Local Heroes

Though Aruba may appear as a tiny speck on the world map, some larger-than-life characters who hail from our ‘dushi tera’ (beloved land) are making a big global splash. Let’s meet them…

Though some local heroes are expats, they’ve made their adopted home a better place by spearheading important organizations like Edith Van der Wal’s TurtugaAruba that protects sea turtles, or Desiree Eldering’s Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Jodi Tobman’s The Salamander Group stores like The Lazy Lizard and The Juggling Fish have been automatically donating a percentage of each client’s purchase to local charity organizations for decades, while dynamic multimedia artist Armando Goedgedrag has been busy beautifying the entire island with his outstanding art focused on nature. Here are some more local legends…


Edjean Semeleer
Performing Artist & Creative Entrepreneur

Keeping the Culture Alive

With an artistic track record of 30 years, singer, TV host, concert producer, and philanthropist Edjean Semeleer is also loved for his annual Christmas concerts “Hey… ta Pasco!” He’s won numerous prestigious awards for his cultural contributions and co-founded the new Go Cultura Foundation, dedicated to promoting Aruba's creative industries and helping local artists. But you must see him perform.

At 40, Edjean’s incessantly boyish charm makes him appear much younger, but once he sings in that classic crooner style, it’s readily apparent that he’s an old soul. Maybe he inherited that musical maturity from his biggest inspiration ‘Padú’ (Juan Chabaya Lampe,) Aruba’s best-loved musical legend and composer of the national anthem "Aruba Dushi Tera”. Edjean first performed publicly at the age of ten, and over the years, Padú became a beloved friend, and they experienced many fantastic musical events together until the master passed away in 2019.

Edjean says, "My journey has been an enjoyable symphony of growth, but nurturing the next generation of talent to amplify the vibrant soul of Aruba is fast becoming one of its most rewarding highlights."

Visit: www.gocultura.org | www.justcallmeEd.com



Kiara Arends
Miss Universe Aruba 2022

Charity Founder & Legal Eagle

women everywhere. She has an irrepressible drive, and by the age of only 25, she had earned her master’s in international business, trade, and tax law, represented Aruba on the world stage as Miss Universe Aruba 2022, and founded a charity dedicated to underprivileged young mothers-to-be called ‘BUMP’. She’s also fluent in five languages, and she’s just getting started!

Kiara reflects on the guiding light and inspiration behind her drive, “My remarkable mother is a beacon of determination and ambition. Her dedication and commitment to create positive change, first as a primary school teacher, then later as a school principal, taught me that no challenge is insurmountable, and education paves the way to freedom."

And though her prestigious pageant experiences enhanced her confidence and provided a platform to connect with inspiring women worldwide, her true passion lies in the legal field. Today, she works at esteemed local firm Kloes Kock and Partners and intends to pass the bar next year. She says, "The legal realm encapsulates everything I hold dear – my desire to help others, my competitive spirit, and my unwavering dedication to continually become a better version of myself to generate meaningful change.” 

Outside the courtroom, Kiara finds solace in the sea, a passion rooted from her competitive swimming days. She also participates in Aruba's Carnival each year, adorning herself in glamour and radiance to wholeheartedly embody its spirit of celebration and national unity.”

We are honored to have Kiara grace the cover of our 2024 edition.




Xander Bogaerts
Major League Baseball Player

Dare to Dream Foundation Co-Founder

You needn’t be a sports fan to recognize the unique name and the beaming smile of Xander Bogaerts. He made a huge splash during his run as famed shortstop and third baseman for the Boston Red Sox (two World Series wins,) and now impresses with exceptional skills playing for the San Diego Padres. (He’s also on the MLB All-Star Team and represents the Netherlands in international competitions.) Although fame came quickly for the young athlete, and he’s now ‘royalty’ as a “Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau”, this homegrown hero never forgets his roots. During off season, you’ll often find Xander visiting family and friends, playing dominoes, and swimming in the sea to relax and unwind on his one happy island… and giving back.

Along with his mother Sandra Brown, Xander created the Dare to Dream Foundation dedicated to financing young local baseball players with equipment to play their favorite sport.

They also sponsor hopefuls to travel abroad and try-out for international scouts, and have supported players seeking to play college baseball.
The foundation also steps up to the plate with local charities when needed like aiding groups serving meals on wheel.
Visit Dare to Dream foundation: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064619594467



Sarah-Quita Offringa
World Champion Windsurfer

Queen of the Wind & Waves

Already knighted by Queen Beatrix of Holland in 2013 for her incredible athletic contributions at only age 16, now at 32, this irrepressible force of nature holds a whopping 21 world windsurfing championship titles over the disciplines of freestyle, slalom, and wave. You can see her star in Paseo Herencia’s Walk of Fame or her larger-than-life mural in San Nicolas. But if you’re lucky, you’ll see her in action off the coast of Hadicurari where she’s been practicing since she was 9 years old. At 6ft. tall, she’s hard to miss doing gravity-defying moves on the water while dancing on her board! On land, you’ll know her by the big hair that earned her the nickname “Cabeibusha” meaning curly hair in Papiamento. A beautiful documentary about her world travels in the windsurfing world is entitled “Cabeibusha- The Curly Gem”.

But not content to become the world’s best female windsurfer, she also took time off to earn a bachelor’s degree in ‘Science & Innovation Management’ as she’s eager to contribute to Aruba’s future in that domain.

22 World windsurfing Championship titles

As an inspiration to Aruba’s youth, Sarah-Quita always stresses the importance of education and being well-grounded in other areas beyond sports as key to her success.

Visit: www.sarah-quita.com

Let us thank the Local Heroes in Aruba for being local heroes

By Susan Campbell