Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

What’s most important, on your list of important things? For me it’s family. My folks, siblings and nephew are everything to me, like nothing messes with that! Family to me is like a car service center where you go to just get refreshed. You know how you take your car to a car wash for it to be primed, cleaned, oil changed, tyres scrubbed, everything touched around till you come out all shiny and ready to take on the world? That’s what family (and friends who have become family) do!

And that’s why SungHee’s piece is so heartwarming, and babe I’m sending loads of hugs and warm thoughts to you and all your family at this time. xoxo

My name is SungHee Tark, and I am South Korean. I study Economics at Earlham College, IN, USA.

A lot has happened this year: from starting my year with my best friends in NYC to traveling in Europe and attending an eye-opening conference with a brilliant group of youths in the Netherlands. However, the very event that I learnt the most about the important thing in life was my grandpa’s funeral a week ago.

I was traveling in Europe after attending the conference in the Netherlands in the beginning of the summer. However, my travel had to stop when I got a brief text message from my dad one early morning in June.

“Your grandpa has passed away.”

There was no emotion or anything reflected in the text message. It was around 8’o clock in the morning. I jumped out of my bunk bed in a small hostel in Istanbul to grab my laptop. Then, I booked my ticket to come home in South Korea that afternoon.

It took me 10 hours on the plane and 5 hours on a bus to return home.

I saw all my family members, starting from my parents, sister, cousins, uncles, aunts and even far relatives that I haven’t seen in years all gathered in a hall at home. All of their eyes were wet, and nobody really spoke.

Although my grandpa had spent almost a year in hospital, his death still came as a surprise. Nobody was really ready for it. It came as a shock to me as well, especially because when I saw him last, he had wished me a safe journey to Europe, and I had promised him I would bring him a gift. And I had that gift with me.

I stood there, speechless. I cried helplessly for the whole day that day.

The next day, the air seemed a little different. Everyone in my family seemed to have decided to think that grandpa had gone to a better place. We started comforting each other, talking to the picture of my grandpa, wishing him a safe journey to a better place. We shared good and fun memories with grandpa and planted trees and flowers near his grave in the backyard of his old house altogether. We talked about grandpa but in a very different light. Everyone was still in shock but we focused more on comforting one another because we all knew that that’s what our grandpa would have wanted us to do.

Since then, we’ve been visiting my grandma who still lives in the old house every day, everyone very willingly.

My grandpa has been a very big man to me, always listening, and encouraging, and someone who had supported me through all my hardships and difficult times. Because he was the pillar of our family, his missing presence is being felt greatly. However, I am very grateful to have all my family members in my life. Without them, I don’t think I would be where I am right now and I wouldn’t be able to recover from the loss of our beloved grandpa.

Among all the things I hope to achieve and I am looking forward to in the second half of the year, I wish for my family to achieve what they desire in their lives, keep caring for one another and stay healthy the most.

Because I know I can overcome anything with them in my life.

Sunghee 2

My gorgeous friend SungHee!




Back to the girls and out of Nigeria, we’re off to The Netherlands and a guest post from Paulien Boone, a super amazing lady I met in May! Before I talk about her successfully coordinating 70 delegates from three continents for the Hope XXL Summit (think applications, visas, travel, etc), can I just say she has a new initiative called the Paris Declaration? Check on it!

By the way, The Hague is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to go back!

My name is Paulien Boone, I am Dutch and I work for a nonprofit in The Netherlands. In the first half of 2014 I learned that I have a voice.

The year 2014 started off pretty great: I won a national essay writing contest on fundraising. The essay had to be about connecting with donors, and to my great surprise I won the contest and was awarded the title of “Young Fundraising Talent 2014”. This award did not bring about a big change in my life as a fundraiser for nonprofits, but it did make me realize something else: I love to write.

Even before the start of 2014 I had already registered my own website, the Paris Declaration, which is designed to help readers get the most out of their time on earth and change the world in the process. This is something I’m really passionate about, because I believe that it is possible to have a wonderful life, apply your talents and change the world at the same time.

