Influencer Sabine Berendse: changemaker, having an impact

Interview October 2020

Could you share with us some information of your family life? 
I was born in Delft, raised in Kwintsheul, a small village in het Westland. The Netherlands. I have one younger sister and I just became an aunt of a beautiful baby boy called Jack. My whole family lives in the Netherlands and since 2006 I have been living on Curaçao. My parents have played an important role in whom I have become, because they always let me free in deciding what I wanted to do with my life. Whenever I would ask my mothers advice, she would say, just do what you think is best. When I was younger there were moments that I wished she would just tell me what to do, but in hindsight I’m very grateful she did not.

Could you share something of you eductional background and your experiences?
I studied psychology at the University of Utrecht, did a minor for Environmental Sciences and for Criminology and I also did a HBO study Leisure science. I founded the NGO Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao (STCC) in 2017 and I learned a lot from that. I participated in ‘Present Your Startup’ and in a pitch competition in New York called ‘Haarlem To Harlem’. That was very much out of my comfort zone and a super educational experience that helped me to grow a lot. Together with Giacomo Booi I founded Green Phenix in 2019. That has also been one big growing experience. I have shared this story often, but the moment I stepped into the airplane on my way to Curaçao back in 2006 for my first visit to Curaçao, I had this gut feeling that I was going to stay in Curaçao longer than the 10 weeks that I had planned to go. In hindsight I can only acknowledge that I need to be here. I meditate and I am a sensitive person and at times I feel guided.

We were referred to you by Heinrich Angela whom have collaborated with you on 3D printing of Faceshields and Luuk Weber. What is the difference between Green Phenix and Sea Turtle Conservation?
Well, Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao is an NGO that protects sea turtles and their habitat through research, conservation and education. Green Phenix is a social enterprise that is creating a circular inclusive economy in the Caribbean.

If you look at the whole Caribbean, all of us in the Caribbean are dealing with the same kind of challenges, that is the enormous amount of layers after layers of plastic washing on our shores. There was this defining moment back then when I was involved as a representative of Uniek Curaçao with some volunteers of Sentro Speranza at Asencion, cleaning what was and still is called the “Plastic Bay”. We had filled a quarter of the container where we dumped the plastic we collected for the beach and after a while the volunteers wanted to leave as they thought that there work was done. I was flabergasted. I was like “..we are not done yet, you can’t leave now, we are not done yet..” The plastic annoyed me and I then realized, that I was just this one person and the amount of plastic is so overwhelming… I first asked why is nobody doing something about this. Then I realized I am also somebody and if I feel this should be different I should do something about it. For me that was an important realization.

Green Phenix is a social enterprise that is creating a circular inclusive economy in the Caribbean.

Where does this interest come from for the circular waste management initiatives? Can you tell us more about these initiatives?
Well, having been on the beaches on the windward side of Caribbean islands a lot, I can honestly say that the amount of plastic that washes ashore is horrifying. It really needs to stop and I simply want to do my part in that.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
I just want to do my best to live a meaningful life and to make an impact just by trying to do the right thing.

By doing this I want to have an ever growing impact by helping others also to do their thing and also become very happy doing the things that they love to do..

When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
We aim to create a circular revolution in the Caribbean. If we have operations in 5 Caribbean islands in 5 years and it can operate without me being directly involved I would consider that to be succesful in my business life. Regarding my personal life, when the people in my inner circle are happy and healthy and there is a good balance, I think I would consider myself very lucky.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
Well, I’d say the limiting factor in our operation is the finances. We have the people, we have the drive and we know how to get the required knowledge… But the lack of liquid assets makes that it takes a bit longer that we would like to. And this requires patience and preserverence. With all the attention and focus we put into our operation, this is happening while we have the usual ups and downs but our projects are growing. So have more people to work with from a certain social targetgroup, meaning also that we have to trust these persons to do their job right and get more acquainted with not being directly hands on involved with the day-to-day operations. The upside is that we are not so overwhelmed by all the work that has to be done.

