(Re)Creator of life | Rebel by cause


September 2016

The TEDx Aruba Aftermath; Emptiness.

Picture by Raffy Kock, TEDx Aruba September 23 2016

I feel empty. Almost lost, but mostly just empty. Months of preparations, years of wishing. A build up of emotions, expectations, realizations. The tension that slowly sneaks into your whole being. With a big bang the bubble bursts, the air escapes…

An empty vessel that held all the pressure remains…

It’s not just talking on a red dot, the stage or the attention that comes with it. For me it is the emotions that I canalized to be able to do what I do. Feeling her (Debbie) as a part of it, without being to emotional about it. Realizing a dream that you slowly saw coming into your direction with every step you made, created. Fighting your body that wants to lie down, that wants to sit and rest. That can’t stand all the noise and worse, the white noise. The external movement that won’t let you find a comfort zone and your feel that unrest creeping in your being.

I wanted to address what happened in my life that made me change from an insecure 36-year-old boy to the man I’m becoming. I wanted to honor the one that was lost by her loved ones. I wanted to show the possibilities for the future, if we would care and help each other. I wanted to bring together all that was important to me in a mere 15 minutes.

A TEDx talk isn’t just about you and what you want to bring forth. The organization needs to keep to their vision and program. They have a budget, agreements and partner interests and within that you need to play your part. And it’s not a 15 minute part. It’s discussing, preparing, writing, training and nerve wrecking. It didn’t get so much to me as I would expect but it wasn’t as easy as it might seem. I just handled it with my inner zen.

Preparing my talk, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about being a social entrepreneur. I don’t like labels and certainly not when they’re being put on me. However, I knew there was no escaping it if I really wanted to realize my dream. So I took the label and looking at it I soon realized I had to wear this one. Maybe not as a huge emblem like “look at me now” but as “this is what I’m becoming.”

A dear friend advised me to change my talk about topics more suiting to my situation. Instead I chose to adapt my life to the talk I was about to make and the pressure started cooking…

I needed to become a “Social Entrepreneur.”

As soon as those words were released from my system the universe came knocking. Business partners popped up, dream opportunities where on the table, an intention declaration was signed for two years with a local NGO. And then, my car broke down just before I started to feel an immense burning sensation in my lower part of my body. Urinary infection, again…

“How bad do you want this? Are you sure? Are you strong enough?”

As I spoke to friends about my fear that I’m not being afraid enough, that I’m not scared of failing. I’m scared of not trying hard enough. And then my dearest possession broke down again. My car decided to take the test a step further. The fear was real, it just didn’t seem to have power over me.

Leaving to Aruba was the break I needed to change my perspective. To breathe a different air and refuel my dreams. To increase the hopes for all that is yet to come, to reinforce the possibilities that we (it’s not all just me) can create.

Yet here I sit. Empty. My meter is running low, my energy is gone. My body is sore. But the hope is still strong. I anticipated on this. I know what comes after great success. That feeling of accomplishment. I know that what goes up, comes down. The higher, the harder the fall. Our human minds immediately starts asking “What now? What’s next?” I’ve been through it many times and I call it the “sugar rush aftermath.” I’ve had it when I finally got my car, when I won that price and when I tossed my crutches. I overcame all.

This time it’s different. This time, I remember the words being released from my lips “I will stand on that red dot!” This time I look at her picture and I know I have to let go…

Bigger dreams await me. Beautiful souls surround me. I am the man I should be, now I have to create what I dream. I am scared. I am human. I am thankful.

This emptiness will overflow with love before I know it.

