Influencer Kenneth Valpoort
Interview October 2022
Kenneth, could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in Curaçao and my father came from Surinam and my mother is from Curaçao. I grew up in a family where we have 3 sisters and 8 brothers, of which 3 have passed away. I have 6 children, one of them passed away three years ago. I’m not married yet, but planning to get married soon.
I am proud of the education I got from my parents, growing up in Marchena where I still live and I have built up my career from scratch and in this, my parents were always supportive. The key word was discipline, my father taught me “Let no one tell you to do something twice and don’t make the same mistake twice. I never raised my voice against one of my parents. They encouraged us to study hard and go and find a job after we graduated. We were raised in a close-knit family where the older siblings helped the younger siblings.
Our family is still close even after the passing away of my parents. For example, one sibling is visiting us soon and lives in Holland and he will stay with us in our parent’s home, so I am grateful for that.
Could you share something about any other aspect of your educational background and your experiences?
After High School and I started working and started working in the hospitality sector, I worked in Sint Martin at the front office for a while, worked at the Hilton hotel and Princess Beach starting from scratch, and ended my career as a Maitre D’hotel, supervising over 70 workers. After joining the Horecaf Union 43 years ago, I was elected to join the board 40 years ago, as a delegate of the Princess Beach, in charge of the educational activities of Horecaf.
During those years there were lots of training taking place locally (INFOSIC = Instituto di Formashon Sindikal Cristian, part of the Social-Christianity movement) and internationally (INFOSCAR =Instituto di Formashon Sindikal di Caribe & UTAL = Universidad Laboral de America Latina). These institutions used to have their seat in Venezuela but moved first to Columbia and later on moved to Panama.
We know you are to be a union leader for quite some years and also you were and you are very involved in societal issues. Where did this drive come from?
My drive comes from growing up in a neighborhood and seeing what was happening in the “bario”. I can’t stand to see anything happening, while there is a need to take action and I stand idle at the sideline. That is not me. I have been involved in different activities and I have constantly tried to involve others. I didn’t want to live in the “bario” with my arms crossed. A cousin of mine started a neighborhood center, but this initiative didn’t last long.
And after the 30th of May 1969, REX which was used as a warehouse deposit was shut down 1969 and in 1972 Claudio Fernandes took the initiative with others from the barrio and re-opened REX as a high-flying park in those days. We painted it and we had a grand opening of this new initiative, but the next weekend police stopped our activity because we didn’t have a permit.
Soon afterwards, in 1972, I left Curaçao to work in Sint-Maarten. And not much was happening in the neighborhood. In 1978 during a police action in the “bario”, an habitant of the neighborhood was shot by the police and this raised a lot of indignation. I was back in Curaçao and we decided to transform this unfortunate incident into something positive. We went back to the businessman Mr. Fereira and we repainted REX and converted a square close to REX, into a social center for the Wishi and Marchena. We organized all sorts of activities in the “bario” and created a board, where I was member one of the first board members. Together with some other habitants living in the “bario” and with the help of a community development worker, we managed to change the dynamics in the “bario”.
In 1989 we also organized a big rally in the “bario” against the ongoing pollution of the refinery. We also organized different sports activities, presentations, and a Carnaval group in 1978 and since 1994 the Carnaval Route passes through Marchena.
But I also went to Holland for some time and when I came back to Curaçao in 2002 a lot had changed. The board was big, but it wasn’t so dynamic. So we started a committee and focused on how to create jobs for some youth. We created a group called “Chapi chapi” and with the help of the MCB, we offered some youths a job.
The committee was also involved with the late Boy Martina owner of Marchena Hardware, with a special day for the “bario”. Later it was expanded to a whole week of the “bario”, where every single day during one whole week we would organize a major activity.
Together with the late Filo Silvano we also started to organize an Integrity Award. This was awarded to people that had paid their dues in terms of contributions to society.
We would offer placards to union leaders, some youth, and people who worked at a uniformed organization like in the customs department and lived or had in the “bario”. We also offered an award to Gladys and Charles Do Rego.
