Influencer Sheila Albertoe: strong character, empathic and opinionated
Interview September 2021
I am a single mother with three children, one girl, and two sons. I was born in Curaçao, as the youngest child in a family of 6 children and I grew up in a very humble family in a wooden 2 room house at the Baralt Wijk, and later on, we moved to Mundo Nobo as my parents bought their own house. My father Roberto “Papa” Albertoe was an honest man, a man of his word, a hard-working Busdriver, entrepreneur driving his bus. My mother Sylvia Albertoe was a very amiable woman, a seamstress and she was one of the co-founders of Bos di Hubentut in its early beginnings at our house at Mundo Nobo. My father dreamed that all his children would become teachers. The more teachers he had in the family, the better it would be. So some of my elder siblings were teachers at MIL, Maria College, Sint Joseph College, one is apart from a teacher also a translator. One followed in the footsteps of my father and started businesses in Sint Martin where she lives. Another sister lives in St.Eustatius with her family as a teacher/vice principal.
As I had mentioned before I am a single mother, as I separated from my ex-partner after a turbulent relationship. After I came back from Holland after my studies, I met my ex-partner and I got involved in a relationship and got three children, but it wasn’t the relationship that I wanted. Remember, I was raised by a father and a mother that never argued in our presence, and we were raised like Queens and Kings where nobody was allowed to do us any harm. During those turbulent times with my ex, I had flashbacks on how it was at our parent’s home and I made comparisons and decided to break up the relationship and went to live with my mother with my three children. My father by that time had passed away when I was 25 years old and decided to raise them on my own with the help of my mother.
“My mission in life is to help other people not to become a victim…”
I have also lived for a short period in Aruba from since I was 2 till my 5th year. When I was back in Curaçao one day, I was 5 years old, I went to watch TV with some friends with my mother’s permission. When we grew up, we were allowed to have friends come to our home and play, but we were not allowed to go and play with them at their homes. But that specific day I went to a neighbors house to watch TV with friends and after they left, I stayed alone with an adult to watch Cartoons. This adult invited me to a room and I was forced to have oral sex with him. He told me that if I would talk about this with my parents, he would harm my mother. All of this has been a traumatic experience for me, as every time after school I would be fearful if my mother would pick me up or not. I had difficulties with concentration and didn’t dare to talk with others about what had happened until later in my teens. It was a great blessing that I was raised in a loving, caring family. And my family brothers and sisters till today have been very supportive to me in what I do. So all this has helped me overcome this trauma and made me also speak openly of what has happened.
The sexual abuse and the domestic violence I experienced in my relationship with my ex, marked me and the initiatives I took with Bos di Hubentut. It became important to me, a mission in life, to help other people not to become a victim of abuse, either physically or sexually.
Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
I attended a normal primary school up until grade 5. I have dyslexia and both my parents have done their utmost to give me the best education possible. My father was very dedicated to letting all of us invest a lot of time in reading the newspapers, books and learn multiplication tables. And as our educational system then and even today is not directed towards developing the strengths of schoolchildren, but it is more like one size fits all, I had difficulties at school. My father and one of my elder sisters spend a lot of time with me, but as I still was also experiencing the effects of the sexual abuse, I lacked concentration and at the end of primary school I went to LOM a special school for one year for my concentration and my dyscalculia. Then I went to the secondary school level (MAVO) then moved to Holland to attend (MBO). They had schools tailored to students with dyslexia. Going to Holland was not easy at all for me, as I was homesick and cried for months until my mother and father decided to come to Holland and convinced me that staying in Holland was the best thing for me. I was given the freedom to choose whatever study that I wanted to do. Once it was settled that I would stay in Holland, I went to the study “Design” at a school in Scheveningen which I finished but it was not my ultimate calling. You know, I appreciate deeply what my parents have done for me. They have gone beyond what you normally can expect from parents, to make it possible for me to study. I deeply respect them for that.
“Social work is my passion…”
I later started to study social work, which has been my passion, they allowed me to use my personal experiences to my benefit at school. After I finished school I worked at Riag for a period, and also on a Project named Op Stap. I also worked with asylum seekers for a short time. I did a lot of different pieces of training on Leadership, guidance, management, and much more. Btw, since I was very young, I tended to be more like my mother, who used to be a very social person. Because of that upbringing, I ultimately choose to become a social worker and my daughter Rashel followed me and studied social work at UNA and now she is also a social worker but mainly manages projects.
