Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St.John

Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John
Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John

Interview & fotografie: Géke Dijkstra & Lars Faber

Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John are the founders of Challenge Day and the Be the Change movement.


They are passionately driven by their dream and mission to create a world where every child feels safe, loved and celebrated.
In their own childhood they have suffered from severe bullying and were teased about how they looked. Since then they have seen it on numerous schools: Kids who get bullied and teased, kids who are secluded, Alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, suicide….


Rich and Yvonne believe that al these problems are symptoms of a bigger, underlying core problem:




Millions of kids are feeling lonely because there is a lack of love and connection between them. Through their programs Rich and Yvonne have found a way to help these children feel loved, safe and connected again.

One reason why their programs are so effective, long-lasting and profound is that they are not telling kids what to do or how to act. Instead they give children the opportunity to find out for themselves, through the experience they offer them.


In their workshops they use the image of an iceberg: 10 percent of the iceberg shows at the top and that is what we let other people see of ourselves. Underneath the water is the other 90 percent, which we don’t show to others because we feel ashamed or because we’re afraid that we’re the only ones feeling like this.
Children are being invited to show themselves, to ‘drop the waterline’ as Rich calls it. They get to express and share with others what’s underneath their waterline.
By dropping the waterline, they experience that they are not the only ones who feel lonely or insecure, frightened, angry or sad…
Challenge Day is all about dropping the waterline and just getting real.


Rich and Yvonne describe it like this: ‘Most people compare their insides to other people’s outsides. And the conclusions they draw is that the other has more courage, self-esteem, is happier, doing better etcetera.
During the Challenge Day program they discover that their inside isn’t that much different from other people’s insides.
Experiencing this breaks down, without words, all the sub-positions and the stories that they make up in their heads. And they get to find that in the basic of life we are all the same. And this knowledge makes them feel connected, together, safe and supported.


Rich and Yvonne believe that it is the same for adults. They have worked in a lot of organizations, communities and businesses and found out that adults are just kids in grown up bodies. It often takes the same hurts, the same habits that they’ve established when they were going to school and they just take them into the workplace. They may look a little different but in the basis they’re exactly the same as in the schools.


We ask Rich and Yvonne what a business leader would achieve if he would take care of his people and give them safety, love, connection and celebration?
They answer: “When you feel connected you are willing to share and ask more questions. You are willing to participate. The same thing goes for the workplace. If we would feel those qualities in our workplace then we would be more loyal to the team. We would be more willing to take a risk because we don’t care about looking stupid because we would know our co-workers care about us.
We would be willing to bring our ideas forward because we’re not going to get shut down. We get to be part of the solution or we can cheerlead and not be in competition with our co-workers. That is the collaborate environment where you get a common vision and a common way of interacting. And you can’t lose.
About our own workplace. When we started it, it was just us. And now we have 55 staff members. What it comes down to is that they like being there, they like to be part of it. And they have come up with things that we never would have dreamed of on our own.”


Peace, connection, love starts from the inside out. So first be what you want to see out there. And then put yourself in the position as often as you can to really know the human being that you are interacting with. In whatever setting that is. And from that place, see if there is any kind of shared thing to do together.
Whatever it is: get in relationship and collaborate, co-create.
Because the truth is; we are all connected. How much we are willing to allow ourselves to be seen and to see the other person is a choice that we can constantly make. It takes courage for me to drop the waterline. And it takes courage for the other person to drop the waterline. But if we do it we can really be connected and make a change.


It’s like Gandhi says: be the change you wish to see in the world.
What can I do to contribute, how can I bring love to this next moment? How can I be a contribution to the school or the organization or the community I live in?
Be the hero you’ve been waiting for. That’s what it’s really about: None of us can afford to wait around and wait for somebody else to do it. It is really us having to generate from inside out the solutions that we want to see on the planet.