Influencers Verna Sybesma-Garmes, Jeanne van Hoop, and Lionel Jansen

In this week’s blog (20th of November till the 26th of November 2023) we had an interview with Verna Sybesma-Garmes, Jeanne van Hoop, and Lionel Jansen. Furthermore, we would like to invite you to our next MYM Book presentation on Tuesday, December 12th. Furthermore, we will to share some short motivational videos related to overcoming obstacles. We will upload one of these videos every day on our Facebook page


By Angelica Parris

Whether they are the three musketeers or not, Curaçao will learn more about taking time and patience to form new leaders. Recently Ivan Kuster spoke to these unique pensioners and trust me, after reading their story you will stop watching your watch to say I don’t have time, I have to get home and it’s not my problem.

Verna Sybesma-Garmes, Jeanne van Hoop, and Lionel Jansen work together to give children support in reading. They are mentors who work hard together and who strive to give their maximum support for better development for a positive future. Jeanne has worked for a long period in her career with the elderly and adults. She loves working with children. It’s a serious task that has its demands

Mr. Jansen knows the ins and outs of the variety of deficiencies in the entire educational system, but he never meddled with, it until he became a teacher himself and later on in his career a politician in a new political movement that made serious changes in Curaçao. “It is crucial that children understand letters in words if they have to become avid readers that excel in the educational system. Early on Jeanne and I understood this serious issue in the after-school education program in the late 90’s. We started the so-called NOC after-school program.”

Jansen started with the Public Schools Departments to give support. “I come from a family of 11 siblings and I am the 3rd child. I always helped out. When I was 12 I would walk the Otrobanda area to give support. At the onset of my professional career development, it was already in me to help. As a Christian with the right upbringing, I never gave up on our youth. If I have to help the youth, the only ones to blame are the adults. They are the ones who could have created a better opportunity. I see how many children help themselves with English using their tablets. Everything that the youth do wrong, the blame is to be laid on their parents. The home environment should do more to improve their reading. Reading at schools was set back in the Covid period.”

Never underestimate the problem

Mr. Jansen and his colleagues noticed working with 4 schools how many setbacks the pupils have. Volunteers are important if you want a success rate, but 1 adult has to work with at least 20 students and you never get the time to give detailed attention. Some schools moved ahead, but others were seriously behind.  Mr. Jansen explains that there is no true control in schools. “The Department of Education Inspection does not do their work. Teachers are pressured into more administrative work than concentrating on the children’s development. Schools are giving too much homework to the pupils. The learning environment has to be pleasing to the pupil. Homework on weekends should be limited. They need space to play and develop themselves. There is a huge deficiency in teaching methods. Children need good attention, to get their attention”.

“Jeanne and I work twice a week. We know the challenges in “Niveau Lezen”: it’s a system that tests the children in their reading proficiency. But when the children read for the AVI tests, they fall behind. If you don’t read ahead to help them they can’t follow the materials in the school system. This is a great mishap in the schooling system, but when you talk to the children, in smaller groups they tell their realities and then you immediately understand what is wrong. If you don’t read the story to them, they will never apprehend how to process the information that they are getting.  Without the proper guidance, you easily start improvising. You can’t afford to do that nowadays. Experts like my colleague Jeanne are not used in classrooms. If you are not a school inspector, you have to be careful. The system has to make better use of our experience and background. Many times our colleagues don’t give us the support we need. And this leads to failure”, he explains

Today, Jansen says he has his reasons for refusing another career in education in the modern system “You may get many against you. I strongly feel that parents, teachers, and students need additional guidance. Parents are stronger than unions.

What makes your after-school approach so unique?
“We have a successful formula, where every teacher gets to accompany 2 to 3 youths and give them more focused attention and this has resulted in evidence-based proof of the success of this formula. Nowadays I believe that the Inspectorate is hardly doing any inspections as they are too involved in administrative tasks leaving them having no time to connect with the schoolchildren themselves. This I consider a big omission by the way. Children are now getting too much homework, and that is why children don’t like to go to school.”

Why do you think that reading has lost so much of its importance at some of the day schools?
“The Teachers Program (LOFO) nowadays has been watered down compared to in the past. Of the 100 teachers at school, I guess that 80 % of them lack solid didactics. Children are children you have to repeat and repeat so many times before it becomes a structural part of their behavior. One needs to demonstrate it first then make them do it; like sing first before allowing them to sing or read with a varying tone to emphasize certain parts of the text that they are reading.

I used to read in the classroom and stop before the climax of the story and this would let them keep their interest in reading.

I have given my best for the development and education of children and I also believe that it is important to involve the parents of the children as much as possible. You can teach them instead of keeping them uninformed.”