This belief is not something I developed overnight. It is directly linked to the experiences I’ve had so far, with (mostly young) people deciding to become changemakers. It’s amazing to see what happens when someone discovers new talents while working on something they believe in. They grow as a person and as a changemaker, and it makes a big impact on their lives and on the people around them.

Unlocking this potential is something I want to contribute to, and something I want to learn more about by writing about it and connecting with others.

One of the highlights of the year so far was a couple of days during which I got to do exactly that: connect with an international group of amazing, talented and inspiring young people. They were all participating in a conference I organized in The Hague (Chioma took part as well!). This group confirmed the famous saying to me: our similarities are far greater than our differences. It inspired me to continue building the Paris Declaration to support them and many others. It also gave me the courage to launch it and commit to writing a new article every week. The inspiration brought about by this experience is something I’m truly grateful for.

I’m super excited about the second half of the year, which will be all about supporting readers with valuable content and offering an online home to all changemakers out there. The first six months of 2014 were dedicated to starting up, and now, at halftime, I can reflect and conclude that I can’t wait to grow further. Bring on the rest of the year, I’m ready!



Thank you so much Paulien!



From Nigeria we head off to the Philippines and one of my most recent friends, Lyssah! I met Lyssah in The Hague in May, during the Hope XXL conference, and she is simply amazing! For one, she shares my love for travel (more like she totally dwarfs me in that area, she’s been to SO MANY countries)!

Lyssah is also a very free spirit – always has a smile on, always wants to learn something new, and was one of my favorite people during our stay in the Netherlands! We also share a love and pride for our countries, and I still remember the talk she gave about tattoos being a long-time tradition in her place.

Here’s Lysssah, try to keep up with all the places she’s been to in this post!

My name is Lyssah and I just finished my scholarship grant in Spain and come back to the Philippines, my home country.

For the first half of 2014 I was trainspotting in the South of France, couchsurfing in Belgium, stargazing on the yellow stretch of the Sahara desert, getting lost in the medinas of Morocco, hitchhiking to a concentration camp in the Netherlands, getting my tummy happy in Italy, wine tasting in Bordeaux, falling in love with the words of Fernando Pessoa in Portugal, celebrating the ‘semana santa’ in the South of Spain and basically doing a lot of learning outside the classroom.

But all of these adventures really started with a dream, the literal one, the one when you’re adrift at night and suddenly fill your subconscious with countless moving images of undefined places, unnamed faces and simply unexplainable things. I kicked off the year following that dream. A year ago I dreamt that I was in a train in Europe and as I looked outside the window, I saw an image of a lady whom my subconscious made me believe that it was The Lady who made an apparition in Lourdes, France to a young girl named Bernadette in 1858 who would later be beatified as a saint. I made sure I was in Lourdes on the exact date of her apparition to Bernadette. That was the first time that I travelled alone in my 21 years of existence. It was a sort of pact that I made with myself that if I had the chance to be in Europe, I would do everything to visit the apparition site of The Lady to express my gratitude in fulfilling my dream. I rode a train from San Sebastian, Spain to Lourdes, France. During that time, I was still living in Oviedo, a subtle and tranquil little town in the north of Spain. After graduating from my first degree last April 28, 2013, I received an email stating that I was awarded with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship grant in English Studies for nine months in Spain.

I never saw that coming, Spain wasn’t even in my bucket list and studying English Studies in Spain is really an irony. I come from the Philippines, a former colony of Spain and there I was in our former colonizer’s land, seeking their tutelage.

When I was in a train in France, I realized I was like the irony of the trees outside my window. Their leaves were being stripped off from their bodies leaving them naked in the cold during winter and in the summer, their leaves clothe them under the scorching sun. But maybe it was really supposed to be that way, things are better the way they are; the same way as how I just suddenly found myself in Spain living with all the ironies that I could think of. I have come to realize that you have to accept things as they are without expectations and just cut all the baggage after all you can’t fill a cup that’s already full.

