Influencer Sheillah Benoit-Bergland: loves to inspire
Interview June 2019
Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I am a mother of two children, my daughter is 43 years old and has two children, my son lives in Holland and is 37 years old and also has 2 children. I am happily married. I come from a family of 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls. Two of my brothers had passed away. My father was born in Curaçao, my mother was born in Saint Martin and my husband is from Grenada
What role did you parents play in you becoming whom you are now?
I got my education from my mother. She raised us with a mindset and a way of living, that “what you don’t have, do without it.” We didn’t had lots of money, but she taught me the value of life, as we lived in wooden house in Salinja and we had to sleep on the floor on a mat, but that didn’t bother me at all. I am open minded. I was on girls scouting and I was a leader back then and many things has made me the person I am today. I was taught a very pro-active attutude. For example that if at school you didn’t learn something that you needed, I was encouraged to go and look for it to find out, what it was all about and so to always be “up to date.” I started my career when I was 16 years old in 1963, after I have reached the 7th grade of the MULO, I started working at the company Hector Henriquez B Incorporated. As I progressed in my career, I learned all the things that I needed like “shorthand (“steno”, business correspondence at mr. Tweeboom that offered these type of courses back then. I have done all sorts of jobs, house cleaning, offering coffee to employees, and then came 30th of May, which we just conmemorated as it was 50 years ago. That was a very impactful moment, because our office burned out and I have experienced the fear and and at times hysteria among mothers, worried about not being able to find milk to feed their children, as I helped at the botica “Antillean Drugstore”. I also discovered, that I am a relatively fearless person. I always say: “If a dog feels that you are afraid of it, it will bite you.”
In 2013 Mr. Dennis and Sadira Henriquez of Irie Tours started a desk at the Renaissance hotel and they asked me to work for them. As they have known me as a very positive person. I now still work there and I sell tours to tourists.
Where did your apparent pro-activeness come from?
From my mother, she was always positive and this inspired me to grow and I continue growing even though I am 72 yeard old, I still work and I attract a lot of good things in my life. My father also was a very positive man. He always was out to meet and talk to other people, he met. I have a sister living in Aruba, and she told me: “Sheillah you are just like our father.” My wisdom, I get from GOD, I have faith in GOD, I am a believer, but not dogmatic. When you look at nature with all its beauty and diversity, there must be something bigger that then us, as human beings.
I am left handed, but the education I got from Roman Catholic Clergy forced me to write with my right hand but i continued writing left. In 1972, I went to a course given by Victor Pinedo in 1972. He had a foundation offering motivational courses to employees of Shell, but also to the private sector. One of our directors that also have participated in courses of Victor Pinedo, offered me to fill in for a sloth as other directors of our company didn’t want to attend these courses. That turned out to be one of the defining moments in my life. As these courses challenged me to discover a new version of myself, as I was able to grow and release obstacles that were holding me back. I became a newer and better version of myself. I know that a person’s mind is everything in life. If your mind changes, it affects everything else in your life. This is also true for illnesses such as cancer, it is according to me not an illness, but it is a business. People are not sick, but they have problems that affect their bodies. I am always working on improving my mind.
I have a positive mindset and because of that I attract a lot of good in my life. I am not the person, that when I turned 60 years old, decided to sit at the side and considered my life was done, like unfortunately lots of people have become to believe. I truly believe, that you die when you want to die. I believe that accidents don’t happen, it is caused. This was a saying my mother used. I believe that you are the one that, to a certain extent, decide when you die. I knew someone whom husband died after being married for 45 years. The widow gave up on life and stopped eating and drinking and passed way. Is that destiny? It was her choice.
You seem to be a very outspoken person apart from being very positive. Is that true?
Yes, I believe that, it is not what you say, but the way you say it, like I live in Koraal Specht and I was on a bus some days ago and I noticed that the driver was on his phone, while he was driving the bus. I told him in a kind way, that I didn’t appreciate this. He answered by saying it was voice mail, but the message got through, he stopped. That is what I mean, he accepted what I told him, he knew I was right and without getting mad or something. Others might have gotten mad, but he didn’t, also because of my positive demeanor and the way I expressed myself.
Another example: I will express myself when things are not right, like the other day we went for a drink and some snacks and ordered chicken wings and french fries. But we got chicken drummettes, in any case not wings. So at first I told the waiter to tell the manager about his dissonance, and later I talked to the manager himself. I explained politely that if wings are on the menu, it is a little bit deceptive if it turns out to be something else. At times when you give feedback, some take it personal, while this was not my intention. Well the waitress took it well, not the manager though, he didn’t. He told me, we have always done this like this.
But why do you felt the need to tell them this?
Because I want to release, what I feel. I am not a person that is going to keep these types of emotions bottled up in me, because I know how it can affect your health negatively.
Where did you learn this?