The official transcript: The TEDxAruba Transcript (official)

The TEDx Bucket list: Bucket list, check! #TEDxAruba

Music of Choice: Simply Red – Holding back the Years

Holding back the years
Thinking of the fear I’ve had so long
When somebody hears
Listen to the fear that’s gone
Strangled by the wishes of pater
Hoping for the arms of mater
Get to me the sooner or later

Holding back the years
Chance for me to escape from all I’ve known
Holding back the tears
Cause nothing here has grown
I’ve wasted all my tears
Wasted all those years
And nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could yeah

I’ll keep holding on


Bucket list, check! #TEDxAruba

I pushed myself up from my wheelchair and climbed into the hospital bed, immediately reaching for my journal next to my pillow. As I started, tears wet the paper I was writing on…

✓  Learn to walk again

✓  Become stronger (Forever in progress)

✓  Become wiser (Forever in progress)

✓  Starting a business/Be my own employer (Still in process)

✓  Give an inspirational speech or become a public speaker

✓  Stand on a stage as a TEDx speaker

✓  Get a car/Transportation

  ⃣    Create my own home

  ⃣     Find love

  ⃣     Write my biography

I could walk with two crutches by then. Like a drunken monkey I would throw one feet in front of the other, determined I would grin and sigh and catching every swing with one of my two crutches as my physical therapist stayed close by. This strength was new to me. I always considered myself as weak and insecure, Although I wanted to be strong, I doubted everything I did. The only thing for certain, I was passionate and no matter what, that passion always came afloat. During the physical rehabilitation process, I rehabilitated more than just my body. My mind, was the most crippled part.

I’m still not sure what that passion was about. What for? Why? And why did it come back in everything I had done so far. Well, I figured why. Life. Challenges. I like to conquer challenges. Beating the fear. Not every one, but every one that I considered worthy. Since my standards of worth had changed, elevated by witnessing death. Losing yet another person that I loved. I now wanted to conquer any single doubt I ever had and make my life mine! In honor of her.

Learning to walk, that was just the beginning. Standing one day on a stage telling my story, that would be completion. But why just aim for that, I knew what would come after the sugar rush, emptiness. We are humans, satisfaction is not one of our virtues. So I wrote my list and achieved 7 of the listed topics one by one in four years time. The list has grown, it has been adapted, it has improved, specified. And I have a better vision of how and what I want realized. I’m actually just starting.

Last year standing on a stage at Teatro Luna Blou, telling my story for the very first time, opening the Superando Documentary Concert for Levi Silvanie was my big break, mentally, physically and socially. I don’t like crowds, I can’t stand loud noises (anymore) and having constant physical discomfort I felt like I conquered a mountain the size of Everest, and then again, and again, and again… New challenges kept coming and I kept working on overcoming them. Grow stronger. Grow wiser. Grow into who you want to become!

Rosabella Chuchi Illes visit at 2ndLife Curaçao workshop

A couple of months ago I was visited by an Aruban poet, Rosabella Chuchi Illes, to be part of a video clip she was filming for her book release on Curaçao. I cancelled my plans to be at the book release due to physical pains and not being able to deal with the noise and crowd and yet, her follow-up blew my top off. “Would you be interested to be one of the speakers for TEDx Aruba?” she asked.
And I saw the next bucket list item check mark before I said yes.

September 23rd 2016 I finally had the honor to stand on that red dot and within fifteen minutes I would be able to call myself a TEDx speaker as I had envisioned four years earlier. My body being cold from three days too much air-conditioning, bad sleep due to unknown territory and a noisy hotel and just before I had to go up there was a mic issue…

My heart started raising as I felt the spasms in my left leg return while being wired for the mic. “Not now, not now, breathe, calm, you’ve got this.” Diego Acevedo announced me and the clicker was pressed in my hands and there I went to accomplish another bucket list item. There was no wrong or right, just stand on the dot, control the spasms and look at the crowd…


The TEDx Aruba Experience Full Viewing:

The video starts with one of the speakers from last year. I start at 2.50, however, every speaker is worth listening to so I chose not to edit it yet. I’m absurdly honored to be talking on stage in the midst of these speakers that all have something in common. Talking about something they’re passionate about.