I remember having a hard time leaving Spain when my scholarship grant finished just a few weeks ago. The people who were once strangers but who have become friends and some even more as families, were the hardest to leave. More than the places that I have visited in Europe and in Africa, it’s the people that really mattered most and the bonds that I have formed with them that I will really treasure for the rest of my life. We can actually form a United Nations with the diversity of nationalities in our circle of friends. Leo Bormans, the author of the World Book of Happiness defined happiness in only two words: other people. And I agree with him.


Lyssah takes a photo with this pose for every new place she visits! She’s incredible!


I’m so excited! It’s the 1st of July, and officially the start of the #31Days31Writers – mid year edition! Why am I super excited? Well, so I’ve been all over the place this past month, and by the 26th I wasn’t sure I would still be able  to pull this off. But, here we are, and I’ve got such a spread of voices from around the world I’m mega excited!

We start with my friend Yama! Yama was our designate driver the night we went from The Hague to Amsterdam to see the Red Light District; he’s a fantastic, super brilliant guy, and it’s my privilege to start the month with a voice from Afghanistan!


Hi there,

First of let me start by saying: You look absolutely stunning today!

My name is Yama Akbari. Born in Afghanistan, living in The Netherlands. Student and business owner.

What I’ve learned in the past 6 months is that life is so incredibly difficult to plan. I’m not much of a planner anyway, I usually take things as they come. But I decided that needed to change a little (a part of growing up maybe…). Didn’t really pan out the way I wanted. I planned to focus more on my studies, but ended up working way more than studying. Was really planning on staying single, instead got to know someone I really could not let go of. This made me wonder: Why do I suck so badly at planning my life? I came to the conclusion that life is pretty much ‘unplannable’ for the most part when I started thinking about ‘planning’ on a larger scale.

For example, who could ever ‘plan’ the following: a kid born in Kabul in 1990, wanting to leave for the gym on the 30th of June 2014 (should have been studying for his exams, shame on him) would remember; promising a very inspiring Nigerian girl he met at a conference in The Hague, to write a few words for her blog. Crazy right? But kind of beautiful at the same time. Imagine the string of events that had to take place before this moment. Unfortunately, a lot of those events weren’t as joyful as this one, which leads to the second thing I learned in the past 6 months: Andre 3000’s fashion sense isn’t the only thing that’s spot on, his cryptic life lessons are as well. On the Outkast song ‘Ms. Jackson’ he sings: ‘you can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather’. I finally got it Andre, you keep on spitting mad truth and dressing dapper as hell!

That brings me to what I’m looking forward to for the second half of this year .. Not really easy to say after all of that ‘life is crazy and unpredictable’ stuff. I am actually thinking about what I’m looking forward to while writing this sentence and I’m realizing that it’s such a blessing that I’m not sure what to look forward to (huge smile on my face right now). All those unplanned moments of joy; that feeling of relief when everything turns out well after a moment of uncertainty, an unexpected phone call from an old friend, coming home and getting served your favorite meal, being the best at something very random and useless, witnessing a cute moment between two lovers, stumbling upon a family of ducks swimming in a pond (I’m running out of ideas..), seeing an old lady feeding those ducks and making sure the weakest one gets as much as the rest. All I’m planning and looking forward to (apart from studying and working, duh) is actually enjoying and appreciating all those little unexpected moments of joy.

I urge you to do so as well. Even if it’s something very unexpected and random. Let’s say: a guy from halfway across the world, at the start of his post on this blog, complimenting you that you look stunning without even knowing what you look like …



Screenshot 2014-06-30 23.43.40

This is my final post from The Hague, and will be a mash-up of places we went, things we did, and even though there’s an overload of photos, there’s a video (or two) too!

In case you didn’t catch them, parts one and two are here and here.

This video was made by Royce Lyssah Malabonga just before her presentation on her home country, The Philippines!

