Influencer Eugène Boeldak: impacting other people

Interview June 2021

Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I was born in Curaçao and now live in Holland. My mother and my grandmother always stimulated me to do my best at school and study, and they were very important in developing my drive and passion to study and learn continuously until today. My father would have preferred that I would have started working as soon as possible, but ultimately he accepted my choices to continue to study. My present partner and I have been together since 2000. I have four children, one daughter and three sons, and they live in Curaçao. I have two brothers and I am the oldest of the three. My father had more children and I am in contact with two of them, both older than me. I grew up being poor and I have experienced going to bed on an empty stomach or not going to school until my mother had enough money after one week to buy me some sneakers to attend school. When I was 9 years old, I started playing soccer which was a family tradition and my uncle Johan “Janchi” Bodak, who lived close by where I lived, has been one of the best midfielders of the Netherlands Antilles. I am part of the Bodak-Bodok-Boeldak family of which I traced its roots back to 1778.

Could you share something about your educational background and your experiences?
I attended Martinus de Porres Sta Rosa at the primary school level, attended Junior High School (Mulo) at Zwijssen College and graduated as the best student of the then Netherlands Antilles and finished my senior High School (HAVO) in 1972 at Radulphus College, deliberately choosing to go to the HAVO (I was offered HBS) to combine my study with spending more time playing soccer. I played soccer until I was in my forties. When I was 17 years old, I was playing simultaneously in Scherpenheuvel (second keeper with the famous Jozef “Papito” Nivillac), Manchester United and Racing Club Montaña (RCM). After moving to Holland, Groningen in 1972, I graduated to become a teacher in History and English at the Lerarenopleiding Ubbo Emmius Groningen (1972-1977) and later went on to graduate in History at the masters level at the University of Groningen (1979 – 1984). Back in Curaçao I continued studying and got my Executive MBA degree from the Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management, with the highest grades with another co-student in 1991.

How long have you been a business owner and what services do you offer?
I had my first company “Probabilitas” from 2002 till 2006. I consulted on corporate risk management in projects with budgets higher than € 10 Mio and I offered interim-management services. Between 2006 and December 2009 I worked as a project and enterprise risk management consultant at Finext. From December 2009 till August 2018 I was employed as head of operations (bedrijfsvoering) and as a specialistic strategic advisor at the Inspectorate of Education (OCW).

In March 2008 I launched Dialogue Café Utrecht, a monthly gathering (nine sessions per year) in a café setting to discuss things that matter to everyone who felt attracted to open conversations in which they could share their experiences and reflections. This resulted in me being asked to train people in Amersfoort, Utrecht, IJsselstein, Nieuwegein, Den Haag, and Curaçao between 2008 and 2015. I have facilitated dialogue sessions in unpaid and paid assignments till before the corona pandemic in 2020.

In my city Utrecht, I had the honour to be the lead dialogue course developer and trainer between 2009 and 2017 for the annual training of citizens that later on went on to organize and facilitate dialogue sessions during the annual Dialogue Day in October. Dialogue topics I have developed in Utrecht between 2013 and 2018 were published in the USA, and are still accessible.

NinetyEight Consult (2016) designs, organizes, and facilitates workshops and also offers training regarding efficiency in meetings, conflict resolution, negotiation, collaboration, dialogue, and project management.

eChuchubi Self-publishing (2016) facilitates adults and parents from the ABC-islands living in Holland with books, games, and other products to relive and pass over their culture that has “Papiamentu” at its base to their children.
These children are growing and living in a family and public domain context where Dutch is the dominant language, and tend to miss out on Papiamento/u.

We try to accomplish this by writing, translating, and publishing books. Some examples are:

– Nanzi i Koma Corona (sept 2020) in Papiamentu and Dutch
– Doktor Da Costa Gomez (biography and bibliography), 22 November 2021
– Maria i Martins, a short novel, November 2021
– Studiante Eksitoso, March 2022

Could you also tell us something about your involvement in the NGO-field as a governor and what is your involvement in that in what areas are you exactly involved?
I am the second treasurer of the Stichting Gedeeld Verleden Gezamenlijke Toekomst Rotterdam. Our mission is to increase the knowledge and awareness of the joint history of the inhabitants of Rotterdam with the intention to increase mutual understanding and respect in a multi-ethnic society, today and in the future. Our focus is on our joint history of colonialism and racism, which still has an impact on the present.

