2018 in a nutshell: Willem & Wendy brainstorm session

2018 in a nutshell. Above: Willem & Wendy having a brainstorm session about starting up their own company after an interesting and highly intense year with Tearfund in Iraq.

I can still hear Wendy say ‘We really have to post a blog soon…’. A few weeks later the same message comes from me and so we continue to follow each other without picking up a pen. We have only posted two blogs and the first was in February of this year. But now, dear friends.. in the last weeks of this year.. of our period in Iraq.. as an employee of Tearfund it’s finally there.. 2018 in a nutshell: A blog!


Sometimes I hardly dare to write. Feeling guilty about the fact that we have been so quiet. In the first six months in particular, we were socially rather antisocial. In 2017 I often prayed for a new challenge. Well, let me tell you one thing… Beware of what you pray for. Because we have gotten that challenge! And how!

Unique challenges and lots of change

To start with: We are doing well. We are tired but satisfied. Feel healthy again both physically and mentally. Can exercise frequently, eat healthy and live in a beautiful apartment two minutes walk from the office. We have devoted the majority of the past year and the hours spent in a day, to work, work and more work. Of course we knew that when we left for Iraq with Tearfund, that we would work a lot and that there was a big challenge awaiting us. However, we did not expect that there would be so much to do! The amount of changes that have been made in one year have been unique for us (and believe me, we are quite used to change).


The challenge with emergency aid projects is not just about the fact that you may have to live in dangerous places. That it’s freaking hot or just as cold as ice. You have to deal with rules that can make life very complicated. And where everything around you constantly changes. There is more… For example, finding qualified people who want to serve in a country like Iraq. The impact of a lack of employees means that you sometimes have to perform multiple roles for too long a period. In addition, you have the non-stop personnel changes going on around you. On average people do not stay for seven years, but only for about one year. And there are many different and understandable reasons for this.


The program in Iraq is Tearfund’s largest project. When the situation escalated with ISIS in 2014, Tearfund came to Iraq and in four years the organisation in Iraq has grown from nothing to a $ 10 million portfolio with around 110 employees. The team worked very hard to serve people in Iraq through CASH, Livelihoods, Protection, Social Cohesion, NFI and WASH projects in various places in Iraq including Mosul and Kirkuk.


2018 has been a year of continuous change but also a year of stabilization. A year in which we switched from a top-down to a bottom-up mentality. Having grown enormously in terms of capacity. Working as a team on a five-year strategy for Iraq. Helping more than 30,000 people… A year in which… you know… I can continue to write but how can you process almost 1 year in 1 blog? This would be a story in a nutshell. So in short: a lot of nuts have been cracked!


When you go through a phase of intense stress and continuous change, there are also those moments when you withdraw from it all. Taking rest and reflecting on all of what happened is crucial. Such moments can even lead to new dreams… and for those who know us a bit, we do not like to keep it with only dreaming. We dare and do. And that has led to something new. News that may be a surprise to many of you (maybe we apologize again for our non-social behaviour). This news is the same reason to make a blog or vlog again soon because we might have stirred up the curiosity…

Are you ready? We will come back to the Netherlands from January for a longer period and to start up our own company. More information soon.

Welke koers vaar jij? Ik ga ieder jaar met mijn zwager een dagje zeilen en dan denk ik ook na over de koers die ik in mijn leven vaar.
Which direction are you going? Every year I will go a day out with my brother in law and then we go sailing, we always have to find the right direction and I also think about the directions for my life.

Which direction are you going in life?

Which direction am I going? Every summer while being in The Netherlands during my contract break, I plan a day on the waters to sail with my brother in law Schelte. If it was only me on this sailboat I probably would not even be able to make it out of the harbour. But luckily Schelte knows everything that is needed to sail the right track. He gained a  lot of experience by leading sail camps during his younger years.

What do you need to sail the right direction?