The day before we left, we went to the Grote Markt (a market that has a large sit out area that the pubs in the area use) and there was a band playing songs from all over the world. It was so much fun! We danced to music we didn’t understand, lol.

It was so much fun! Singing and dancing to songs we didn’t know, and all the yelling! Guess what? I was chatting to Paulien about the number of bicycles in The Hague and if she ever forgets where she’s parked hers. She said it wasn’t really about forgetting but about them getting stolen, and that bicycle theft is the biggest crime in the country. Bicycle theft? We’d take that here over Boko Haram, the ‘unknown gunmen’, and the kidnappers in a heart beat!

Anyway, a few pictures from our day out at Peace Palace!

Outside peace palace! Thanks to Director Chris for the fabulous photo!

Outside peace palace! Thanks to Director Chris for the fabulous photo!

Lunch at peace palace... Lots of greens, a lovely brown bread sandwich, and apple juice! Yummy but I was hungry soon after!

Lunch at peace palace… Lots of greens, a lovely brown bread sandwich, and apple juice! Yummy but I was hungry soon after!

Ice cream galore! (There are one too many ice cream pictures - I had only one!)

Ice cream galore! (There are one too many ice cream pictures – I had only one!)

Nigeria, Botswana, and Uganda represented!

Nigeria, Botswana, and Uganda represented!

And a few more!

Miss Colombia!!

Miss Colombia!!

Dinner at an Italian place (don't remember the name now... Just know that my pasta and salmon was fab!

Dinner at an Italian place (don’t remember the name now… Just know that my pasta and salmon was fab!

My dear Kaushalya from Sri Lanka!! Thank you for taking all the amazing photos!

My dear Kaushalya from Sri Lanka!! Thank you for taking all the amazing photos!

I know I've used this before but I had to use it again! Nigeria's the best country, warts and all!

I know I’ve used this before but I had to use it again! Nigeria’s the best country, warts and all!

Now, some of the boys had been to Amsterdam the evening before (and I didn’t know, sob), and even though I had moved my ticket forward by 12 hours, it didn’t look like I was going to make it to Amsterdam to see the sights (including the Red Light District)!

I had given up, when Yama came over and asked if I still wanted to go. Yama is from Afghanistan, but has lived in The Netherlands for the past 15 years. He’s a data and securities professional, and loves fashion too! Of course I still wanted to go but time check? 10pm!

Silindile and Charity were up for it, and so we left! Had to get back to hotel studio to get his car (and Lord knows how we passed our tram stop), but by 11pm, we were driving to Amsterdam! With Kaushalaya, who had woken up, heard we were going, and jumped in the car!

We played music all the way, ranging from Ice Prince’s Oleku to DJ Cleo’s Bafana Bafana, whoop!

Like Yama warned, I was disappointed with the Red Light District. Not like the women weren’t in the windows or anything, but (and I’d hate to sound judgmental), I wondered how the women (and men, and transvestites) felt each night after ‘work’. Happy? Sad? Invaded? Was a very sad thought.

We had chips from the best spot in Amsterdam (thanks to Yama), and then after looking around a bit, it was a drive back to The Hague! Got in about 3.20am, and everyone just dropped into bed!

Massive thank you to Yama for driving us there, buying us drinks (and those extra juicy strawberries Charity picked out), and for being the perfect host, and gentleman. Thank you!

Four musketeers... Silindile, Kaushalya, me, and Charity! Photo credit: Yama!

Four musketeers… Silindile, Kaushalya, me, and Charity! Photo credit: Yama!

Really fancy hotel... most beautiful in the whole of the country according to Yama!

Really fancy hotel… most beautiful in the whole of the country according to Yama!

Midnight fries baby! Best spot for chips in Amsterdam, again according to Yama! I think I agree!

Midnight fries baby! Best spot for chips in Amsterdam, again according to Yama! I think I agree!


Selfie before we got into the car for the drive back to The Hague. Time check? 2am!

