From Wheelchair to Social Entrepreneur:
The Story of Andy Kirchner
2nd Life Curaçao was founded by “yu’i Kòrsou” (native Curaçaoan) Andy Kirchner. On May 19th 2012, Andy and his girlfriend, Debbie van der Woude, had a scuba diving accident at Marie Pompoen. The accident cost Debbie her precious life to a pulmonary embolism. Andy was stricken with caisson disease, also known as “the bends”, and a spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Andy would not accept the neurologist’s prognosis that he would not walk again. He said, “I did not fight and survive to live my life depending on others”. Several treatments in a decompression chamber and grueling physical therapy helped to regain some of his strength and ability to move again, but it would take more than just therapy to get him where he knew he wanted to be.
When he was released from the SGR Monseigneur Verriet rehabilitation center in October 2012, the future wasn’t looking too bright. There was no social structure to help him regain his independence, and he was forced to move in with his parents. This created a lot of financial and emotional stress on the family. He knew that if he were going to reach his potential, he would need to take matters in his own hands.
“I deserve a 2nd chance at life. And so do all these other people surrounding me. But how do I do that with no income?”
By learning about his disabilities he started to develop his abilities. Growing every day stronger by focussing on his breathing during Yoga and Pilates exercises ,and reading when he needed to rest to increase his knowledge. Beating adversity standing up from his wheelchair, to walking with two crutches and eventually even walking without a cane.
Life continued and so did Andy’s development. As he became stronger, he was appointed commissioner for the National Sports Development Foundation (FDDK) to advocate for handicapped (sport) rights. Meanwhile the idea for 2nd Life Curaçao and The Recycled Pirate | life awareness & innovations was already on the drawing table.
2015 was the year to hatch again. Joining the Curaçao Paralympics delegation in March Andy learned he wasn’t ready to shine yet, however it was a great learning experience and warming up of what was yet to come.
In April 2015 he opened the show for Levi Silvanie with an inspirational speech for the clip presentation at the Superando Documentary Concert featuring Alton Paas. In May he shined on the cover of GO WEEKLY magazine with a featured interview and just a month later Andy won the prestigious JCI IOBA Curaçao Aspiring Young Creative Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Award and with that the jump start for his own, long time envisioned, sustainable business Buccaneer’s Enterprises B.V. that is the umbrella company for 2nd Life Curaçao and The Recycled Pirate.
In the following years Andy regained his driver’s licence, bought a car, found love and reclaimed his independence by completing his rehabilitation into society with a TEDx Aruba talk 2016 and joining the Caribbean Spinal Cord Injury Congress 2018 as a keynote speaker.
Since January 2019 Andy has been appointed to the Supervisory board of the SGR-Group. The foundation where he once left as a rehabilitating patient and made the promise to return to improve the life quality of people with a disability.
From Wheelchair to Social Entrepreneur tells the story of a boy who became man in the eyes of adversity. Andy has become an often asked motivational speaker in Dutch, Papiamentu and English about Life Awareness, Social Entrepreneurship and dealing mindful with the wariness of life.