“I keep looking for things that add something to my life and that of others.”

As a teenager, Leo van Grondelle (68) dreamed of doing international development work. Instead he ended up becoming an architect. However, his dream was never lost and remained with him throughout his life. Now that he’s retired, he wants to use his knowledge and experience to make the world a little bit brighter.

Helping other people, that’s something Leo knew he wanted to do from a very young age. “My father set an example for me. He was always there for others, especially people who had it rough. When I was younger I saw him put money into the hand of a struggling aunt. He didn’t want anyone to know, but I’d seen it. He wasn’t out for anything big for himself either. He once told me: ‘I could drive a bigger car if I wanted to, but I want your life to be good, in case something happens to me.’ His instinct was right, because he passed away not long after. I was seventeen.”

Not working for yuppies

Leo deviated from his dream and started a degree in engineering. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I finished my studies, I didn’t want to end up just working for yuppies. I wanted to do something that had societal value. The great thing was that I got the opportunity to spend ten years working in hospital construction. That has meant more to me than building a villa for some rich dude ever could. Hahaha!”


“As an architect, beauty is an important value to me. It’s my ambition to create beauty, to make things more beautiful. It’s something I enjoy a lot. We all want to find paradise, don’t we? We’re looking for some kind of perfection. It’s ultimately not possible to achieve perfection in this life, but it has been my challenge nonetheless to keep working towards it.”

New assignment

When Leo retired a couple of years ago, he found himself overcome by the silence. “I prayed for a new assignment, a new sense of purpose. That was the start of something amazing as shortly afterwards I had a dream in which two parties were fighting each other. As I woke up the next morning I heard the word ‘Moldova’. The battle from my dream turned a battle on the border between Russia and Europe. Moldova is right on that border. It’s the poorest country in Europe. People move to other countries to earn money and leave their children behind with their grandparents, sometimes even with their neighbors. I thought to myself: I have to do something. I asked around and met a Dutchman who had built a factory in Moldova to tackle unemployment. Eventually, I went there myself. I’m currently working on a project to develop a Centre for elderly people, which connects nicely to my experience in hospital construction.”

‘I hate hobbies’

“When people asked me if I’d spent my retired years picking up hobbies, I was almost offended. He continues with a smile: “I hate hobbies. I don’t like the idea of entertaining myself to pass the time when instead I could be using my experience to help others. The journey I started on when I was younger isn’t any different now. I’ll keep looking for the things that add value and purpose to my life, but also to the lives of others.”

Bastian helped building local poultry industry in Afghanistan

"I want to give people a chance to make a difference”

Bastian de Pooter (39) shares his journey of discovering this in the world. Entrepreneurship runs through Bastian’s veins. Entrepreneurship that makes a positive difference, which is why he has a heart for supporting social enterprise. This led him all the way to Afghanistan.

After studying Economics and Law at University, Bastian found himself working for a bank. “But after a while, I felt there had to be more. It was very one-sided I missed a human dimension in my work.” He then did an MA in International Development, but it wasn’t quite what he was looking for. After a while, Bastian got involved with an organization that was started to help people by building local businesses around the world. “I’d never heard of this before. A great combination of commerce and sustainability.”

Profit maximization

Bastian: “At the end of the day, people need to make a living. Earning money isn’t dirty, but you have to ask yourself: why am I making a profit? Social entrepreneurship isn’t just about maximising profits, but rather about building a strong company that can stand on its own. It’s about the positive impact you can have in the lives of your employees and your community.”

Bastian has been involved in developing several social businesses. He was involved with a project in Ukraine, a farm where people who struggled with addiction could spend their day. The project generated its own revenue to fund the rehab programmed. Next he founded a chocolate company along with a business partner, where he created opportunities for people who were long term unemployed, to help them get back into the workplace.


His passion for social entrepreneurship took him all the way to Afghanistan. “In 2016, I was introduced to a foundation whose mission it is to support local entrepreneurship in Afghanistan. We started with two enthusiastic entrepreneurs and a shed filled with 3,500 chickens. Imported poultry meat was of terrible quality and very expensive.” The business gained traction and after a while many farmers in the region began to copy the concept. From there, a cooperation for shared purchasing was set up, as well as a chicken feed company and a slaughterhouse.

Bastian: “I saw all components of social entrepreneurship come together in Afghanistan. Money was made in a healthy way, the employees who worked there were satisfied with the organization and the company had a positive impact on the local economy. Now, more than five hundred people are involved in the poultry industry in this region of Afghanistan. They can support their families. That’s the power of social enterprise!”

Making a difference

“Everyone has it in them to make a positive difference, to help others and to add value in the world. But you have to get an opportunity. I want to help people by offering that opportunity. In five years’ time, the two young men founded and created an entire industry in Afghanistan. With the right support, people can do almost anything they put their mind to.”