How to turn your dissatisfaction into action | Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

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2020-07-02・ 2914    126


Visit http://TED.com to get our entire library of TED Talks, transcripts, translations, personalized talk recommendations and more. After the devastating rebel invasion of Freetown in 1999 and the Ebola epidemic in 2014, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of the city, refused to be paralyzed by her frustration with the status quo. Instead, she used her anger as a catalyst for action. In this inspiring talk, she shares how she transformed her city by taking the risks necessary to bring about dramatic change -- and shows how you can find power in your dissatisfaction. The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. You're welcome to link to or embed these videos, forward them to others and share these ideas with people you know. For more information on using TED for commercial purposes (e.g. employee learning, in a film or online course), submit a Media Request here: http://media-requests.TED.com Follow TED on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TEDTalks Like TED on Facebook: http://facebook.com/TED Subscribe to our channel: http://youtube.com/TED

Instruction

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00:13
Sometimes,
00:15
you have a negative feeling about things.
00:18
You're not happy about the way things are going.
00:22
You feel frustrated and dissatisfied,
00:25
and so often, we choose to live with it.
00:29
It's a negative that we tell ourselves we have to endure.
00:34
And yet, I passionately believe
00:37
that we all have the ability
00:39
to turn that negative feeling
00:41
into a positive
00:43
by allowing our dissatisfaction
00:46
to give birth to change.
00:49
On January 6, 1999,
00:52
I was working in London
00:54
when the news channels began to report
00:56
the rebel invasion of my hometown,
01:00
Freetown, Sierra Leone.
01:03
Thousands of people lost their lives,
01:05
and there were bodies littering the streets of Freetown.
01:09
My husband's elderly aunt was burned alive,
01:13
and I thought of my own two-year old
01:16
as I saw images of little children with amputated limbs.
01:21
Colleagues said to me,
01:22
"How could we help?"
01:24
I didn't know,
01:26
so I began to call the telephone numbers that came up on my screen
01:30
as international aid agencies started to make appeals
01:34
to raise money to address the tragedy.
01:38
The vagueness of those telephone conversations disappointed me.
01:43
It felt like the people who were raising the money
01:46
seemed so far removed from the crisis,
01:48
and understandably so,
01:50
but I wasn't satisfied
01:52
and I wasn't convinced
01:54
that the interventions they would eventually implement
01:58
would actually have the level of impact that was so clearly needed.
02:02
There were butterflies in my stomach for days
02:05
as I continued to watch horrors unfold on television,
02:08
and I continuously asked myself,
02:11
what could I be doing?
02:13
What should I be doing?
02:14
What I wanted to do was to help children affected by the war.
02:18
So that's what we did.
02:21
Myself, my sister and some friends
02:24
started the Sierra Leone War Trust For Children, SLWT.
02:28
We decided to focus on the thousands of displaced people
02:32
that fled the fighting
02:33
and were now living in really poor, difficult conditions
02:37
in camps in Freetown.
02:39
Our work started with the Ross Road Camp
02:42
at the east end of the city.
02:44
Working with a local health organization,
02:47
we identified about 130 of the most vulnerable single mothers
02:52
with children under the age of five,
02:55
supporting them by providing business skills,
03:00
microcredit,
03:02
whatever they asked us.
03:04
Working in those difficult conditions,
03:07
just getting the basics right, was no small task,
03:11
but our collective sense of dissatisfaction
03:14
at an unacceptable status quo
03:17
kept us focused on getting things done.
03:20
Some of those women went on to open small businesses,
03:24
repaid their loans
03:26
and allowed other mothers and their children
03:28
to have the same opportunity they did.
03:31
And we, we kept on going.
03:34
In 2004, we opened an agricultural training center
03:38
for ex-child soldiers,
03:40
and when the war was behind us,
03:42
we started a scholarship program for disadvantaged girls
03:46
who would otherwise not be able to continue in school.
03:50
Today, Stella, one of those girls,
03:54
is about to qualify as a medical doctor.
03:56
It's amazing what a dose of dissatisfaction can birth.
04:01
(Applause)
04:03
Ten years later, in 2014,
04:06
Sierra Leone was struck by Ebola.
04:08
I was working in Freetown at the time on a hotel construction project on May 25
04:15
when the first cases were announced,
04:17
but I was back in London on July 30
04:20
when the state of emergency was announced,
04:24
the same day that many airlines stopped their flights to Sierra Leone.
04:30
I remember crying for hours,
04:32
asking God, why this? Why us?
04:37
But beyond the tears,
04:39
I began to feel again
04:42
that profound sense of dissatisfaction.
04:45
So when, six months after those first cases had been confirmed,
04:49
the disease was still spreading rapidly in Sierra Leone
04:52
and the number of people infected and dying continued to rise,
04:57
my level of frustration and anger
04:59
got so much that I knew I could not stay
05:03
and watch the crisis from outside Sierra Leone.
05:07
So, in mid-November,
05:09
I said goodbye to my much loved
05:12
and very understanding husband and children,
05:15