Lionel Jansen worked for 40 years in many organizations. He is currently a team of the FFK(soccer Foundation), and he also works in the neighborhood organizations. He is a multi-tasked person with responsibilities of after-school teaching in the Steenrijk area. “I was head of a school and over time I saw how many improvements there were in areas of arithmetic, and Dutch in my school district. If I notice discrepancies I fight to make them right. I made a point of being early at school, and I started to observe people how they come and start their workday, how they treat the pupils, colleagues, and parents, their attitudes, and even how they work. Some colleagues don’t have the heart for the teaching business. You have to make sure you follow the leader. In 2003 I started my political career and I never gave up notwithstanding criticism of the political leader’s observation. With my 40 years in sports and education, I had my formula for how to win.

I have seen many children fall behind because the methods applied did not help the children according to their proficiency level. I worked with Tito Faries and Yubi Evertsz who inspired me. Tito and I researched children who fail in school. Mr. Miguel Goede worked at the University of Curacao at the time. I explained that the school boards define the demands on the students that they have to comply with. (during our interview Mr. Jansen mentioned many schools on the island that differed in social classes and schoolboards) With his colleagues, he managed to get a good insight into school rules. It has come to his attention that teachers always generalize the children’s behavior. “I turned it around and checked the teacher’s grades that were given to the students to prove them wrong. It is their responsibility to help. You can’t afford to have a child in the 8th grade who can’t read!”.

“There is no control in our educational system!”

“In the past, I went to many courses given. Many opted not to go. But a good example I learned was to learn how this can influence on funding of new schooling teaching methods. As far as reading is concerned I always helped. Verna asked Jeanne and Jeanne asked me, and I got involved to date. Jeanne and Verna believe in the fusion of school projects. Jeanne used to help Brionschool. “Parents approached me to give support and I did. The schools ask for our support to help pupils, but they don’t give you additional support. Demands are high and you need volunteers to help out with after-school tutoring. After a year Mr. Jansen joined her. “I was never given the proper approach. Speaking to my colleague Verna, we decided to join forces. Verna joined and subsequently, we could get space from the clergy to get a small space. In time, Lionel went back to the schooling system which allowed us to get to 2 school rooms at what we know as Kolegio Chaya Willems. We started with 40 children (it’s volunteer work) every person gets 2 to three children. We decided what groups we wanted to help. Grades 3, 4, and 5 had children who could hardly read.”

Mr. Jansen explained that they had to get a system to create interest in reading. According to colleague Verna, the team had to structure their way of assisting students to give more children the opportunity. Can you imagine how hard it was to get at least 1 teacher involved? Mr. Jansen approached all the schools to no avail: “I heard so many reasons why not to help the pupils. However, we did get feedback from the schools themselves on the reading improvement of the children, simply because in our program we work in small groups. To this date, the assistance of teachers is still lacking. The school environment is not a happy hour place. You can’t change the children’s grades to please the parents. I have seen teachers who lack professional teaching skills. Children are children you have to stick to an adequate curriculum.

There is a total of 17 students that get support to date, according to him.

“You have to keep pushing the teachers. There is a school that sent 19 students. But you can’t accommodate all of them without proper guidance. We work with volunteers. That is very crucial if you don’t have enough.”

What have you learned over the years from your after-school teaching experience?
Lio: “The first year we had 40 children and in the second year we had over 100 children. We needed a venue and via the pastorate of the church of Steenrijk, we ultimately got a classroom that we could use. We were not charging the children a fee. We learned the hard way that if we wanted to guarantee the quality of the attention that we offered we needed to scale down the numbers of children. For every volunteer teacher, we needed to have groups of no more than 2 or 3 children. In the day school, the teacher has to deal with 20-plus children which affects the quality of attention they can offer the children.

At this moment we have 17 children from three schools. Although we sometimes have a challenge to have enough children we also have experienced that one school send 19 children and we had to limit these as we don’t have enough volunteers to help out. We have 15 volunteers but they are not available during the whole week, as most of them are pensioners and we have to respect their choice. So that more or less puts a limit to the number of children we can help.”

“I was worried that children were not getting enough reading at school.”

What is your BIG WHY to offer reading classes?
Verna: “My heart and love for children as I was worried that children were not getting enough reading at school. I help in whatever way I can, like looking for sponsors to be able to pay for the expenses. What we do is Lio and Jeanne their task. I am surprised at times by how little teachers know of the children attending our reading classes. The other day I was surprised by a child who laughed for the very first time.  Because of the way we treat them with special care, it resulted that this child needed spectacles, and because of her poor eye sight stressed even when she had to open a book. We make them feel welcomed and appreciated and give them the feeling that they too also matter, that is my biggest driving motivation to be involved in this project.

