Aurelia, what kind of little Muse are you?
I’m Aurélia and 37 years old. I’m married with 2 children. I’ve always been passionate about human relationships and have a deep desire to see an improvement. I’m also passionate about nature and have discovered there’s an infinite world of nature right on my doorstep. I love learning about it every day and following in the footsteps of explorers, botanists and biologists who have incredible stories to tell – stories that only children could still believe in!
Where do you live?
I live in Buitenveldert, Amsterdam. Many people don’t think of this as Amsterdam but it’s the ideal place for our family: surrounded by the Amstelpark, Amsterdamse Bos and a “green belt” that connects the two. This means we can spend lots of enjoyable time outdoors.
How did you come to be here?
“He who dares to make a change wins!” Going to live in another country was something of a family project. My husband initiated the change and we followed!
Had you already lived abroad?
I lived in Barcelona when I finished my studies. I’ve a real affection for this city as I knew it back when I lived there…and I think I convinced my husband of its virtues.
How long have you lived in Netherlands ?
We came here in 2015. On 31 st March, I had 3 surprises: the birth of my youngest son, the news of our move away from home and the fact that we had less than 2 months to pack our bags! Looking back on this, it’s like the whole family was going round and round inside the washing machine for 3 months! And then, ta-daaa! We suddenly found we’d settled into our new life and everything was sorted from cycling, work and bed!
You’ve started a new project: how did you get the idea for this? Why did you choose this theme?
For longer than I can remember, when asked what I wanted to do for a job, my answer was always along the lines of change, support and mutual understanding. In Paris, I helped professionals to deal with change imposed on them by their companies. However, I was living the fast-paced life of a consultant – high heels –pencil skirt. I began to ask my first questions about the environment when I first became pregnant: was I eating healthily enough? Or rather, what was I actually eating?… Then my daughter was born. This was still a time where I told myself we shouldn’t go out when the weather was bad. The spring forecast didn’t look too good and, the first weekend the sun shone, there was a pollution alert! This happened again too! Finally, when all the conditions were right, the city’s parks were transformed into open-air concert halls and there were crowds of people there. I think that afternoon was when the realisation about the importance of our natural environment dawned on me …I started to become interested in this and learn about nature. I paid particular attention to the staggering results from scientific studies about what we now call a “nature deficit disorder” and the effects on health and childhood development. This is on an individual level but especially when it comes to society.
So, how do we reverse this trend and change our relationship with nature? I’d like to prepare children from the next generation we refer to today as being “rootless”, helping them to be comfortable living in the world and to be comfortable
with others. Being truly connected, supportive and empathetic in their minds as well as when wearing their trainers! Happy in an environment where you have to adapt to the unknown, the weather, the earth, because they’ve learned to react with calm and enthusiasm to everything that comes their way. Nature is amazing to observe and immerse yourself in, letting it carry you away! I would like to give children power over the world of tomorrow. I have faith in them. They know from a very young age what the basics are! We’re starting to feel the first signs of impact today from a loss of connection with nature!
Based on this and numerous encounters that have punctuated my reflections, working with Claire Bano Devautour, an expert in positive parenting, I created my first programme:
Naya Nature is a “nature academy” a little like you might describe a music school. It connects children with their true selves and to their deeper essence, as well as to the world that surrounds them and to all living things. It’s aimed at children, families and schools.
How do you organize you time between your business activities and personal life?
I made progress by increasing my childcare arrangements. My oldest daughter now goes to school. My son goes to nursery 3.5 days a week. For after-school care, I’ve found a fabulous nanny who shares the need to spend time in the countryside with my children and makes sure they get their daily dose of green vitamins (I’m not divulging her name as several mothers have already said they want to employ her).
Above all, my husband provides fundamental support: he believes that developing my business is essential for our society. He’s very committed and respects my needs and the time I need to work. For example, if the children are ill or have a day off from school, we each try to find solutions to share childcare days without the slightest quibble.
So you’re a very busy “Mompreneur”?
Yes, definitely! The weeks and weekends fly by. Even when I turn off the computer, the project is still at the back of my mind. I feel it’s important to ensure I spend quality time with the children and make sure I devote myself to them when I’m with them. It’s
a challenge! However, every day I manage to do 20 minutes of a mix of my own yoga – sophrology – meditation, which gives me lots of energy. When I’m walking through the grass with the children, we quickly get absorbed by everything that’s going on: it’s a real stress buster!
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness?
Well, really, I always have magical moments with the children and the best of all is our morning cuddle! I also like it when we go to the beach and the weather forecast isn’t good, test the water temperature with our toes, run against the wind and let the sea spray carry us. Then, we go back home to the warmth and chat while having a coffee … battling the elements makes us feel alive. I like the weekend singing sessions with my husband accompanied by the ukulele and hearing my children’s little voices as they join us to form a choir! (it’s even better in the garden on a summer evening). On a professional level, I love being with the children and seeing their eyes light up in the moment, listening to comments of surprise from parents about the fact that their child has an intense and positive memory from the time they spent in the countryside.
You spend a lot of time with your children. Do you have a little
home-made secret to share with us?
