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Jason, Curaçao

I am just as multicultural as your project. I was born in Curaçao. My grandfather and grandmother came from India and Pakistan. First, they moved to Suriname and then to the Antilles. My mother is from there, but my father is Irish-German and was born in the US. My stepfather was French and my stepmother has Japanese influence. And as a teenager, I never lived in one country for more than two years.

As for Leiden, I lived in the Netherlands for some time when I was five years old, but I came back to study law when I was 28. My grandfather was the first non-white lawyer in Curaçao, so this profession was a tradition in my family. I studied it for a couple of years, until I got into some serious trouble.

During my studies I delivered the morning newspaper – including Leidsch Dagblad. I had not paid the insurance for my scooter and was fined. I didn't pay that either. I was actually supposed to move to the US to assist my ailing mother, but that fell through at the last moment. By that time, I didn't have a house anymore and because of all those fines I also couldn't get another apartment. So suddenly, I became homeless.

Life turned into a vicious circle. Because I didn't have a fixed address, people couldn't reach me. Before I knew it, I had inadvertently built up a debt of 40,000 euros. There were nine creditors. If I called one to negotiate when I got a job again, that call was charged to the debt immediately too, just adding to the total. And so it went on.

I also spent a week in jail because of those fines and I can assure you that prison is a hundred times better than the homeless shelter. I only spent one night there. I felt so unsafe in that room with 40 people and without any privacy. That's why I slept on the street. And on couches of all kinds of friends that I knew from my university days.

After some years I finally was able to enter the debt relief progeam. An administrator now manages my money. I have a permanent job, but I only get 50 euros a week from her. With remaining salary, she pays my fixed costs and the creditors. They now get less than what they could have gotten when I called them with a proposal, but like me, they don't have a choice anymore. Three more years and I'm back on solid ground. Then my second chance starts.


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