Goodbye 2011. And what a year it was.

As soon as you start living your dreams, your dreams evolve. Start living your dreams today!

As 2011 draws to a close, it’s time for reflection. Look back at your successes, learn from your failures and become deliriously excited about the challenges and opportunities that 2012 will bring you. I’ve made a list of some of the highlights of my year. For the busy bees among you, I’ve compiled a summary ūüėČ
This is the year I,
became healthier, fitter, slimmer, younger, more focused, more energetic, more decisive, kept my wicked sense of humour, my joy of loud music, fast cars, dance, travel; but kept myself grounded by realising how fortunate I am.

And for those of you that have a little more time ūüôā
This is the year I,

  • realised that making life-changing decisions is easy
  • met Vardit Kohn from For Goodness Sake and shed 33 pounds (thanks Vardit)
  • became fit enough to run 10kms with ease on Sunday mornings
  • started doing Ashtanga Yoga…thank goodness for physiotherapy
  • met Archbishop Desmond Tutu In Cape Town; an 80 year old who has achieved so much in his lifetime and still has the will to achieve so much more
  • met HRH Princess M√°xima of the Netherlands; ensuring that children are educated about money and finance
  • met Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program; a lady on a mission to feed the world
  • started my blog helendenheld.com. Thanks to everyone that actually reads it!
  • accepted a board position at NGO Share People
  • accepted a board position at NGO Cordaid Urban Matters in Cape Town
  • started studying Mandarin Chinese. “N√≠n h«éo” (Hello).
  • visited Brussels, London, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Umbria, Milan, Basel, Johannesburg, Cape Town, to name just a few….
  • realised that the happier and more successful I become, the happier and more successful I can make other people
  • focused on promoting Fair Chance Foundation and its partners. By voicing my opinions, I’ve noticed that people actually sit up, listen and take action
  • was listed as one of the top marketing women in the Netherlands for the 3rd consecutive year
  • was interviewed for numerous articles about CSR
  • put our house on the market
  • decided that the world needs to be conquered
  • met many new, inspiring and fascinating people, who have an effect on my life every day. I thank you all!

2011 was indeed a year to remember. But aren’t they all! I wish you and yours good health, wealth, prosperity and wisdom in 2012.

Slainte mhath (Scotland – Gaelic), Gesondheid (South Africa – Afrikaans), Nqa (South Africa – Sesotho), Proost (Netherlands – Dutch), Gan bei (China – Mandarin), Cheers!

And remember, as soon as you start living your dreams, your dreams evolve. Carpe Diem.

Building a self-sustaining community

A few¬†weeks ago, I attended a wedding in South Africa, at which world leader and Nobel peace prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was presiding. He has¬†recently celebrated his 80th birthday and although he is taking it ‘easier’, he still has the energy of many 60 year olds. He remains a person of great international influence, who uses his clout to defend human rights,¬†to campaign for the oppressed and fight the war against HIV AIDS, etc.

While in South Africa, I took the time to visit a project supported by Cordaid Urban Matters, which¬†is a Dutch NGO with satellite offices in San Salvador, Kisumu and Cape Town. Cordaid Urban Matters works with local government and chooses areas that need to be totally (re)developed. Think along the lines of water, electricity, cable, sewerage, housing, schools, shops, etc. Since I’m really pragmatic, I wanted to see for myself exactly what needs to be done.

Amor Strauss, the¬†programme manager for Cordaid Urban Matters in Cape Town took me to Hazeldene, which is part of Philippi, a sprawling slum area around Cape Town. I visit Cape Town regularly and I drive¬†passed this area all the time. But, nothing really prepares you for what you’re going to see, when you drive¬†into the area. A wake-up call and a definite reality check as to how good many of us, myself included, have it.

The plan is to create a self-sustaining village, for a group of about 350 very low income families. These families were promised homes over 10 years ago by the South African government but to date nothing has been built. Cordaid Urban Matters plans to do more. Homes will be built, a water purification plant will be installed, greenhouses will be erected to grow goods for export and fruit and vegetables will be grown on site. A bakery will be built, not only to bake bread for the community that is cheaper than the local supermarkets, but it will also act as a source of training. The bakery will educate people in and around the community as bakers, who can then offer their services to other local bakeries or supermarkets. The homes will be rented by the families and the creation of jobs in the village will ensure that the families can pay for rent, utilities and any other additional goods and services.

I’m obviously excited about the project but, I’m also cautiously optimistic as the last thing¬†anyone wants to create is a bubble.¬†We’re far happier developing a self sustaining village which will also help people on the outskirts of the community.

Only time will tell if we’ll succeed; which influential people we may or may not need to call for help along the way; and how engaged the people from this self-sustaining community will be in the future. But let’s face it, ‘it is far¬†better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try…”¬† Wish us luck.

Daring to Dream

As a little girl, I wore pretty pink party dresses and I was read fairy tales of princesses being rescued by their handsome princes and how they lived happily ever after in their perfect kingdoms. I don’t think I ever challenged this concept. Couldn’t the princess
do the rescuing? How would the kingdom stay perfect if it wasn’t self-sustaining? I know I never had these discussions with my mother and I’m sure she never asked me what I would discuss with the princess when I met her. I only wish she had.

We look to our world leaders or people of great influence to solve our planet’s problems. When, there’s more of a chance that the ‘lowly man on the street’ will solve more problems albeit with a little help of ‘the princess’.

Her Royal Highness Princess M√°xima of the Netherlands is a princess on a mission. She has 3 young daughters and she understands more than ever how important education is; the importance of financial literacy; how entrepreneurial children are; and how children can be coached to far greater heights when they are suitably challenged.

This week I met Princess M√°xima at an event arranged by MVO Nederland (Dutch site), an organization focused on CSR activities in the Netherlands. Representatives from company foundations, NGOs, funds, business and public sector met to discuss a whole range of topics (Dutch language) including, Reducing the number of drop outs and unemployment; Improving quality of life and safety in communities; Labour market participation; Financial education, etc. All the attendees, myself included, signed a letter of intent, promising to talk less and act more. Coalitions will be formed in the coming months and some very passionate business people, with the support of Princess M√°xima, will solve just some of our problems in the Netherlands.

As a child, I never dared imagine that I could ever be in the presence of a Princess. Let’s start re-writing those fairy tales. Nowadays, princesses work alongside you and I, to solve ‘their’ kingdom’s sustainability issues, feeding the poor or improving the economy through education and job creation. Let’s challenge our children to think outside of the square. They’re not made of glass and they need to realise that they can do anything that they put their minds to. They are our future leaders and it’s their ideas that will save the world. Let’s teach our children to ‘Dare to Dream’.