I have a lot of other plans, I want to recruit more volunteers in more locations on the island. It would be great if the Minister of Education would recognize the efforts that we are putting in for these children. We don’t need sophisticated equipment to do what we do, just physical books, and the rest we take care of and it works and gives me a lot of fulfillment.”

Jeanne: “I have taken notice that children at school now miss so many basics, like a letter box, to learn the alphabet. Not knowing the alphabet makes the rest of the educational career of a child so much more difficult, as well as teaching them Papiamentu. That is why I got involved. I want to help and doing what we do gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

What are your plans for the coming 5 years?
“We will continue to offer reading classes. We will continue to try to find out which children are struggling with reading so that we can approach their parents to help them. Keep offering something that they normally don’t get at school and that is reading technically and understanding what they are reading.

We are not a school but we do create a safe and pleasant environment so that they can learn to read.”

What are the challenges that you are dealing with as an after-school educational institution? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
“Look and find the parent’s names so that we can contact them and explain the strict rules that we apply. We start our classes at 1.30 and till 3.30 pm and we have to be there at times from 11.30 am on. They have to start doing their homework from 1 pm on after they have had their lunch. Every child gets a free lunch and an apple.

They get classes for two to three months. They want to repeat these classes but we have to limit this otherwise other children don’t get a chance.

Our philosophy is that education is all about compensation and punishment. At the regular school, they get punished more often than compensated.

We make it our motto to compliment them, which they appreciate a lot.”

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most?
“1. My mother;
2. Marcel de Palm a leader in Scouting; 
3. Yubi Evertsz and Tito Faries were my mentors in the educational field.”

Verna: “Before I started this I couldn’t have imagined that I would be involved in the educational field, teaching youth reading. I am a lawyer/legal advisor. My generation used to go to the Library and that got us reading books etc, nowadays, it doesn’t come easy. I firmly believe that a child who learns to love reading will get far in their education. “

Jeanne: “My father always used to have a book in his hands; A cousin who was involved in the educational field; An uncle and aunt, one was a Gym teacher and the other an Arts teacher. My grandparents were always hard workers.”

Lio: “A fighter for social justice, especially for those with special needs, children;  Helping those with needs and thus, creating a better world.”

Verna: “A person who loves to help and firmly believes that every single child deserves an opportunity, a fair chance.

Jeanne: “A work ready to help.”

After years the guidance teachers have had more than 200 children. Many of the volunteers are pensioners. You have to make sure you help them right. Some teachers allow failure scenarios for students. They make use of too many technologies such as digital boards. They may turn around and ask me how to proceed which is their responsibility. We have to be more child-friendly in the learning environment.
“I want to state the following if it is so hard to get a development going we need to do more. Many children need more attention. But I am going to ask for more. I can’t help 2 children I need a strong support team to help more pupils. You need to think ahead of the daily schooling system. Our group gives support in Dutch and Papiamentu. Sometimes we have children with behavior problems and we need to eliminate the impression that we are the extension of the regular school system. I am approached by schools in reading projects that do not fall under my responsibility as a volunteer worker. But we realized that children like expression projects out of their daily routine. The principal of the school decides the fun, creative part of the regular reading tasks. Creativity helps a great deal and gives improvement to the children’s efforts”, according to Mr. Jansen. Teachers need external motivation such as better pay and so forth. The current educational system does not have professionals who can give guidance to the children.

What are the challenges that need to be dealt with?
“The regular schooling system forgets. We need the phone number of the parents who have to be informed of the rules. But at the same time, they forget, and when the time comes to start my colleagues Verna and Jeanne get stressed out, because I have to keep going back for the information to help. This is a challenge. We also get parents who do not support us. The afterschool project ends at a certain time, but the pick up of the children is a mishap. We reach the schools at 11:30 start at 1:30 till 3:30. When we are done we have to go home. But parents have the attitude that we have to take their kids home, according to the after-school project team. The children come happy and we tap into their needs. They are happy and are eager to return. Some can walk home, but you don’t let a 7-year-old walk home. We agree that all the children have to get a lunch that consists of at least 1 fruit. Some kids don’t eat fruit at home. The educational system punishes and primes. That is so essential in the advancement of young children. Compliments are very important. Teaching adults how to read and write is the same”, Jeanne explains.”

In 20 years from now, these strong pillars of the community want to be remembered as follows:
Lionel Jansen: “I am ready to help and I believe in Social Justice. I see how many young ones are held back. I am patriotic and at 70 my colleagues and I are proactive and still have the speed to assist children. Lio’s strong points: I am good at organizing I can anticipate what will happen, as I do in sports. Examples are baseball and Volleyball. There are many things that teachers have to learn as educators especially when you work with children.”