But finishing the design school in Scheveningen was not completely useless. When I came back to Curaçao I organized shows in Sentro Pro Arte and local hotels. I would do the design and seamstresses would make the clothes that we showed. It was a fun period in those years.
How important is empathy in your work?
You know at the social academy they recognized the fact that one can have life experiences that are valuable and that it becomes part of the curriculum. These experiences have helped me discover the importance of empathy. I have seen at times that social workers lack empathy and even at Bos di Hubentut at times, clients specifically ask to see me. I have concluded that it’s the lack of empathy that makes it difficult to connect with clients and this needs to be addressed. I connect by applying empathy and because I never hide what happened to me in my past. So I can talk about other people their pains and also talk to them about my experience. This is very important.
Because of my ability to communicate, I also have a good connection with my children, nephews, and nieces. Like my sons, the youngest for example wanted to become a professional MME fighter, changing the direction of what he planned to study once he was in the USA where he went for his studies to become a sports teacher. With a lot of doubts in my heart, I allowed him, as he had asked me for my explicit permission and support. But I recalled how my parents were for me. I was free to choose whatever I wanted to do, so I agreed to let him do what he wanted to do. Winning fights in the USA, he always used the flag of Curaçao to show where he came from. I am proud of that. Now he is back in Curaçao and he is an entrepreneur, owner of “Living purpose” and he sells natural products. I can have these deep conversations with all of my children, on topics like, have I given you enough love. And they go like “…common mom of course you did…”. I am happy to have this kind of relationship with my children.
We know you to be a social entrepreneur for years via Bos di Hubentut, Brigada di Seguridat and of late Allianza. Could you expand a little bit on how they started and where are they at this moment in time?
Bos di Hubentut will turn 30 years next year. I started it and after 7 years Wendell Lewis became the chairperson and managed the projects for 10 years without a salary. It all started in the garden at my mother’s home. And as we grew and grew in numbers of youth attending, my mother once told me that we needed to find a new location because it was becoming too crowded. We used the garden and we had a computer in mother’s room of my mother’s house and Adrie Williams came and gave training for free on Saturdays. So we grew and some are now respected citizens in the society like Shaida Offerman, Sharella Lewis a sports teacher in Holland with her radio program in Holland, Natasha Ramasan-Boyee now a teacher, Gino Brownbill now a politician, Nathanael Maria now a police officer, Derrick James now the Chief of the Brigade. just to mention a few. For twice we published a newspaper edition on the Kingdom games and did all the work from my mother’s home and we also took care of the distribution in the different barrios in Curaçao. All this lead my mother to say, her house has become a sort of a neighborhood center.
How our office building manifested itself..
By that time, every day as I would walk to come home, I would pass by the building, then a shack, that has now become the headquarters of Bos di Hubentut. I would pass by and ask my Angels to reserve this building for us. And then came hurricane Lewis and Sint Maarten was devastated. So my sister that lives there decided to send her children to come to school in Curaçao. I went to register these children at Sint Nieuwindt College in Mundo Nobo and asked the school head what the intention was with the building that I was interested in, as it was on the compound of the school. Within soon I found out that the school was not going to use the building, the school was from the Roman Catholic School Board and after talking to the director Ronny Statia, we got permission to use it and it was demolished it and with the help of Sede Antiyas Mr.Parabeerse, we constructed a completely new building on this site. Now we had the building but it had no furniture.
And then this happened as we were having activities in this empty building, a mother that was a teacher came to register her daughter to become a member of Bos di Hubentut and asked me if she could help in any way. And I said sure and I invited her to join. I only knew this lady for one month, she attended all the sessions with her daughter, and then she approached me once and told me that what I was doing was going to be big. She had a dream the day before full of light and she saw me surrounded by lots of people. And she asked me if I believed her. I said “..Okay..” and within two days she passed away. I was in shock. But at that moment a seed was planted in my subconscious mind, that “great things were going to happen”. And she was right, we kept growing as my mother would pay our utility costs with her little pension money, we were selling food, we did fundraising and the number of youth kept growing.