From my mother I guess. She had her life wisdom, but it runs in th family. My brother Melly Bergland is also very positive and has studied psychology and metaphysics. But I believe that all of us have a gift you have to use it or your loose it. I use my gifts, my positivity towards my clients. I am passionate about my work and I work with lots of love and my guests can sense that. I am not doing it for the money.
I also believe that we should be careful and impeccable with our words, what you say goes into the Universe, by being aware of the power of words, you will never hear my say that:
“I am hungry”, I will say: “I would love to eat something”, or I will never say in papiamento: “Bai poko poko”,
I will say “Pasa bon” which means “Have fun”. So, be impeccable with your words, words have so much power in them.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are?
As you know, I am selling tours to mostly tourists here at our booth on the first floor at the Renaissance Hotel close to the Starbucks. The tourists love my positivism. And some tell me that “we will never forget you”. I love to inspire people and with my work, I have inspired lots of people. I always ask them why they have chosen to come to Curaçao. And a lot of them say because “It is different” and they wanted a different experience. Curaçao has lots of history culture, beaches and nice people also. I am not selling tours only and I am trying to connect with the tourists and if I would meet them again in Punda, I would greet them and talked with them. I also thank them for visiting Curaçao.
I have worked for 19 years from 1963 till 1982. Then I stopped working. I was a sales woman and promoting different products in the supermarket. Well back then Central Madereinse also needed to promote a product, a brand called E & J. The owner of Central Madereinse approached me to promote this product subject to approval from the agent living in Puerto Rico, that I needed to meet at Princess Beach personally. As the agent from Puerto Rico had asked him to find 4 good looking young ladies to do the promotion, this meeting with the agent would be helpful. So I went to meet this agent and he asked me why I would do a better job in promoting his product.
So I asked him: “What are selling, the young ladies or the product.” He decided there and then, to hire me.
In 2017 I decided to do a scuba diving course at Hans Pley from Curious2dive. I was meeting so many tourists wanting to scuba dive and they talked of assecoiries they already had brought with them and I didn’t know what they were talking about, so I decided to do something bold, I decided to go and learn how to scuba dive at Caracasbaai and it took me 7 to 8 tries, with water coming into my diving mask in the beginning, but in the end I managed and it couldn’t imagine myself how beautiful it could be underwater. It was great. I didn’t tell neither my husband neither my children what I was planning to do, because I was sure that they would have discouraged me. After the dive, I called my daugther and told her to go to website of Curious2dive and look at the pictures taken, while I was diving and my daughter Ruella was so enthusiastic and she told me
“Mom I am so proud of you.” And I told her, that she had never told me that before and that I needed to have to make scuba dive with 70 years old, to have her say that, ha, ha,ha..! But also in that year, I went for a dive of 600 feet with a submarine at Seaquarium, and friends told me if I had gone mad as: “The sea is for fish, not for human beings” and I also went swimming with the dolphins at Seaqurium. Btw, the guests I help with my advices, at times are so grateful, that one once invited me to come celebrate Thanksgiving and Black Friday at New Jersey as a vacation and she asked if I was the lady that with 70 years old was still exploring new things and went scuba diving for the first time…So, yes I inspire lots of people.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with and how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
I meet very few negative people at my desk. I attract the positive ones. And even if a negative person shows up, I can learn something from them. I met one just the oter day and she told me that she hated Curaçao. She had just left the Hilton Hotel and checked in at the Renaissance Hotel because that would save her taxi costs. After I booked her a trip for a scuba dive, she came back to me and was still unhapp,y because she had to pay the taxi fare to go and come back from Caracasbaai. Well, I concluded that this person might have some problems of her own. I wanted to help her, but she didn’t wanted to be helped.
I once met a person whom shared with me this story, about an elderly person 95 years old, that invited him to come and have coffee with him, which he declined to do and didn’t show up and the next day that person died. He will never forget this and that has become his motto: “Don’t postpone joy, don’t postpone nothing, because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” I agree with this motto.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal skills? Do you like reading books, follow courses, practice a lot and like investing in networks and people that might help you further your knowledge and skills level?
I read books from Louisa Hay and Kahlil Gibran that help to uplift me. It gives me the power to do good in life. You know, I often write letters to GOD and I really get answers. Once I have written them, I don’t burn these letters. I keep them. You reap what you think, really. I journal all the miracles that I am experiencing. You can’t eat healthy and have a unhealthy mindset, your mindset should also be positive. Once you belief it, it will happen.
As an example for miracles that happen I would like to share the following that happened to me:
I pray and express my gratefulness the whole day. And by doing this I attract positive things in my life. I always try to use positive words. In 2005 me and my husband went to Holland because of our son’s graduation. At Schiphol my husband was almost sent back to Curaçao because he needed to have a visa being from Grenada. But it was solved, although he stayed for a shorter time, thanks also to the efforts of my son.