“When I have to help, I go the extra mile for children. The same stands for the elderly.”

Verna Sybesma-Garmes:”I am a determined person sometimes I feel like a pit bull. I carry on every effort that I make to help. I am short but very determined in my goals and age is never a hindrance.”

Jeanne Van Hoop: “When I have to help, I go the extra mile for children. The same stands for the elderly. At 73 I can still do a lot.”

Verna: “I am a worker. I mop I sweep where I work as a volunteer and I go as far as helping sick children. Some volunteer workers don’t feel like the extra mile. When feeding the children you have to move, and give more than you can. Even if you get a fee work hard!”

Jeanne: “If you are asked to do something do it.”

Defining Moment for the Project:
“We started after the Pandemic in 2021. A defining moment for me was getting a location next to the schools to continue our work due to budget. We did not want to charge the parents. According to Mr. Jansen, they needed to do more negotiations with school principals.

Verna: My inspiration came from Lio and Jeane. I helped at my child’s school. When I saw how my colleagues struggled I became aware of how much this project was needed. We used to help at the Brion school already If I was not the head of the school Department, according to Mr. Jansen I would have never gotten this far. The generations we grew up in used to go more to the Public Library.

We all have something to give from the moment you make that step to become a leader in any area, make sure you get ready for setbacks with the positive attitude to move onwards!”

One of the 250 Influencers

Verna Sybesma-Garmes, Jeanne van Hoop, and Lionel Jansen are a remarkable and inspiring trio, that as a team together give children support in reading. As mentors, they work hard together to give their maximum support for better development for a positive future for the children attending. Jeanne and Lio Jansen have worked their whole career as teachers, but also very much aware of the variety of deficiencies in the entire educational system. Mr. Jansen: “It is crucial that children understand letters in words if they have to become avid readers that excel in the educational system”. Their concept is simple, give more attention to the children.

What makes them stand out is, that they decided not to sit at the side and be critical of our educational system, but their drive to be of help to other fellow human beings, has brought them together and they are working continuously to overcome multiple challenges like getting enough children to attend these free after school reading classes, funding for offering the children a free lunch, getting enough volunteers willing to help out in the reading classes, but with a BIG drive based on strong Christian values to help your fellow human being, to stay their course and help out those children that need it the most. That is why we consider them one of the 250 influencers of the island, representing the “Educational 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 2023

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 2023.” 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;
• Compassion;
• Respectfulness;
• Integrity;
• Responsibility.

As we will progress towards this goal, we will update you on the progress.

MYM-platform session

Our next MYM-platform session will be on Tuesday the 12th of December via Zoom from 7 to 9 pm, where we will present “The Obstacle is the Way”, by Ryan Holiday and The Power of one more, by Ed Mylett.

The Obstacle is the Way has become a cult classic, beloved by men and women around the world who apply its wisdom to become more successful at whatever they do. 
The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” 
Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.
If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. And along the way it will inspire you with dozens of true stories of the greats from every age and era.

This book will be presented by Ivan Kuster

You’re one more intentional thought and action away from discovering your best life

In The Power of One More, renowned keynote speaker and performance expert Ed Mylett draws on 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and coach to top athletes, entertainers, and business executives to reveal powerful strategies to help you live an extraordinary “one more” life.

In The Power of One More, you’ll:

  • Learn why you’re closer to your dreams and goals than you think and why using The Power of One More strategies will help you cross the finish line in whatever race you’re running
  • Understand the psychology and science of how to use The Power of One More in every part of your life to help you solve problems and achieve levels of success you never thought possible
  • Discover time-tested and unique solutions to challenges that will remove the mental roadblocks you’ve been battling for years

Perfect for anyone who wants more bliss, wealth, or better relationships, The Power of One More is an indispensable roadmap to realizing and exceeding your personal and professional goals by tapping into the superpowers and gifts you already have inside you.

This book will be presented by Sidayen Senora.

Date: Tuesday the 14th of December 2023
Time: 7.00 – 9.00 PM
Entrance fee: Free

Subscribe by emailing us: at and we will send you the Zoom link so that you can participate in our presentation of this book.

Personal Coaching tips

This week we will to share some short motivational videos related to overcoming obstacles. We will upload one of these videos every day on our Facebook page

Oprah Winfrey’s Inspiring Journey: Overcoming Obstacles & Achieving Greatness | Motivational Story – YouTube

The Obstacle Is The Way — How To Overcome Life Challenges — Animated Book Review – YouTube

Overcoming obstacles – Steven Claunch – YouTube

A Lesson On Resilience – YouTube

The Obstacles In Your Path – short motivational story – YouTube

The Obstacles In Your Path – YouTube

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