Kibrando e gritunan silensioso
Then one day as I was listening to the radio I heard an interview of a reporter with a young girl, that has been sexually abused by her father since she was 3 years old until she was 11 years old as her father passed away. And this I found unacceptable and I could relate with this girl. By that same time, a participant in our Youth Parliament approached me and also told me that this was unacceptable so we started There was a dramatic incident happened where a participant in Brigada asked for help first to defend herself and later we mediated to give her a ticket to go to Holland in a shelter. After a refusal to leave on a planned day, she stayed and ended up again after a while requesting a shelter and as she wanted to greet her children for the last time, she was murdered. This affected us deeply. “Kibrando e gritunan silensioso” was founded that focuses specifically on the sexual abuse of children. We made a play related to this topic and were spontaneously invited by Aruba and Bonaire as it became apparent that there was an enormous interest in this subject matter. I decided that this was my responsibility and I started sharing my own experience with sexual abuse. The rest is history.
Brigada di Seguridat
Brigada di Seguridat started after a freakish accident where a 5 years old died in an accident during a parade of Sehu. I was waiting for my son who participated and had just expressed my concern about the safety of this boy and then it happened. This accident has touched me a lot. We still commemorate him every year.
Different former members of Brigada di Seguridat became police officers, work at the fire department, or as prison guards, or join the Marines. We also have some youth that has made an impact like Nathaniel Maria who jumped after a lady in the water and saved her. The government has honored Nathaniel for his bravery.
With Brigada we visited Columbia, Surinam, and visited the other islands including Sint Maarten one day and they decided to start their version called the Sint Maarten Youth Brigade that was inspired by Bos di Hubentut. Another point worth mentioning is that after many years Raul de Windt is going to step down this year and one of his pupils will take command over. This is our policy. We deliberately work on the succession of our leadership.
We also have started a Youth Parliament and we have several former participants in the Youth Parliament who have become members of parliament. The latest example is Gino Brownbill (MFK), who has been the president of the youth parliament, but also Wendell Mercelina (PNP), we are happy for them but we cut ties with these youth when they join a political party so that we maintain our independence.
We also have HEFKE, the abreviation stands for Hoben Empresario Formando Kreando i Edukando. It is a cooperative aimed to teach participants to start their own business. For example, when the Sint Emma bridge was in repair, a group of youngsters from HEFKE, guided the flow of people going from and to Punda Otrobanda. This project was done in collaboration with the CTB. They are also into a plantation with Youth from GOG, so with projects, we enable new entrepreneurs. In other words with all these different segments of Bos di Hubentut, we are adding value to society and helping the participants to become valuable citizens in our society.
Of late in Aliansa you and your team, we know you work in teams, have gained more publicity because of your work in dealing with physical, mental, and sexual abuse of children and women. How are you dealing with the emotions and traumas of clients you are dealing with and do the caretakers also get special attention as they are confronted with so much mental pain?
Aliansa is a network organization that consists of 28 organizations btw and you can find participants in this network on all the other islands and Holland. For privacy reasons, we will not mention too much of the participating organizations.
Bos di Hubentut programs
But to go back to Bos di Hubentut. Our work at Bos di Hubentut is to work on the prevention of all types of abuse of children below the age of 18 years. We don’t deal with the aggressors. That is the task of the Justice Department. The important thing is that the children are victims. Prevention is our most important task.
We want to train parents, educators, teachers and spend a lot of time on children at the pre-school level, the first cycle, and the second school cycle.
We have a doll closet that we use and we have programs on all educational levels. For adolescents, we have a program called “love and protect yourself”. For the boys, we have a program called “building voice” where we teach them empathy. We collaborate with an organization from South Africa, Tabashu Manula. We had 1500 boys participating. We brought them to Curaçao.
We also have another program Debbie Stevens called “Action Breaks Silent”. Via their Facebook page, you can take notice that In Curaçao they had 1800 participants, as we brought them twice in Curaçao.
“Our focus is on prevention with a 5-year program on empathy, influencing the coming generations…”
Our focus was to teach empathy and teach how to deal with emotions, abuse, intimidation, and communication. When we went to the school with a “doll closet” (poppenkast), we noticed the dolls stayed untouched because boys don’t play with dolls. We then decided to have a 5 days long discussion with the boys, as we split the boys and girls and ran a pilot that will now be presented structurally in the schools for the coming 5 years. On the 17th of March 2021, we signed this agreement.
How important is trauma with the aggressors in your opinion?
