Influencer Kurt Schoop

Interview September 2019

Kurt, could you share with us some information of your family life?
I have 3 brothers and 5 sisters; both my parents are alive and were very supportive in whom I have become right now. I have a significant other.

Could you share with us some of your educational background and past professional experiences, as we know that you are an entrepreneur?
I have studied policy and organizational sciences and love to facilitate change processes and dialogues within schools and communities. In the past 12 years, I have been focused on building communities in Otrobanda. In the beginning this was difficult, as I did most things on my own, now I am part of a team of great people who all contribute.

Are you involved in other projects in Curaçao?
I am involved in Kaya Kaya, a community project in Otrobanda and I am supporting a number of schools in the implementation of quality assurance.

Besides that, I am renting rooms. This started out small, in my own house, at some point I bought and restored another house and recently I opened the “Bario Hotel”, consisting of eight houses in IJzerstraat/Emmastraat. In this hotel, people living in the neighborhood are involved and we have one central front desk for our guests.

You are very involved with the bario, why is that?
I like to see things change and improve, both in infrastructure and people. I find it energizing when people seem ‘to get it’ and change their way of doing things. Also, it is very satisfying to restore homes to their old grandeur, to bring back dignity to these homes and to the neighborhood.
Up until a year ago, I was chairman of the foundation for Ser’i Otrobanda. When Kaya Kaya took off last year, I decided it was time for a change.

I handed over the foundation to a new group of people and focussed on the further development of Kaya Kaya, together with Clayton Lasten and Raygen Zuiverloon. I am pleased to see a growing interest of companies and organizations to align themselves with Kaya Kaya as sponsors, they approached us, which is an unique situation to be in. And also OBNA and Korpodeko (local development banks) want to help develop a multi-annual plan for the development of the neighbourhood.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
I like to connect, inspire and transform people and show what is possible. In the end, I like to leave something behind. I seem to be good at bringing people from different backgrounds (inhabitants, investors and government) together.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
Gentrification is something we need to be aware of. Luckily, the social housing projects have a pretty permanent group of inhabitants, but you see there is more interest in the houses that are already inhabited and less in the abandoned houses. There is no way to stop people from selling their house, but I would like to see a balanced development where there is room for everyone.
I also have a challenge in balancing volunteer work and the need to make money to earn myself a living, right? I am investing a lot these days. I did manage to minimize my costs of living; this has reduced the stress as well. In the first years, I have faced more challenges, but I found out that by remaining consistent and sharing the story, I was able to connect with and involve more people.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
Yes, I use my inner voice, but not always or very consistently. I like to walk or travel to clear my head and sort things out. Banda’bou is a great place to relax. Recently we went there to discuss the future (vision, direction, and attitude) of my new business ventures with my other business partners. This provided us all with new insights.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I am doing things, because I prefer the experimental way of learning.

What are your strengths?
I am a connector, creative and can find new use for concepts. I am a good listener. I am able to see what will stick and become a hit. I am good at delegating, and I am able to take my time to discover what someone likes to do.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
As a people’s person, I like to travel, organize a party, spend time with friends, interact with people, and bring them together.

If you as Kurt would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
I am a ‘Yu di Korsou’, born and raised on this island, who loves the neighbourhood he lives in, and works hard to make it a better place. I like to have a great time.

How would you describe Kurt in one word or one sentence?
I am a connector who likes to show myself and others, how to get things done. I like to include people and empower them. Sometimes I am surprised, that I realised what I set out to do. I do visualize what I want to realize like a successful project, but I visualize also that the neighborhood and my home is safe.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My mother has taught me to be persistent. I have watched Oprah Winfrey many times and like the way she inspires people and achieves change. I also find great inspiration in Nelson Mandela and the way he dealt with adversary in life.

Where they always positive role models or where their also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
When I first went to the Netherlands, I went to a MBO school. Someone in my circle of friends at some point doubted if I belonged in that group. That made me work even harder to prove myself and I managed to finish a HBO education, just as the others. Now I know it is not about education, but who you are as a person, but still. Some politicians also function as a negative role model, they have the skills but use it in the wrong way. That is a pity.

What was a defining moment in your life?
A defining moment in my life was when I learned to let go of the old stories and experiences in life that were painful and holding me back.
During a training for Landmark, I started to tell these stories and realized that, every time I tell them, bit by bit, I am releasing them. I now see there are many limiting beliefs in our society that do not help us prosper. By telling the stories, without fear and shame, we can change our future.

Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
In a rocking chair overlooking the neighborhood and travelling the world, giving speeches and inspiring people.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
They would say: “We love him, although he did not have sufficient time for us.” But also: We are proud of him.”

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
I see two things that makes me stay positive. There is a big group of people who are doing their best to make things work. I believe we have to start doing things and stop waiting for others to start. They make the future manageable and solve problems. I have seen that this works with Oasis Games and Kaya Kaya. There is so much potential in people, once they believe in something and feel involved, they are able to perform miracles. On a personal level, I have stopped following the news and retracted myself from the every-day hype and negativity and just try to do things that I can influence. That makes me stay positive.

More info
Kaya Kaya  on Facebook or Instagram

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Kurt Schoop is a (social) entrepreneur and a representative of the Business-sector. As a connector, a creative at using new concepts, he has this unique ability to see what will stick and becomes a hit. He likes to include people and show them how to get things done, after he had visualized the success of the project. As former chairman of the foundation for Ser’i Otrobanda, last year he started with two other business partners (Clayton Lasten and Raygen Zuiverloon) with the Kaya Kaya project while at the same time investing himself personally in the “bario”. This inclusive approached has resulted in growing interest of companies and organizations to align themselves with Kaya Kaya as sponsors. We deeply respect and love Kurt for the work he has been doing as a community builder (people and infrastructure), investor and advocacy of an inclusive development of Ser’i Otrobanda as a neighborhood, that we consider exemplary for how other barrio’s in Curaçao and elsewhere in the world, could be developed.
We definitely consider him one of the 250 Influencers in our society.

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