We organize activities like:
● History courses on colonialism and racism (East and West in relationship with Rotterdam);
● Keti Koti Festival: commemoration at the slave monument on June 30, and a celebration on July 1, the date slavery was officially abolished in the Dutch Antilles and Surinam;
● Dia di Tula, August 17;
● History Matters 2021-2022.

Apart from being the second treasurer, I am tasked with improving the project management processes and skills in our foundation.
I am also actively involved as Secretary as of March 2021,in Vereniging Levende Talen Sectie Papiaments. Our mission is to promote and enhance the use of Papiamento and Papiamentu in the Netherlands at home, in school, on the streets and increase the relevancy of Papiamento and Papiamentu via:

● Pasa Palabra (Culture, twice a year),
● Buki ta konta (Educational, twice a year)
● Studiamigo|u (Educational, pilots in 2020 and 2021, while the full project will be launched in September 2021). Professional volunteers with a background in the Dutch Caribbean act as guide and mentor to students from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao in different areas to increase their success rate in their studies. We assist the students in oral and written Dutch, academic skills for their assignments, and developing networking skills during their study.
● Publications in Levende Talen Magazine, and Onderzoeksrapport Studiesucces studenten ABC-eilanden.

You are also a writer and publisher of a book of Dr. Moises Da Costa Gomez, could you tell us more about this?
The book is part of my tradition to publish on Dr Moises Da Costa Gomez. He has inspired me since I was in primary school. As I have previously said, I have studied History and Government Institutions at the University of Groningen and ended up doing my thesis on Da Costa Gomez. In 1984, I participated in a seminar on Doktor Da Costa Gomez at the then UNA now UOC, organized by rector Reinders. As speakers we had Juancho Evertsz, Ronchi Isa, Papi Jesurun, Ciro Kroon, a professor of the University of Nijmegen, who had known DCG. I was only 31 years old then.

Why did you write this book and how well is its reception?
In 2014 I published Mr. Dr. Moises Da Costa Gomez, Voorvechter van de Politieke Emancipatie der Nederlandse Antillen. The book got a lot of readers, good reviews and attention until this moment.

I gave presentations at UOC, ICUC, MIL, RC, PSC, Kiwanis Curaçao to promote the sales of the book in the Netherlands and in the Caribbean from 2014 till 2016. In 2016 (2 April) I had a book presentation at the Dutch Caribbean Book Club, Den Haag. On the 110th day of birth of Doktor, 17 October 2017, Marion Keizer and I launched an e-book about DCG. We had a limited distribution and we donated 110 copies to school, political parties and researchers in Curaçao and the Netherlands. In 2020 I also wrote two articles in the Canon on the history of Curaçao, one on Da Costa Gomez, and the other on the constitutional structure of the Dutch Kingdom.

On the 22nd of November 2021, the 55th year anniversary of Doktor’s death, eChuchubi will launch another ebook with his biography and bibliography, that will be published on Readers who subscribe to our monthly newsletter, published every 22nd of the month as of May 22, will receive a free copy of the ebook on 22 November 2021.

What does eChuchubi want to achieve?
eChuchubi’s mission is to help adults and parents from the ABC-islands that are living in the Netherlands to relive their culture, that has Papiamento or Papiamentu as its base, and pass it over to their children that grow up in a family and a public domain where Dutch dominates.

You are also very active writing articles that you post on your social media?
Well, I re-publish articles of others that I believe are of interest to the ABC-diaspora living in the Netherlands. eChuchubi’s goal here is to help the diaspora to stay informed so that they can be critical and can stand up for their interests in the Netherlands and in the Caribbean. The subject matters that I highlight are related to mutual aid in times of the corona pandemic, Dutch policies towards minorities, governance on the ABC-islands, relationships in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now and doing what you are doing right now?
My BIG WHY is to contribute to the improvement of the world within my circle of influence. I try to achieve this by amplifying peoples’ access to work, housing, education, health care and good democratic governance in the Netherlands and Curaçao. (The BIG 5) I try to achieve this with my own initiatives, collaborations and sharing, through my social entrepreneurship. I also support other initiatives with proposals related to conflict resolution, negotiation, collaboration, dialogue method, project management and efficient meetings.