I can tell you, it’s a fantastic adventure where you need to keep an eye on many different things. Plan the right route is one of those, but following the route properly is a different one. You will need to setup the sails, know how to moor and pay attention to forthcoming traffic. The rules on the water are also not unimportant – and then the weather. Sometimes there’s good wind and something there is no. Sometimes the sun is all over and other times there is rain, thunder and lightening. I very much enjoy these moments and in addition they make me think about the direction I go in my own life.

What would your life look like if money didn’t exist?

Interesting question isn’t it? Wendy and I did some thinking about this during our holiday. The great outcome was that our life would actually not be that much different. Okay, ideally we would like to be a bit more often in the Netherlands and at the same time travel a bit more to other places to be able to setup different projects as we both really like to build. But other than that.. wow, we’re on the right track.

Which direction are you going?

How’s that with you? Do you sometimes think about what your life will look like in let’s say ten years time? And what about now? What are your real desires? Absolutely worth to think about these kind of things. If you don’t and don’t set any goals for yourself, you might not take the best out of life. You will notice that many people, and possible this includes you as well, quickly give up on this because your dreams and desires don’t seem possible. Are your ambitions too high? Or do you see risks, difficulties and especially a lot of problems that will result in letting go of your dreams too soon? Aren’t it the challenges and the solutions to overcome those that make us stronger and give the extra added value in life?


Previously as an entrepreneur, I spoke with many other business people. What really caught me is that many of them have fear due to the risks they see, resulting in giving up instead of treating these risks as part of the game. Of course I could write a book about all the risks along my path as entrepreneur – but I didn’t do that. I looked at the possibilities and tried to continue to focus even when things got tough and uncomfortable. Growth doesn’t go automatically, but if I don’t set clear goals, I might end up wasting a lot of time on things that aren’t actually important.

Who or what motivates you?

For us this is an easy answer: Our God. From the moment we told Him: “Lord, here we are” our life totally changed. I don’t regret a second of what happened in the years that followed. All pieces of the puzzle fit. Isn’t that great? You might have different triggers that drive you through life. Your choices might be related to what you’ve seen and heard. Or they are based on what other people have been doing or certain experiences you gained throughout life.

Set goals, analyse and commit!

Anyhow – I would love to challenge you to think about this and to possible combine it with a SWOT analysis of yourself. Every month I plan half a day to review myself. What I am doing and why am I doing it. What goes well and what do I need to change to become a better version of myself. Wendy
is doing this nearly on a weekly basis since she has been coached by Discipline Sports.. I set goals and link them to myself, to Wendy, to God and the work I am doing. Really refreshing!

Nepal – the country of opportunities

Many Nepalese might not agree with the above mentioned title and see the opposite: A country with limitations, especially related to the slowing economical growth. Knowing that Nepal is completely land-locked between two dominating giants (India & China) and there is no sea or big rivers for easy transport. Banks charge you with 20% of interest if you’re asking for a loan to invest in business, etc. But what if you think the other way around. A country that is slowly developing but will continue to develop with a huge amount of opportunities as there is so much to improve, invent and to develop. What do people want? Do they think about the direction they want to go? And then what…? Only a small group of people dream about what they really want in life and try to pursue that.. and maybe.. maybe it’s not so different from Europe.

The change

I strongly believe in possibilities and to overcome problems through a different way of thinking. The people in Nepal have gained a place in my heart and therefore – apart from the work we’re currently doing – I will work together with Mark Flemming – succesful Straight Line Leadership coach. We will research the possibility to setup different seminars and webinars. We will challenge a small but dedicated group of people and support them to not only think about dreams, goals and destinations in life, but also support them to achieve this.

Limitations? Or opportunities? 

How this will look like and if people will say yes, I cannot tell and this might immediately limit me to not even start doing this. But we believe this will work. We believe we’re going to reach people and help them to not only think about their direction in life, but also help them to go for it. Remove the challenges and problems and exchange them for opportunities and solutions. The start of something new challenges me and allows the creative part of the brain. It makes me enthusiastic to develop this concept.. A nice off-site project. Keep you posted!