spend some quality time together during off-office hours.
We know you to be a very active director in the ‘Stichting Solari’ for some years that apart from placement for disabled people is also a Knowledge Center. Can you expand a little on this? How and when did it start?
Working in Curaçao, at a certain moment my focus changed and I started to pay special attention to people with a disability and also try to align efforts of all those involved with people with disabilities. But this turned out to be a big challenge, as I felt like I hit a wall. But then as we were approaching the 10th of October 2010, my legal position where I was made available to do work for and be an advisor for people with a disability, expired.
During those days USONA approached me and my colleague Jeannette Juliet-Pablo to make a list of small projects that they, USONA, could consider sponsoring. I made a proposal where the aim was to help all types of disabled people to get a real job and by doing that, get them out of their isolation. A job would improve their self-worth greatly, and USONA selected this project to sponsor it for one year. This, later on, was consolidated in a more formal structure as a foundation in 2014 and I became director of this foundation called ‘Stichting Solari’. Its goal is to help disabled people get a job. So we had an office, we looked for companies to explore the job opportunities for disabled people, we have one job coach that would help clients and we were eager to collaborate with ‘Tayer Soshal’.
We have noticed also that a policy document was written by the Ministry of SOAW, which was very clarifying, although we were not involved, as it mentioned the need for disabled people to have meaningful daytime activities as not all disabled people can work.
But there are also setbacks, as ‘Tayer Soshal’ was shut down, we got into the COVID pandemic in 2020, our budget has been cut, so we do have challenges.
I started as a project leader back in 2011. In 2014 the foundation ‘Sentro Solari’ was founded and I became the director of it. I am also actively looking for a new director as within three years I will retire and plan to have a different role, more in a back seat.
For how long have you been involved in the foundation? Can you tell us something about what inspired you to take up this responsibility as a director?
It is based on the experience I have as a social worker and being a disabled person. I wanted to share my experience and as the opportunity presented itself, I had an excellent opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences.
Is there a change in acceptance noticeable in employers and employees towards disabled people?
Well, I have to believe that they are open for disabled people, but a lot refers to the financial situation of the island at the moment, which limits the willingness to employ disabled people. With regards to future colleagues, we train our clients on their social skills and create awareness on how they approach their colleagues. We also give information on the workflow. So this helps.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
I would say that in spite of my own disability, it is, to help people with a disability.
I am a structured and organized person and we need to help each other and share, to make things better for disabled persons.
What are your plans for the coming years and when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
I hope to still be helping other people, sharing knowledge and experience, and hope that the situation in Curaçao will have improved. I would be coaching, mentoring, and recruiting so that others will follow our steps and take over as best as possible.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
People can at times be disappointing. Dealing with that disappointment, as I am a very sensitive person, the moment it happens it hits you. But I don’t give up. I will self-reflect and come back even stronger.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
I will self-reflect and analyze. I will share my thoughts and feelings with my inner circle, people that I trust like my husband, and those that are supportive.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?
I love watching and listening to the news via radio and TV. If the information needs further analysis, I will research it further and talk about it with people.
What are your strengths?
I am a consistent, structured, amiable, trustworthy, solution-oriented person that is ready to help other people.
“Whatever you do is right, and don’t leave things that can be done today for tomorrow.”
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
My hobbies, I love singing in a choir, although it is less intense than in the past as I am growing older. I loved gardening and love to plant fruit trees. I love swimming and I practice aqua jogging with a group of friends.
I firmly believe that whatever you do is right and don’t leave things that can be done today for tomorrow.
If you as Ernestina would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in New York or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I would tell them that I come from Curaçao, my name and that I love to socialize with others.
How would you describe Ernestina in one word or one sentence?
I am a reserved, thoughtful, knowledgeable, amiable person.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My family and three very close people to me.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
To appear overly humble instead of being a little more assertive and show people who I am and what I can do.
What was a defining moment in your life?
When I completely lost my eyesight and when I gave birth to my daughter.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your life/career?
If I would still be alive, I would like to have the same kind of peaceful life that I have at this moment. Still being helpful where needed and where I can be helpful and asked to be helpful. I would still be active to stay young.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
He, he, you look so young. Because I stay active.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
This is the country I choose to live in. I see its potential. And if things do not always go well, there is always an upside to things. And we are doing better than a lot of other countries.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Ernestina ‘Tine’ Grigoria-Devid is a driven, passionate, organized, energetic, solution-oriented, trustworthy, social worker and advocate of rights for people with disabilities in general and on the labor market specifically via ‘Sentro Solari’. The complete loss of her eyesight at an early age has impacted her deeply, but her strong character, her diligent nature, her amiable personality, and her resilience made her overcome all kinds of obstacles on her way to becoming a successful social worker dedicated to helping others. Using all of her vast abilities, her priority is collaboratively to make things better for disabled persons. Of late she is focusing on helping disabled people, to get a real job. By doing just that, get them out of their isolation.
All this, and especially her collaborative mindset and her deep caring for those with a disability, makes her stand out. That is why we deeply love and respect Ernestina Grigoria-Devid and we consider her one of the 250 influencers of the islands representing the NGO sector focusing on “Equal rights for people with a disability”. Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.