Inside the TEDxDirigo conference

By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 14, 2011

Fambul tok means "family talk" in Krio, the lingua franca of Sierra Leone. Falmouth's Libby Hoffman co-founded Fambul Tok International to help facilitate forgiveness in the wake of that country's horrific civil war. It's time for Westerners to stop talking about how to "save Africa," she said. Peace and stability can't be imposed from outside. Instead of showing the continent what justice is, how about asking them what they think it is? FTI helps organize a "community-led and -owned reconciliation process." Hoffman showed a moving clip from a new eponymous documentary about Fambul Tok — viscerally horrifying and then powerfully redemptive — that showed two friends, one of whom did something unspeakable to the other, finally reaching a tentative, then permanent, forgiveness at a traditional, cathartic bonfire ceremony facilitated by FTI. In recent years, hundreds of such truth-telling bonfires have spread across the country in a cleansing absolution. Individual wrongs affect entire communities, said Hoffman. To truly bring about reconciliation, first the "community needs to be made whole."


Connect across distances

Injury is a public-health problem, said Rafael Grossmann Zamora, MD, a trauma surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. It's the first cause of death and disability in children and adults ages 1 to 44 — causing 150,000 fatalities a year. Luckily, timely care of injuries reduces the risk of dying by 25 percent. But in rural Maine, with vast land mass, unreliable roads, and just three trauma centers statewide, getting patients to that care in the crucial "golden hour" after injury is a huge challenge. EMMC's TeleTrauma program, connecting the hospital to 11 satellite centers in northern and central parts of the state (an area of roughly 26,000 square miles with approximately 462,000 people) is helping address that. One approach is to use high-resolution video and synced audio, relayed over wifi or cellular networks, for video conferencing. But sometimes even that can take too much time. Grossman Zamora showed how a simple iPod Touch with FaceTime capabilities can be used to diagnose and treat a patient two counties away. A couple taps on the screen, and "boom, seconds later you're connected." As a medical professional, "the feeling is incredible," he said. "The most incredible thing is not that the technology makes this connection possible. It's that it's so simple, obvious, and inexpensive and we never thought of this before."

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Reach out to others

Elizabeth McLellan, founder and president of Partners for World Health, has seen things up-close and intimately that most of us have only seen in "images on our screens." As a nurse, she's tended to broken bodies and broken spirits in war zones such as Libya and earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Nursing provides the "link between the patient and the art of healing," she said. And it's the nurse's calling to "reach down and instill hope" in patients even when there appears to be no hope, "even in the darkest moments." Her message to TEDxDirigo was for everyone to follow the nurses' examples, to bring selfless care and compassion out into the world. "We all have a heart to give," she said. "If we all reached out and cared and connected" this would be a more compassionate world. "Never forget a single human being. The giving is free."

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