and boarded a rather empty plane
05:18
to Freetown.
05:19
Freetown was now the epicenter of the outbreak.
05:23
There were hundreds of new cases every week.
05:26
I spoke to many medical experts,
05:29
epidemiologists
05:30
and ordinary people every day.
05:33
Everyone was really scared.
05:35
"We won't succeed until we're talking to people under the mango tree."
05:41
So said Dr. Yoti,
05:43
a Ugandan doctor who worked for WHO
05:46
and who had been involved in pretty much every Ebola outbreak
05:49
in Africa previously.
05:51
He was right,
05:52
and yet there was no plan to make that happen.
05:57
So during a weekend in early December,
06:00
I developed a plan that became known as the Western Area Surge plan.
06:05
We needed to talk with people,
06:08
not at people.
06:10
We needed to work with the community influencers
06:14
so people believed our message.
06:16
We needed to be talking under the mango tree,
06:19
not through loudspeakers.
06:20
And we needed more beds.
06:22
The National Ebola Response Center, NERC,
06:25
built on and implemented that plan,
06:28
and by the third week of January,
06:30
the number of cases had fallen dramatically.
06:33
I was asked to serve
06:35
as a new Director of Planning for NERC,
06:38
which took me right across the country,
06:40
trying to stay ahead of the outbreak
06:43
but also following it
06:44
to remote villages in the provinces
06:46
as well as to urban slum communities.
06:50
On one occasion, I got out of my car
06:53
to call for help for a man who had collapsed on the road.
06:57
I accidentally stepped in liquid
07:00
that was coming down the road from where he lay.
07:03
I rushed to my parents' house,
07:04
washed my feet in chlorine.
07:07
I'll never forget waiting for that man's test results
07:11
as I constantly checked my temperature then and throughout the outbreak.
07:17
The Ebola fight was probably the most challenging
07:22
but rewarding experience of my life,
07:25
and I'm really grateful
07:27
for the dissatisfaction
07:28
that opened up the space
07:30
for me to serve.
07:32
Dissatisfaction can be a constant presence in the background,
07:37
or it can be sudden,
07:38
triggered by events.
07:41
Sometimes it's both.
07:44
With my hometown, that's the way it was.
07:48
For years, our city had changed,
07:52
and it had caused me great pain.
07:55
I remember a childhood
07:57
growing up climbing trees,
08:00
picking mangoes and plums
08:03
on the university campus where my father was a lecturer.
08:07
Went fishing in the streams deep in the botanical gardens.
08:12
The hillsides around Freetown were covered with lush green vegetation,
08:18
and the beaches were clean and pristine.
08:20
The doubling of the population of Freetown in the years that followed the civil war,
08:25
and the lack of planning and building control
08:28
resulted in massive deforestation.
08:32
The trees, the natural beauty, were destroyed as space was made
08:36
for new communities, formal or informal,
08:39
and for the cutting down of firewood.
08:42
I was deeply troubled and dissatisfied.
08:46
It wasn't just the destruction of the trees and the hillsides
08:49
that bothered me.
08:51
It was also the impact of people,
08:54
as infrastructure failed to keep up with the growth of the population:
08:59
no sanitation systems to speak of,
09:02
a dirty city with typhoid, malaria and dysentery.
09:07
I didn't know the statistics at the time,
09:09
but it turned out that by 2017,
09:12
only six percent of liquid waste and 21 percent of solid waste
09:18
was being collected.
09:19
The rest was right there with us,
09:21
in backyards, in fields, rivers
09:25
and deposited in the sea.
09:28
The steps to address that deep sense of anger and frustration I felt
09:33
didn't unfold magically or clearly.
09:36
That's not how the power of dissatisfaction works.
09:40
It works when you know that things can be done better,
09:44
and it works when you decide to take the risks to bring about that change.
09:49
And so it was that in 2017
09:52
I ended up running for mayor,
09:54
because I knew things could be better.
09:57
It seemed the people agreed with me, because I won the election.
10:01
(Applause)
10:04
Today, we are implementing an ambitious plan
10:08
to transform our city,
10:11
and when I say we,
10:14
what gets me really excited
10:16
is that I mean the whole Freetown community,
10:19
whether it's being part of competitions like rewarding the neighborhood
10:25
that makes the most improvement in overall cleanliness,
10:29
or whether it's our programs
10:31
that are leading and joining people and waste collectors
10:35
through our apps.
10:39
In Freetown today,
10:41
it's a much cleaner city,
10:44
and those trees that we're so well known for,
10:47
we planted 23,000 of them last rainy season.
10:51
(Applause)
10:52
And in 2020,
10:53
we plan to plant a million trees as part of our "Freetown the Tree Town" campaign.
11:00
(Applause)
11:03
Sometimes, sometimes we have a negative feeling about things.
11:08
We're not happy about the way things are going.
11:12
We feel dissatisfied,
11:14
and we feel frustrated.
11:16
We can change that negative into a positive.
11:22
If you believe that things can be better,
11:26
then you have the option to do something rather than to do nothing.
11:31
The scale and circumstances of our situations will differ,
11:36
but for each of us,
11:38
we all have one thing in common.
11:42
We can take risks to make a difference,
11:45
and I will close in saying,
11:48
step out,
11:49
take a risk.
11:50
If we can unite behind the power of dissatisfaction,
11:54
the world will be a better place.
11:56
Thank you.
11:57
(Applause)
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