But I have experienced time and time again that most of the work is done by one or two members of the committee, and that can affect one’s motivation. And I am also very much aware that even though you give your best efforts, even when some activities are financed by myself, the appreciation comes from God, not from those you offer your services to. But over the years I stayed involved, still working on getting everybody involved.
I have also been a teacher at Fefyk, I taught at the VSBO, I have been an examiner during exams and I give presentations to motivate youth when they need to choose a profession, so I have been and am involved in multiple ways in the society.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
The succession of leadership
Nowadays, I am stepping back and leaving activities in the “bario” up to others, like Kenneth Hooten and I hope that a younger generation, takes over. At times, I am still being approached for a word of advice. But the next generation of leadership needs to step up. We need to educate our youngsters, there needs to be a next leadership ready and prepared to take over. The same is true in Unions. We need the youth to be more involved in Union work and this is a challenge not only in Curaçao btw, but it is a worldwide trend. The biggest challenge is how to create awareness and motivate the next generation to take over. Via SSK and CGTC we just finalized a leadership course we offered, so we are putting in efforts to enable this process.
The overall cleanness on the island:
Another challenge I see is the clean-up of the island and keeping it clean, as this is a responsibility of all of us, not just a few.
The recruitment and hiring of youth in job vacancies that are opening up:
Another challenge I see is how to motivate some of our youth to apply for job functions, but subscribing and applying for available job functions in the Hospitality sector.
Why is this a challenge?
According to our observations, in the latest Job Fair that was organized by CHATA, CRA and Horecaf and this initiative was supported by the government, only less than 10 % of our youth, could apply, applied. We are also very interested to find out why those that do apply only a small percentage are hired. More investigation needs to be done to find out what the causes are.
Why do you think that such a small percentage of applicants are hired? Is this something that has to do with being service minded or not?
I believe that service-mindedness is important, but I also see that applicants are not being hired because of unclear criteria that employees implicitly use: the physical appearances like the applicants are too fat, they have one or more gold teeth, they have tattoos or they have dreadlocks as their hairstyle, … furthermore I believe that if employers would be more lenient and hired them and through education teach them new skills or upgrade those skills they have already acquired in their lives, the percentage of people hired can go up substantially. But most of them are not even offered this chance. For some employers there is the tendency to lay off employees after 6 months, this creates a vicious downward circle, while if they had kept these employees on the job, it would have been possible, with proper training and mentoring, to let them become more skilled and knowledgeable. This requires leadership from the employer. I sincerely believe that if you start from scratch and you have a willingness to learn and you are passionate and do your work with love, good training will always help you.
Another dimension of the service mindset is that it requires the willingness of an employee to go the extra mile and have some loyalty toward a good employer. Some other mindset changes are needed to break the need of some employees to be vulnerable to corruption and fraud, although they already have a job, while others have no job and have nothing. So I acknowledge this also.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now and do what you are doing now?
I consider myself to be a self-made man. I could have chosen to continue to pursue a career in the Hospitality Industry and gained more income, a high position, and more status, but I decided to opt out and join the Union to help out to improve the working relations of employees in the Hospitality sector. I followed my gut, I can’t see that injustice is done and that is my character. Over the years I have followed all sorts of courses to help out those that were at the bottom of the social ladder as a worker. I have gained lots of knowledge over the years and now I am sharing this knowledge with a group of youngsters. That has been my modus operandi over the years, maybe even at the cost of myself and my family.
What are your plans for the coming years, let us say 5 years from now?
I have no clear vision for the coming 5 years, but I am and can still be helpful in different areas as the next generation takes over. I am getting older, so I have decided to dedicate more time to my family, my children, and my grandchildren so that they can also have a good life. In the past, I used to help others and the expense at times of my own family. I am now flipping the coin more and more and I will be more dedicated to my own family.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
I work based on my inspiration. I will sleep over something and it will pop up and then I need to write it out to get it out in writing. If not it will keep on haunting me. That is why I regularly write down suggestions that I share with my fellow unionists, as together we can have a bigger influence than alone. We share ideas with the government, I also speak up on the radio and by doing this contribute to the solution to challenges our country is confronting. This doesn’t mean that the government always listens, but I do this anyway because I genuinely want to contribute to solutions for the country. I don’t mind people giving me feedback but I don’t accept blasphemy and when I bump into these challenges I would address them, appropriately.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skill levels?