Do you get international support? There are lots of people that were born here or lived her, diaspora, that might be helpful for your causes.
We are aware of these opportunities, that is why we are planning to start a foundation in Holland soon, trying to capitalize on these opportunities.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I use affirmations on a regular basis and I also take a time out at times to think things over a little bit, so that you don’t let your emotions dominate my reasoning too much. I also try to look at the dilemma from the other person’s perspective, and I also try to feel what is right. My inner compass, just like the day I stepped in the airplane to come to Curaçao, it just felt good.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
Well when opportunities to follow training sessions occur, I try to attend as much as I can. I read a lot. I actively look for information regarding topics that interest me and that are important for what we’re doing. And I also have a lot of very knowledgable people around me who I often ask for advice.

What are your strengths?
I never give up, have a growth mindset and love the journey

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Well, I’d say I’m quite passionate about art.

If you as Sabine 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?
Hi, my name is Sabine. I’m a social entrepreneur from Curaçao.

How would you describe Sabine in one word or one sentence?

Do you have more words describing whom you are?
I am rather headstrong, I have a lot of perseverance and I always find a way to move things forward. I am passionate in the things I do, that I do with love. I am highly empathic. I sometimes struggle with my personal boundaries, but I’m continuously improving on that.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
here are a few. Carla Daniel is the first. She is a conservationist from Barbados that introduced me to sea turtle conservation. I have never ever before or after met such a hard-working, dedicated & inspiring person. She has in incredible amount of energy and she really is somebody that makes a positive difference in the world.

Then Nana Bouwens is a person that inspired me in a creative way. She is a person that never thinks in a box. Her creativity is unique and inspiring and she helped me to embrace my uniqueness and with that accept myself better.

And then Giacomo Booi, the person I founded Green Phenix with also has been a great inspiration in the last 2 years. He left his comfortable European life to come to Curaçao to tackle the problem of plastic pollution. He is one of the bravest, happiest and passionate persons I’ve ever met and for me he symbolizes hope.

What is a trait that is still work in progress?
I’m continually struggling to keep a good balance with my private life. I have the strong desire to make an impact, but I sometimes take on to much. But I’m getting better and better to balance everything.

What was a defining moment in your life?
When STCC was founded I was going through a very difficult time. Both personally and professionally. I had decided to quit a job that offered me security, but made me very unhappy. The moment I was able to make that decision, although almost everybody advised against it, was probably the most defining moment in my life. I realized that for me it is much more important to do my best to live a profound life that to have security.

Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
Honestly my plan doesn’t go that far. I want to build Green Phenix and STCC in such a way that both can function without my presence. I would think that in 15-20 years, I might coach some young social entrepreneurs or artists….

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
That I did everything in my power to make a positive impact

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 challenge because of the global warming consquences?
The people that are coming together to do good, like the members of the COVID-19 3D printing taskforce. And also the fact that Green Phenix is still growing, despite all the challenges and dissapointments.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Well if people would like to help out with STCC of Green Phenix they are very welcome. Both entities are community projects that can always use fresh energy.

Contact information:
Cell: +5999 5652271

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Sabine Berendse is a passionate, dedicated and courageous social entrepreneur. Her dedication to dealing with plastic makes her stand out, as she has experienced first hand the horrifying amounts of plastic that washes ashore in the whole windward side of the Caribbean. Aiming to create a circular revolution in the Caribbean, she is actively promoting a circular inclusive economy via Green Phenix and also promoting Sea Turtle Conservation via Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao. While she is now living her purpose, this has not always been the case, as she listened to her inner voice and radically changed the course in her life. Even if this meant, jumping into an uncertain future away from a secure job, to now ultimately be able to live a more profound, meaningful life that is having a positive impact in the world. Accepting the ups and downs that her path brings with her, her perseverance has resulted in a growing movement forcing her to continuously adapt, looking for support from elsewhere in the world and using her social skills to scale up the organizations where she is involved in. At the other hand Sabine is deliberately maintaining her work-personal life balance, dedicating also time to her other “the Arts” passion and inspiring the next generation of social entrepreneurs and artists. For all these reasons, we deeply love and respect Sabine and consider her one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao representing the Circular Economy sector,

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