Yes, it is important and it is called “offender help”. That is why I am a great advocate that we should stop allowing “corporal punishment of children” by parents and at schools. We should treat children with respect. That is also why we have developed a curriculum for the children and teachers and we have just signed (this year) an agreement with 7 schoolboards to spread this periodically updated curriculum in the schools to be taught these coming 5 years. It includes training of teachers regarding this subject matter. We have two psychologists working at Bos di Hubentut and of course some social workers. I am now more involved in the policy preparation and thanks to all those involved in Bos di Hubentut we can make a difference in influencing the coming generations.
Do you think that there is an increase in the abuse or is there more attention and publicity given to these types of abuses in our community also because of your work.
Definitely, in these times with social media, it offers more opportunity to bring abuse in the open. I have an aunt at soon will turn 101 years old and she told me in an interview of the physical abuse of her sister that she had experienced. So it has always been there. Look what came out in the open on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and other churches. So it happened in the past and different social layers of our societies.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
To bring happiness to the hearts of people in the world, which includes my family of course. My journey is to bring about changes and break with taboos, like what we did with the taboo on sexual abuse with children in Curaçao. What I went through, I used to create a movement to address this issue. I am a forgiving person and I am forgiving everybody because the aggressors could have been victims themselves or they might have had some emotional problem.
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 would be on my way to let the next generation take the lead in the organization. I will be doing something different in my life. I would be a mentor/advisor if it is appreciated and I would be promoting a “healthy active lifestyle”.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with working as a social entrepreneur? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
To make people aware that they can change their lives, through the choices they make. To let people wake up that they are not a victim and that they can indeed change their lives.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
I am always using my Inner voice and before it becomes a dilemma it is already solved. My inner voice works very very well and I am very well protected. It guides me every single moment of the day. I am very well taken care of and everything I need is taken care of.
You have once suggested me to read Joseph Murphy The power of the subconscious mind, I have read it and I am applying it to get the share2uplift movement further. How are you using this in the work that you do?
I was surprised to read that you have read Joseph Murphy. Yes, surprised. These days I am very much into Louise Hay. I repeat my affirmations before leaving my house in the morning, this is to boost my mind and energy. I also listen to affirmations of Bob Baker. When I give training I explain how powerful the subconscious mind is. I have used it with a sister of mine who had cancer, using affirmations put on the wall of her bedroom, together with meditations and prayers, this accelerated her healing after she got operated on in Columbia. We also teach our psychologists to use the power of the subconscious mind when attending to our female clients.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?
I am permanently educating myself and this is also Bos di Hubentut itself. We are following courses that are being offered and financed to us locally and elsewhere in the world, like in Holland, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Aruba for example. “Conscious discipline” is a course in Aruba and we have worked to adapt it to our local circumstances. And we use the principle of train the trainers. The courses since Covid could also be online and that is how I and the organization keep educating itself.
What are your strengths?
Strong character and strongly opinionated. I know who I am. What you see is what you get. I can be very honest, without having the intention to hurt anybody btw. I can also be diplomatic. I take circumstances and obstacles for a challenge.
What is a trait that is a work in progress?
If you as Sheila would meet a stranger on the bus (let say in Amsterdam or New York) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I am Sheila Albertoe, I come from a beautiful island, Curaçao. If you ever visit us, please contact us. I would talk about the organization Bos di Hubentut more than I would talk about me.
How would you describe Sheila in one word or one sentence?
Strong character with a lot of empathy.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My mother and my father an entrepreneur. Jean Henriquez has inspired and influenced me a lot. She is a humble person, as she never puts herself in the middle of anything. The way she lives, if I ever doubt myself to check if I am humble enough, I just look at Jeanne. She is full of energy, might call me at 6.30 am and discuss things to do, we share laughs and she never asks money for her services, always giving, giving, and giving. We are kind of friends. Of course, I have a big extended family at the office of colleagues and in my work, they all inspire me. Also Raul de Windt because of his honesty and bluntness and Rachelle my daughter, is even better than I am in certain areas and of course my two sons.
What was a defining moment in your life?