I read a lot from local and international sources. I am very educated on certain subject matters and I constantly keep myself updated and go in-depth on the subject matters that I consider important and relevant. This is a necessary condition if you want to be in a position to advise and guide people, without in-depth knowledge it isn’t possible to be able to do this. Like it could be some experts involved in an audit of two departments in the government as part of the so-called “uitvoeringsagenda” between the Dutch government and our local government. Or it could be the IMF that is looking for information, you have to keep yourself updated and read a lot, so to be able to give well-thought-through advice on certain subject matters that they want my expert opinion on. I don’t form my opinion on hearsay. I go deep to understand certain subject matters better.
What are your strengths?
I am punctual, I love justice being done, always positive, I am always willing to help, and always willing to listen and learn from other people.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
I tend to keep “harm that was done to me by others” too long in my heart. Nowadays it has become easier to let go of it, but honestly, I still have a way to go.
Do you have other hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Of late I like to watch sports, I love to self-educate myself, I love music and watching the news.
I like hiking and swimming, but I could be more consistent in that, though.
My health is great, although I fell from an escalator at home some while ago, my overall health is excellent.
If you as Kenneth would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in Berlin or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
It depends if I am on an official visit as part of a delegation. If it is part of a delegation that I am traveling for, I would start by mentioning my official position, like Secretary-General of Horecaf in charge of education. If we would have some more time to get acquainted, I would go into more detail regarding my personal life.
How would you describe Kenneth in one word or one sentence?
Peaceful, always trying to do my utmost and this evolved into doing my utmost to serve others, to make me feel happy as people need to uplift me so that I can serve others better.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Lots of people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Amado Romer, Oscar Semerel, Papa Leitu,
Luis Faracan, Nelson Mandela, Barak Obama, and Mahatma Gandhi, their school of thought have changed me deeply. They have always inspired me to study and learn more to become a better person.
What was a defining moment in your life?
My parent’s education as I was raised in Marchena made me choose the “good” instead of the “bad”, which could have easily happened. My parents were my role model and I am trying to convey also to my children and grandchildren.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
I want them to use the example of my father, he celebrated his 90 years, on the day my mother passed away. I said at his funeral: “I am proud to carry his last name Valpoort”. I hope they will say the same and be thankful for the education and support I gave to them all. That they would appreciate this.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
The way I see things happening is that change is coming. We need to give our support so that the whole society prospers. That our governors listen to what the needs are of the people so that all of us can prosper.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I am happy that I was offered the opportunity to be interviewed and I hope that more projects become known to a broader audience, aimed at focusing on the “Positive”, initiatives like this one with clear positive messages.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Kenneth Valpoort, is an inspiring, punctual, disciplined, positive, dynamic, self-opinionated (based on his own research), honest, lifelong learner, and self-made man, that is socially engaged in his “bario” and defender of social justice, Union leader, activist, teacher, family man, dedicated to positive change, that went to courses during his whole life. Throughout his life, he has spread and still spreads his uplifting light in different ways in different walks of life in our society. As a self-made man himself, he has experienced the value of continuous education and sees continuous education as the way to solve some of the challenges we have at the moment in our labor market. Of late he also focuses on the importance of the succession in leadership needed in his “bario” Marchena, and in Unions addressing a challenge, that is not uniquely a challenge in Curaçao. For all his lifetime work in the “bario” and as a Union leader and socially engaged person, we consider Kenneth one of the 250 Influencers of our society, representing the “Hospitality and NGO”-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 2022
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;
As we will progress towards this goal, we will update you on the progress.
This week we will share some short videos on “Teamwork”. We will upload one of these videos every day on our facebook.com/share2uplift page
What Makes the Highest Performing Teams in the World | Simon Sinek – YouTube
Lessons of the Geese – The Art of Teamwork – YouTube
Teamwork and Leadership | Animated short clip | Creative 360 | #teamwork #leadership #motivation – YouTube
Stronger When We Work Together: Crabs – YouTube