When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
When my children are proud of what I have meant to them as a role model and as a contributor to the lives of others. I try to accomplish this by inspiring people, as a social entrepreneur and as a volunteer, to contribute to broader access to the 5 basic conditions for life.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
In 2020 my challenge was how to balance my creative work with my me-time to exercise (cycling, gym, kayaking, and travel) as we had to deal with the measures related to the Corona Pandemic. Furthermore, I had to deal with some health setbacks, like a groin rupture, a bladder infection and an eye operation. I am working on getting back to the week rhythm that I had till February 2020.

Furthermore, I want to increase the number of people in the eChuchubi team from 2 to 4 or 5 people dedicated to working on the realization of the goals of eChuchubi. We hope to achieve this by creating services and products that could attract contributors and attract people or groups to associate with us and that support our goals in the way they best are able to and can contribute.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I practice mindfulness in the morning and evening or whenever I feel like it. Apart from experiencing physically what my body is telling me, I pay attention to the things that look threatening in my own way of behaving or the way others behave. In my self-talk, I deliberately ask myself questions dealing with problems or dilemmas. Is there a problem according to myself or in another person’s perception? Can I and should I do something about that? Can I achieve a change on my own or do I need other people? What am I going to do or what am I not going to do? How can I reach peace of mind (absence of worries) again?

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I read two books per month, not as a target but it so happens to be like that and I read about an average of 5 articles every week regarding a topic that interests me. Furthermore, I pay attention to how people I work with, make decisions and motivate their actions and choices to learn how to better get along with them.

What are your strengths?
Listening without expressing an opinion, asking questions that trigger people to think and tell their stories. In the video (attached) of my former colleagues at the Inspectorate of Education on the brink of their retirement, one can hear and see some strengths they attribute to me.

I love to analyse, structure, plan, explain, motivate others by my own work, improvise, present/public speaking, design and facilitate meetings and workshops, start and finish the job (perseverance), quality-oriented, review texts in Dutch and English, ambitious, strive to be the best or at least at the top in study and work.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I love to listen to Jazz, kayaking, cycling on my race bicycle, reading and travel.

If you as Eugène would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Mexico or Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer and how would you describe Eugène in one sentence?
I am Eugène and I am curious to know what your passion is or your biggest reason to live.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Well, I have a bunch of them, if you don’t mind.

– Johanna Florencia (Ganchi, my grandmother from my mother’s side): her patience when as a child I didn’t want to eat keeps coming back to my mind when I deal with people who do not want to do something.
– Frank Davelaar: former teacher at Radulphus who walked a fine line between teaching and sharing jokes.
– Elis Juliana: for his research and collection of stories and artefacts.
– Martin Luther King: for his perseverance during dangerous times.
– Boy Ecury, George Maduro, Tirso Sprockel: for their role in the resistance during the Second World War.
– Doktor Da Costa Gomez; innovator of law during the colonial times, his rebellion against mighty powers between 1935-1966: CPIM, the Governor and the catholic service, a new model to organize political parties as a service centre for the people.
– Socrates, William Isaacs, Jos Kessels for their contribution to what we presently know as the dialogue method,
– Carol S. Dweck: author of the book Mindset.
– Jan Gunnarsson & Olle Blohm: Hostmanship.
– Robert B. Cialdini: research and book on Influence,
– Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland: book on Scrum
– Jaap Peters: Rijnlands orghaniseren, publications on Chaostheory
– Adam Kahane: Collaborating with the Enemy
– Richard Axelrod & Emily Axelrod: You don’t have to do it alone
– Elise Keith, CEO of Lucid Meetings

What is a trait(s) that is still a work in progress?
Develop an understanding for people with low or almost no ambition. Work less and travel more.
I have an issue dealing with a lack of service, bad service, patience and debate passionately.

What was a defining moment in your life?
In 1999 the Dutch company where I was working closed down their offices in the Antilles and I was out of work. Within 10 months all the money I had in my savings account was depleted and my marriage then ended up in a divorce. As I was unable to find a job in Curaçao, the company offered me a job in the Netherlands. To earn a living and pay the expenses for myself and my children I had to leave my children, my house and Curaçao behind. I lost the trust in many people I had considered friends and good acquaintances I knew during the good times. So I have learned the difference between friends and people who use you. I suffered a lot because of the distance between me and my children although we saw each other each year.

Where do you want to be 15 years from now with your career?
A career isn’t important to me anymore. I hope that in 15 years from now, I will have positively impacted more people’s lives, compared to when I was a teacher at the High School level when I was a civil servant, advisor, entrepreneur, volunteer-based on a legacy on Papiamentu and collaboration(s).