Actually, my children do everything! Outdoors, I only have to follow their example to build a dolls house, flush out squirrels or play nature bingo. Indoors we only have the decor to entertain them.
In addition to being a “Mompreneur”, what kind of cultural activities do you like to go out and do either on your own or with your family?
I really like the Stedelijk, especially when I go with the children and can see their reactions. As a family, we’ve discovered the concerts/plays for children at Muziekgebouw. These are always very good quality, very dreamlike and original. We as parents like them as much as the children do. We also have our reading club where we can exchange views about books in a small group and a warm atmosphere. Finally, there’s the “Cultcheers”, who give rhythm to our cultural outings!
Time for a bit of culture: Can you quote one of your favourite books or paintings?
So, when it comes to a book: .How to breed a wild child in town which confirmed my professional career
One painting?! I really like Henri Rousseau’s dream. In addition to the subject of the painting, the mystery that emerges and the beautiful tones used, I tell you frankly, I crack for the head of the first lion! info here
Can you recommend a cultural event at the moment in your city or region?
The Cultcheers workshops info here!
Can you tell me about your project?
I design and develop education programmes about nature using the brand name q”Missions COCO” The first project is Naya Nature, which is supported by the very talented Claire Bano Devautour as co-director.
We want to help children find the familiar connection that will bind them to nature and discover all the benefits. The positive effect that nature can have on children is impressive: it impacts on their on social, emotional and physical development, with a positive impact on their health and ability to learn. What we see at individual level is reinforced on a social scale, with more peace and openness … Our programme covers 3 basic levels: learning about your own deep nature, learning about relationships with others and learning about life. Our teachings convey our great enthusiasm and are inspired by the works of Rudolf Steiner, as well as those of Maria Montessori,or the School of Hummingbirds and the Living School. In fact, Naya Nature is like a nature school, just as you might imagine a music school … but it takes place amidst nature and is all about nature! Annual programmes are grouped according to age, with progress monitoring and little certificates… We’re already planning our end of year party! Enthusiasm is what matters to us first and foremost! This stimulates positive emotions connected to nature and helps us have fun, laugh, get involved and discover amazing things… Our motto follows what André Stern once said: “Enthusiasm increases the more you use it” Our programs are open to children aged between 2 and 12, divided into age groups; children can attend alone, after school, through their school or with a parent who wants to develop a particular connection with their child. You don’t have to wait for the start of the school year; in May, we offer a programme taster, including 3 surprise sessions led by well-known experts to enable families to meet our fabulous team of nature mediators straight away,
How did you develop your business?
Naya Nature was born following a long period of reflection, strengthened and enriched over time and through my children and people I met, especially Claire (co- director of Naya Nature). Where my children were concerned, I quickly tried to apply what I’d learned from the training I’d undergone and was surprised to see how curious they were about nature. They’re happy in nature’s midst. What a difference when we spend days indoors! However, nursery and school, don’t offer daily trips out to a natural environment and it’s sometimes difficult to find time between work and that “difficult hour” in the evenings.
On the other hand, I’ve met many people who share our aspirations and our sense of urgency. Claire has invested her time in the project since its inception and contributes all her knowledge and experience. I strongly believe that our “community” has the power to have a positive impact. Together, we’re strong! I find that the community we’re building is a source of energy and inspiration. Some people really get involved and contribute their talents just like adding stones to a building, which is invaluable.
A change is taking place! We want our children to sow the seeds of a much bigger life force by reconnecting them to nature. This is what the coconut symbolises in our logo: a seed that came from a tree and is sewn so it germinates and develops strong roots, slowly but surely.
What do you gain from your experience on a professional level and settling into the country…?
Life in Amsterdam and the Dutch conception of nature and education have helped me to realise I need to seize the opportunity here and now to allow my profound desire for change to germinate. This experience helps me to realign my professional life with my personal life and my convictions! Everything has now fallen into place!
How is your business nomadic?
Missions Coco is the body I created to design, develop and promote educational nature programmes as I conceive them (educating yourself and others on the natural environment). In fact, at the start, I was mainly thinking of my own projects and these are plentiful! With Claire, I started with Naya Nature. But when I talk about my ideas with people around me and meet potential project leaders these ideas are just waiting to take root and grow into small coconut plantations! Missions Coco is an umbrella brand. The project structure (geographical area, economic model, methods) depends on the context and this can change. All programmes have the same bottom line: our vision, our values and the impact on society that I want to achieve. My role is to ensure consistency and sustainability everywhere.
Can you summarise your professional journey?
I’ve a Masters Degree in Consultancy, Organisation and Change Management from the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. I attended courses on social entrepreneurship (ESSEC), “How to create a school” (Living School, University of Hummingbirds) and training on being a nature mediator (Awakening and Nature). I’m a jack of all trades. I was a teacher, trainer, consultant in knowledge management and change management … I worked for a TV channel, a waste management company, a university and various associations … I worked with technicians, communicators, directors, researchers, students – and I loved all that.
Today, this all comes in useful! Before arriving in Amsterdam I couldn’t have imagined becoming a social entrepreneur. But now I wonder if I started down that path some time ago …