When I sit back, reflect, and look back, it is the fact that I raised three children with the help of my family, so they are successful in what they are doing right now as adults. If I sit back, I become aware of how super blessed and happy I am. Happiness is an internal thing, when both my parents passed away I accepted this and even celebrated the moment they crossed over. I have a mindset of not regretting anything. What has lead me to success is, celebrating life, forgiving, and detaching.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
I want to be a fit and healthy woman that is still very active physically eats healthy thinks positively and still, attends the gym. I would still be coaching people. Children, women, boys, and men. I would be using table therapy, where clients are being taught that they are not victims, but survivors. Where they would be role models for others. That it is a teaching people to look for the power from within not to look at the external material things for their core power.
Three personal stories:
I recently went to the Plaza market to buy some food and a youngster stopped me and asked me if I was Sheila Albertoe. I told him yes and he asked me permission to give him a hug, Which I did. He told me that I was a role model and that he loved listening to me as I was able to touch his heart when I talked.
Another personal story:
I went to Centrum Supermarket one day and as I came back to the car I noticed that I wasn’t charged correctly by the cashier, so I went back to the cashier and told her this and she was very grateful for my honesty, as she told me that they would withhold the money from her salary.
The other I went to buy so fruits and as I was trying to swipe, I couldn’t swipe my almost Ang 80,- guilders or so. As I came back after asking my sister in the parking lot for money to pay cash, someone at the store told me that I was already paid for by an unknown person.
All the stories affect me greatly.
As I explained I asked my Angels to keep the Bos di Hubentut building for me and after some time I got it. I asked and it was given. But in these stories, I didn’t ask for these blessings, I just got them directly as a big surprise. That humbles me and touches me deeply.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
- love them and they love me;
- am a servant at home and my work;
- never make or prepare things only for myself I am always thinking about sharing with others;
- am a caretaker of my family;
- dearly appreciate my family and vice versa and my family is meant in the sense that it is an extended family which includes those at the office, they are all my big extended family;
- I’m passionate and committed to my job;
- I believe in spirituality, love is my religion;
- Walk the talk.
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 have so many good thoughts about myself and this carries over to Curaçao. We have so many beautiful things on the island, everytime I come back from a trip to Curaçao when I land, I express my gratefulness to GOD and my Angels that we live on such a blessed island, which such nice people, where our doors are open to welcome each other and we love each other and appreciate one another. We are a special group of people and everywhere I go I feel the warmth of people. I love our music like music from the late Cedride. My daughter Rachelle teased me when he passed away and told me that “my lover had passed away”, that is how much I loved his music, as when I brought my children to school I used to play his CDs in the car. I also love Chin Behilia his songs. So yes I am optimistic about the future of Curaçao.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Sheila Albertoe is a pro-active, opinionated, super sensitive, determined, caring social entrepreneur, with a strong “we-mentality”, that firmly believes that we as human beings can decide over our destiny. According to Sheila we are not victims but need to become victors of our situations. Her vision, spirituality, and strong character have helped her for 30 years to create a multi-faceted youth movement “Bos di Hubentut” supported by a core organization, that has impacted the course of our community in different ways, while also inspiring others that don’t even live in Curaçao. Passionate in her endeavors to improve a lot of our youth, Sheila for the years has created “Kibrabando e gritunan di silensio”, after being confronted with sexual abuse and domestic violence; created “Brigada di Siguridat” after a freakish accident leading to the death of a 5-year-old in a parade; has created a “Youth Parliament” where right at this moment two former members are members of parliament; has created HEFKE a cooperative of young entrepreneurs aimed at developing entrepreneurial skills among our youth and of late has become one of the spokespersons of a network of organizations called Alianza, aimed at addressing issues related to domestic and violence and sexual abuse in Curaçao. Having a strong character and being opinionated on the subject matters has not always come easy, but her perseverance over the years has let “Bos di Hubentut” create strong roots, build to be here to stay. Her empathy towards clients, her willingness to be vulnerable and talk about her own experiences with sexual abuse and domestic violence, has given her this unique ability to connect heart to heart with clients and resonate with others on their way to their recovery. Of late “Bos di Hubentut” has signed an agreement with 7 school boards to present programs for boys and girls in schools in the first and second cycle of our educational system, as Sheila believes in a prevention strategy at the one hand to alter the abuse in our society aimed at the coming generations and the other hand also be an active participant in Alianza, dealing with acute abuse problems that our society has to deal with.
For all these reasons, we dearly love and respect her and consider her one of the 250 influencers of the islands representing the NGO sector and the youth sector.
Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.