x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Chris Colwell inspires at TedXDubai 2011

A packed auditorium at Dubai World Trade Centre is told of 'the beauty of small things", this year's theme at the annual TedxDubai.

DUBAI // A powerful TedxDubai presentation about coping with disability had extra meaning for an Emirati student in the audience who had been confined to a wheelchair after an accident.

Chris Colwell spoke movingly on Saturday about how he had adjusted to a new life after a skydiving accident left him a quadriplegic.

Mr Colwell talked of his struggles to regain his self-reliance and of the videos he posted on YouTube in the hope of helping others with similar challenges.

"What I want to do with my life is to inspire every human being that I meet, no matter what challenges are put before you, to face them, to try," he told a packed auditorium in Dubai World Trade Centre at the annual TedxDubai conference. "Because if you try, everything is possible."

Watching through tears was Mada Al Yafaei, who is studying design at the American University of Sharjah.

Ms Al Yafaei was injured in the US while snow tubing, sliding down slopes on an inflated inner tube.

"I was crying the whole time because it hit really close to my heart," she said. "I was very affected because I have just recovered from an injury. I was confined to a wheelchair as well.

"I've been walking again for five months but before that I was in a wheelchair for four months. I went through the same thing where everyone had to do everything for me and I think that's the worst thing, where you end up being dependent on other people.

"It was very moving, because his injury was far worse than mine ever was but he's managed to do everything completely independently."

Other speakers at the third TedxDubai addressed a variety of subjects ranging from poverty and prejudice to hairdressing.

Each presentation was linked in some way to this year's theme, "the beauty of small things". A series of "official tweeters" sat on a red-upholstered chair at the side of the stage describing what was happening on Twitter.

The conference is an independently organised spin-off of the Ted conference, which started in the US in 1984 as a platform for what organisers called "ideas worth spreading".

It has grown to the point where a global audience followed yesterday's proceedings live through online streaming.

A thousand delegates whose applications to attend had been accepted by the organisers converged on the Sheikh Saeed Halls.

They included passionate supporters, known as "Tedsters"; those with a particular interest in one of the subjects covered; and the simply curious.

"The event is very good, it's very well organised, it's a very good turnout and there's a spark in the air," said Andy Roney, a Briton who lives in Dubai and runs a training centre. "I hope to get inspiration from it and to expand the possibilities of where my new ides come from."

Suna Nakhare, a teacher from India who lives in Dubai, said: "It's been very interesting and very inspiring. I'm really excited to be here. I hope to take away inspiring ideas where you can do something to make a change to society."

Hala Kazim, an Emirati mother of five who takes groups of UAE women on walking holidays abroad, gave a speech called Let's Twalk, in which she outlined the benefits of hiking for physical well-being and mental health.

Ms Kazim, 48, considers TedxDubai to be the perfect platform for getting her message across, particularly to young people.

"It's an amazing event," she said. "It's good to catch up with the new generation. I got to know about it from my kids. You can spread whatever idea you have through it."

Natascia Radice, the curator for TedxDubai, said interest in the event, one of the largest of dozens of regional offshoots, had been greater this year.

"We have been overwhelmed by applications both to attend and volunteer," Ms Radice said.

"We are quite flattered and at the same time we hope that the delegates left out will not take it personally and will keep supporting ideas worth spreading."