Last year me and my husband went to Holland for 2 weeks again, this time for the marriage of my son.When I came back to Curaçao I bought all types of combination of numbers the year he was born, his age..you name it and I won Ang 1700,- as I was without any income during these two weeks, at least I thought this. But my boss also gave me a salary, and those things are examples of miracles that I experience.
I continuously upgrade my knowledge of the island also, of late I attended the museum week, re-visited Kura Hulanda, basically continuously learning, this has never stopped and I will not stop neither, because I am 72 years old. Every single day, you have to be open to new experiences in life.
What are your (other) strengths?
I stay positive, when I do a task, I do it from the bottom of my heart. And my “yes” is a “yes”, my “no” is a “no”.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
First of all my work, this office at the Renaissance Hotel is my second home. My daughter often asks me: “Ma, when are you going to leave to go home, early?” But my work is my passion. I always come to work with lots of excitement. In a way, I am also a perfectionist. Like when I get home, I take off my shoes and walk in my house with slippers. I like everybody else also to do this, my children also have to do this.
If you as 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?
As I am quick to start a conversation with anyone, I would say my name is Sheillah, I am on vacation, have a good morning and have a nice day. As I would walk in the streets, I would have a pleasant face. I like communicating with people and make them feel good and feel happy. I like to give people compliments, I like to look at things from the up-side. In every situation that might look bad, there is a silver line, look for it.
How would you describe Sheillah in one word or one sentence?
I love to inspire myself and inspire others. To inspire is such a marvelous thing to do. I used to sing in Las Chicas Ritmicas, but also way back in Estrellas del Caribe. I have done so many things in my life, and I am still doing a lot. I have been a Limousine driver for my brother’s Limousine services, I worked at WTC and so on..
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your life?
My mother for sure. She taught me that “what you don’t have, do without it.” I never borrowod from my neighbors anything, I use to have a car, now I walk everday which is good for my health. Be impeccable with your words. And don’t compare yourself with other people.
What was a defining moment in your life?
I would say the moment, I started the course with Vick Pinedo in 1972. I still have the notes of that course and we also made something in clay. I made a dish representing my mind and food, like “food for thought.” That was a great course that made me think radically different about life. Lots of other people that followed that course came to the realization, that they were living the lives of what other people expected for them, instead of being their authentic selves, which let to some divorces btw. It also taught me to live life with purpose.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
I would be 82 years old and still be very active in the tourism sector and I know for sure that I would still be working in this sector.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 15 years years from now?
“Good health, this was always on her mind.”
I also tell my children if I would become ill unable to take care of myself, bring me to an elderly care home or let me die in peace. We humans have the tendency to do the utmost for our Loved Ones, which I consider to be a form of egoism. I don’t want to burden them with my care, I don’t require this from my children.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
Our 5 fingers in one of our hands, all have a different size. There are times when things are good and there are time when things are less good. I believe that with positive thoughts, we can make things happen without false emotions.
That people should be positive and shouldn’t go after other people bringing things up and we should all help to think what can bring our island further.
Btw, if you have negative thoughts, this will affect your body. So think positive thoughts.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
My husband and myself have a Living Apart Together-relationship for 30 years now, since 1989. He lives in Grenada and as a physiotherapist he lost his job and couldn’t stay in Curaçao, so he decided back then, to go and work and live in Grenada. Now, be aware that we used to have a double income as husband and wife, with two cars and after he lost his job, we lost some of the material things we were used to. So, I went to study to become a tour guide and picked up my journey to continue to develop myself personally, while I also taught my children to keep respecting their father although he lived off island, as we only had contact via telephone.
In 1994 I was diagnosed with diabetes and my sugar level in my urine was 439. I was shocked and after reflecting concluded, that the fact that my husband went to live off island, had affected me, leading to the stress related diabetes. So I decided to change my mindset, I decided to help myself and changed my stress levels by not letting the fact that my husband was not on the island, affect my joy of life. The next time I went to the doctor, my sugar level had dropped and reached 139 and my motto became again “live as happy as possible.” I now feel myself very happy and I only use insulin when I eat too late in the evening. And in 2005 due to negligence from my side I lost some of my toes, as I had the choice to either operate the toes or lose my legs. I decided to re-invent myself again. I am very committed to keeping a healthy lifestyle, I love to walk, I love dancing and every week I have a routine to check my remaining toes and keep them pampered and in a good shape. I feel immensely grateful and I feel blessed. I express my gratefulness a lot to GOD, but I am aware that my time isn’t GOD’s time, I write letters to GOD expressing my gratitude and appreciation and accepting all the things that I can’t change.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Sheillah Benoit-Bergland as a mother, grand-mother, wife, exemplary citizen of this island is an inspiring person that works in the tourism sector, now selling tours to tourist at a booth at the Renaissance Hotel and at times also working as a tour guide and has made her work her passion. As she loves to inspire people with her work, she has inspired lots of tourists and local citizens over the years. We definitely consider her one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets for the better, especially in the hospitality sector of our society.