Music of choice: Levi Silvanie – Give It Your Best Shot

This is your life
This is your chance
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for
So give it your best shot
Bring out the best in you
This could be it
Don’t you forget my words and
Don’t you quit
This is your moment
What you’ve been dreaming of
Let it in your heart
And never let it go

Life is wonderful for those who make wonders out of life
Life is wonderful for those who believe
Life is wonderful for those who dare to cross the open seas
Where eyes will see that life is wonderful so give it your best shot

What if…
(Question and film by Seantje Salmon)

The TEDxAruba Transcript (official)


September 23 2016

Life after death. What if…
You took responsibility for your own actions.

4 years ago I witnessed death in my arms and saw what fighting for your last breath of air really was like.

I had been on a dive with my girlfriend and we went too deep for too long. Too irresponsible.


After an emergency ascent I saw her bloodshot eyes, her pale face and her blue lips as she was gasping for air. I was two meters away and my spine was screaming, my longs were burning but the panic in her eyes made me forget any pain I had at that moment. I knew our lives were over as we knew it.

I’ll spare you the horrific details but her last words, “I am dying” as she looked me straight in my eyes, a couple of minutes later, bleached everything to what remained in my memory.

All the feelings, all the pain. I remember all, but that moment was her life last breathe.


24 hours later I was paralyzed. Nitrogen was blocking my spinal cord and I was a partial
paraplegic. I had the bends, caisson disease. I knew as soon as the neurologist said that I might not walk again that my fight had just begun.

Something switched. I had changed. Defying I heard my mind say:

“You don’t know what I’m capable off!”

She had not died so I could feel sorry for myself. She did not fight till her last breath so I could be a hopeless being. I needed to build a new life. And live for two, this time. So I pledged my promise to live for two, for the both of for the rest of my life.

During physical therapy sessions it was soon clear that I would not accept the part of being a helpless man for the rest of my life, however there was no social structure to motivate me, to inspire me or to help me be the strongest I could be.

And then, after seven months I was send home…


After being in a clinic surrounded with people dealing with the same kind of struggles. I was suddenly alone. Very alone. I live in the middle of nowhere. With my parents. Who were at work during the day. So I had some time to think and be confronted with my demons.

Depression finally hit after months of survival. Nine months after death. I was crying for the living.

The questions that kept coming back were:

Had I loved enough?
Had I gave enough?
Had I mattered at all?

Had I really gave it the best I could have given? Could I have saved her? I knew all the answers. I just had to get them clear in my head. For good this time.

I had my responsibility of acceptance.

I had one angel on my side though. My physical therapist, Mirjam. She would really, and I mean really, really, really, push my buttons by telling me I couldn’t go on this way. I had to do something more useful with my life. Survival wasn’t enough. I had to find a job. Deal with the physical pain. Have a purpose. But I was losing hope.

I kept wondering; What if I could take control of life and steered it the way my ship was meant to sail? What if I took control of my life, my body, my future… What if I took responsibility for my own actions? What if I could give meaning to all this? I should have been death, but I wasn’t. Now how am I going to live?

I collapsed on the bathroom floor and cried till there were no more tears left. There in my darkest moment I decided to rise and never fall again. I had made a promise to her.

The next day, while I was stretching my numb limbs on the therapy mat waiting for my physical therapy to begin, I watched an elderly lady, misses Granville, adjust her prosthesis. She was about to stand up from her wheelchair as her physical therapist approached to help her, her words sounded clear as she was talking to me. And she blew life in an idea I was breeding for about a week..

“I might be incomplete, but I can still function”

She said as she brushed the young man off.

And that’s when it hit: Everybody deserves a second chance at life. 2ndLife. 2ndLife Curaçao.

Immediately tons of questions raised. There was a small hiccup, I was lacking the funds. My social insurance pay was a whopping 160,- guilders (less than 80 US dollars every 2 weeks.) How am I going to do something for people who need a second chance at life? How am I even going to help myself?