Selfie before we got into the car for the drive back to The Hague. Time check? 2am!

We all woke up late (of course), and it was off to The Concordia for our closing session. Nooo!!! We didn’t want to go! After a couple speeches and thank you’s (including the Director’s weird but very sweet dream about the participants, Ban Ki-Moon and a marriage involving me and two of the guys, lol), we received our certificates of participation, signed our big eight (signifying our happiness rating out of 10), and Hope XXL Triple A Summit was officially over!

This isn't the end Paulien, we will do you proud!

This isn’t the end Paulien!

Big thank you to Paulien Boone, Chris Vaan De Ven, Koos, and all the other organisers for their overwhelming hospitality! To the staff and chef at The Concordia, thank you for the amazing meals, yum, yum, yum!

To all the new friends I made ( I won’t list names so I don’t offend), it was an honor meeting you, and I look forward to hearing marvelous things about you!

I had an amazing time!

Next stop? Russia? Siberia? The Himalayas? I honestly don’t know yet!

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So, in January, I was selected as one of 70 young people from America, Asia, and Africa to attend a 4-day conference organized by Hope XXL at The Hague, The Netherlands.

One word? Incredible! Meeting people from countries I’d only ever heard of, learning bits about diverse cultures, listening to our keynote speakers, deliberating on articles for the Liemer’s List (please allow Google the option of your friendship) was just incredible. I feel so blessed!

There are two keynote speeches I really enjoyed, and I made a few notes. Wanna see?

Leo Bormans wrote ‘The world’s book of happiness’ and he told us about the two kinds of people, ‘green buttons and red buttons’.

Green button Red button
Talk about ‘us’ Talk about ‘me’
Talk and seek ‘solutions’ Talk and see ‘problems’
Look to the ‘future’ Look to the ‘past’

Trust and equality are major determinants of how happy a country is. Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands lead on the happiness index, even though they are not the richest countries. Why?

Happiness can be summarized in two words – other people. (Here he asked us to think about the four happiest moments in our lives and then crossed off money, surprises, other people, and family as the thing behind our happiness).

Here are a few more thoughts on why happiness ranks higher than money and accomplishments

  • The best-selling meal on earth is McDonald’s Happy Meal
  • Nike, Danone, and Coca Cola’s  slogans play on a smile. Wristwatches  always appear in ads set to 10 past 2pm – that’s a smile. Would you buy a ‘frowning’ watch? (To be honest I’ve made it a point of duty to take a closer look at adverts from now on!)
  • Coca Cola has moved from ‘Enjoy’ to ‘Open happiness’, even Lipton Iced Tea has become ‘drink positive’. Like there’s any way to drink negative. 

He also talked about ‘realistic hope’ which is hinged on these three:

Survival – resilience

Attachment – trust

Mastery – goals

He also took time explain the meaning of ‘Namaste’ to us. It means three things: I see you, I recognize something positive in you, and I bow to it.

And then he wrapped with, “To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail. To a man with a telescope, everything presents an opportunity to be viewed from different angles. I wish you a telescopic life!”

For more from Leo Bormans, visit and/or

Another session that really spoke to me was the one on chemical weapons presented by Mr. Michael Luhan, head of communication at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for their extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.

OPCW was founded in 1997 and so far, 109 countries have signed up to the OPCW, and there are 8 countries declared/gave up their stash of chemical weapons. And so, far, there haven’t been any ‘challenge inspections’ – where the OPCW doesn’t believe a country has surrendered all they’ve got, and decides to challenge their declaration.

Really interesting to hear of the devastation chemical weapons cause, and more importantly, to learn of the extent of brilliance and wickedness the human mind is capable of.

We spent the rest of the day identifying the countries we came from – check out the sexiest country of them at the top – Nigeria!!


Right at the top baby!!


I think this group was classed as the people from AAA but living in Europe…



Then we went to dinner, and then it was off to our accommodation, Hotel Studio, and bedtime! The evening and the morning, the first day!



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