My roots in Holland
Being Dutch with different European roots must be one of the reasons why I lived in different countries: Holland, Portugal and currently Belgium. I grew up in a family where respect for others and a great love for nature and culture were transmitted. I was lucky to grow up near the countryside and with animals. My academic education in social sciences, lead however, in the late 80-ties of last century to unemployment. Indeed, history repeats itself! Therefore, I chose another professional path in ngo’s and public entities. Involved in policies and programmes for long-term unemployed people, drug- and alcohol addiction and third-age healthcare & service systems.
Move to Portugal
At 35 I moved to Lisbon and worked in business and international ngo’s. An unforgettably rich experience! Unfortunately, early 2000 the crisis already knocked at Portugal’s door. At the time I worked for a Dutch multinational contractor involved in the design & build of football stadiums for the EURO 2004 championship. It became the tipping point in my professional career. It didn’t make sense to me to see a country where many people had to live on a pension of barely 200 euros a month and where solar-energy in the stadiums was not yet an option, as ‘too expensive’. The EURO 2004 was part of a political and economic agenda, to ‘put Portugal on the international map’ (not really necessarily, as it has the oldest frontiers in Europe!), to upgrade infrastructures (motorways) and to build or renovate 10 large football stadiums in a country with only 10 million inhabitants! Instead, establishing a countrywide, diverse and ecologically sound network of local sports facilities with access for all and promoting capacity building for training staff, would have been more sensible. Not to mention more investments in healthcare, education, public transport, sustainable agriculture, etc.
Sustainable development ‘tout court’ in Belgium
I then decided to do a post-graduate programme at the University of Cambridge (UK): Cross-sector partnerships for sustainable development. The economic crisis obliged me to leave Portugal. I moved to Brussels, starting my career in sustainable development in Belgium and worked for the Federal Belgian and Brussels Regional governments and for a small Belgian consultancy & research firm on sustainable development and CSR.
After more than 10 years working in this field and always in offices, I felt the need to do something more substantial and outdoors. I took a sabbatical for Cycloasis. It emerged from the need to be in touch and work with inspirational people and with nature, as well as enjoying the many enriching encounters on a healthy cycling journey!
This blog is to share with you the interesting work of these people and the enriching encounters. I can only hope these examples inspire others to start their own sustainable projects and oasis’.