Sustainability is environment, economy and society.
I wanted to help the society, but I have no economy. The environment, The environment. We are throwing tons away every year. Garbage, money, lives. Garbage, money, lives. It kept repeating itself in my head.

Our environment needs help.640px-sustainable_development-svg_-300x225

Our economy needs help.
Our society needs help.
I need help.

We all need help.

As an old dive, bike and hiking guide the connection was easily made.
I will use garbage, recycle it into money and give the society, people with a disability, a second chance. An unexpected impulse to our economy, nobody can be against that? We will create and give a second chance to each other.

2ndLife Curaçao found its first two suppliers in my mom’s garbage bin and my dad’s yard. With some old paint my business was born. I started collecting glass jars, squash, coconuts and cans. There were tons of cans. Cans are being thrown away daily. Tons. And they can’t be recycled effectively.
But soon I saw trash turn into an art.

20160523_203541My recycled art. I found my purpose. I would recycle life.

With these cans I could bring hope to some dark days and maybe, maybe even more…

Social entrepreneurship, or how I like to call my business; a sustainable enterprise, is easier to create than you think but not as easy to sell. We think too much in limitations and difficulty, that is our human behavior. I know, I did it for years… However, we need to raise our social consciousness.

The first few, respectable, people I pitched my idea to responded with “What are a few handicapped people going to do?” So that’s where the Pirate comes in. I’m good at rebelling at injustice. So I build a social media following that would support my newly created environment and started promoting and selling my “garbage”.


Won a price, stood on the cover of a magazine and even managed to buy me an amazing car that would fit all my cans and crafts.
The only way for us, as a humanity, to become more sustainable is when we raise our standards. Society is not them, it’s us.

Your standards are not just taught, they’re created. By you. And your standards are stuck!

Social entrepreneurs drive social innovations and transformation and it’s finally becoming the trend. While a while back I would be laughed at, I suddenly have restaurants, shops and business owners interested. Not just because it’s the cool thing to do, but they realize how important it is what we leave behind. Some even hope to turn 125 in 70 years and still be able to walk a clean beach and receive a retirement cheque. We are making money with what normally would go to waste.

I’m getting business owners collecting cans, sending their children to learn. Other NGO’s starting to ask questions: How does sustainable thinking work?
It’s a growing global platform with lots of people who are improving our world.
We bring a message of hope and unity.

In the future I hope to have a big work floor filled with people who are recycling materials like cans, pallets and other natural materials in to local art and souvenirs. No social security but a social job to raise their value for life. To raise our society’s value for life.

Sustainable enterprises led by social entrepreneurs is the way to an inspiring future to our young ones. And the most beautiful part is, we can all be part of this.
What if we changed the standards of our society?

We would raise our economy.
We would save our environment
We would create a sustainable society.

There are examples of social enterprises that are over a 100 years old. We should know by know that our society is measured by how we treat our weaker members and the environment we live in.

I am just playing a small part and I still live with my parents. For now…workshop-candle-holder-creator

I’m perfectly happy in the middle of nowhere, where I live. Where I fought my demons and conquered them. I don’t want these stages and bright lights. I don’t care for the meetings and attention. I want that smile from somebody that learned how to improve his or her family’s life. By creating something out of nothing and saving our environment while we’re at it.

I nearly saw two lives slip between my fingers and the world we lived on…

I’m taking responsibility for my own actions.
Please take yours.


NOTE: This was the official transcript for my TEDx talk september 23rd 2016. The whole event can be watched *here* (at 2.50).

Music of Choice: Evanescence – My Immortal

You used to captivate me by your resonating light
Now I’m bound by the life you left behind
Your face, it haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice, it chased away all the sanity in me

These wounds won’t seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried I’d wipe away all of your tears
When you’d scream I’d fight away all of your fears

If you would like to receive the presentation used, please mail


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