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you, let’s say 20 years from now?
Although Eugène had a most challenging youth, he has surpassed that and worked on himself and gave real love and compassion even when he didn’t agree with others.

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?
I am optimistic because there will always be people either in Curaçao or living outside of Curaçao that will see opportunities in what Curaçao can offer creating jobs/income, housing, education, health care and good democratic governance (The BIG 5). Big transformational changes in a society or a country have never been brought about by a majority of people. It has always been a small visionary and dedicated minority that has brought about transformational change, be it good or bad in retrospect.

I believe that crises do create more opportunities for solution builders amongst entrepreneurs and NGO’s to play a role and create impactful changes and they will also soften the negative effects that ineffective governance might have. I believe that good democratic governance, which is free from corruption, will have to be imposed by these solution builders and NGO’s and as they are doing what they are doing, more opportunities for collaboration.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Yes, I want to expand a little on collaboration as I am now looking at this subject matter since 2018.

First of all, collaboration becomes more necessary as problems become more complex, require sustainability and involve more people or countries. You have mentioned some in the question you asked me before. Like a worldwide pandemic, recession and growing environmental challenges because of global warming.;

Collaboration also becomes more difficult because every actor has to get along with other actors that they disagree with, don’t like and don’t trust.

So I see two challenges here for collaboration(s) that Share2Uplift tries to enable to create impactful changes in Curaçao. Consider and be aware of these, as you continue to roll out the movement Share2Uplift.

Recognize that collaboration is only one of four options that exist to deal with problematic situations.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Can we change the problematic situation?

A. If the answer is “yes”, then we ask ourselves: ”Can we affect this change unilaterally (alone)?”

Option # 1: When we can do this unilaterally, meaning we can do it on our own and need no one else, we Force the change unilaterally.

If the answer is “no”,

Option # 2: Then we have to Collaborate (multilaterally)

B. If the answer to “Can we change the problematic situation’ is “no”, we ask ourselves

“Can we bear the situation as it is and live with it?”

Option # 3: If the answer is “yes” we can live with it, we “Adapt” unilaterally.

Option # 4: If the answer is “no”, we (can) choose to Exit, Get out or Flee unilaterally.

Having said that, there are basically two types of collaborations.

If the problems are simple plus there is agreement on the problem, the solution, a (simple) plan, the actors and their contribution, and -last but not least- there is mutual trust, then we plan rationally and take the steps one by one. This is a planned and vertical collaboration.

When the problems are complex and ‘wicked’, and there is no agreement, no sympathy nor mutual trust, we enter into the two meanings of collaboration: working together as opposed to betraying your beliefs and interests.

So then, how do we solve this challenge when we don’t even have an agreement on how the problem should be defined?

There are three tools for this challenge:

1. Acceptance of the plurality of the situation. Acceptance that there are different actors, different realities, dreams, fears, plans, etc. Don’t try to reach an agreement regarding the definition of the problem and the solution upfront, to make progress. Different actors can support the same result for different reasons.

2. Experiment as you try to find a way out. Try to take different steps and be aware that you can’t control the future, but you can influence it. The success formula lies in working together towards a solution instead of figuring it out upfront. Success isn’t coming up with a solution – it’s working toward one.

3. See yourself as part of the problem and don’t see yourself as an outsider. You can’t make any progress as long as you don’t realize that you do have a role to play in the present situation. If you are not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.

Connect with Eugène Boeldak

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Eugène Boeldak is a driven, erudite, open minded, curious (loves to learn), optimistic visionary, highly skilled professional in among others dialogue and collaborative techniques. As a historian and author, his work on the biography of Dr. Da Costa Gomez over the years has been of great importance for Curaçao. Because of Eugène’s excellent listening abilities and tendency to ask questions that trigger people to think, and his ability to analyse, structure, plan, explain, motivate he has the right profile as a very active and energetic retiree to be involved in multiple ventures. His drive and grit to always be at the top in his study and work, position him to positively impact the lives of more people, compared to when he was a teacher at the High School level or when he was a civil servant, advisor, entrepreneur, volunteer working on the legacy of Papiamentu and collaboration(s), to create even more impactful changes in Holland and in Curaçao, as he lives in two worlds. His vision on and practice of dialogue and 21st century skills is refreshing. Because of his continuous ambitions to be of service, and have a positive impact, we dearly love and deeply respect Eugène Boeldak and consider him part of the 250 Influencers of the island representing the sector of History, Politics and Culture.

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