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11 Ideas From Belarus Worth Spreading. TEDx Takes Place In Minsk

The tickets to TEDx Niamiha, 5th TEDx conference in Minsk, were sold out in 3 hours. The quickest 100 guests who were lucky enough to attend the event on 25 March definitely left with a changed standpoint.  

This year the number of speakers was the highest than ever.

11 speakers delivered 11 remarkable talks covering completely different spheres of human experience – from cyber attacks and plastic theater to organ transplantation and digital technologies in bird watching.

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Urban art vs. bureaucracy and ‘made-by-all’ online maps

For the first time in the history of TEDx Niamiha one of the talks was given by two speakers.

Employee of the Brazilian Embassy in Minsk and producer Mila Kotka and the first secretary and cultural attache of the the embassy Danilo Theofilo Costa spoke about non-profit international urban art festival Vulica Brasil, a super popular event that has been organized in Minsk for the past three years.

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The speakers revealed the secrets of the using soft power in dealing with bureaucracy to make the festival happen.

When asked to describe Belarus in a few words to someone who is not familiar with it, Mr. Costa said: “The beauty of this country is in the details. You should be very attentive, look deeper to see it. The beauty is everywhere. I’ve been in Belarus for three years already and should say I really felt in love with this place.”

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“Belarus is an unpretentious and agreeable place with some of the most gentle people I have ever met, with an older generation proud of its history and a new generation eager to show its talent,” Danilo told BelarusFeed.

The co-founder of a popular app MAPS.ME, used by over 40 million people around the world, Yury Melnychek explained how we can take care of other people by simply adding new objects on an interactive street map.

Such detailed map could help a person’s friends to find some place, for example, a club they are looking for, and not get lost.

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Global change in the no-walls world

UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Sanaka Samarasinha addressed the guests of the conference remotely as he wasn’t able to attend the event in person.

Why is change so important to us? What role each of us plays in the destiny of all humankind? The change is inevitable: we can grab it and use it to fight stereotypes and save the planet, Sanaka Samarasinha is convinced. It’s a hard task but it’s possible.

“In an ever-shrinking world, global challenges and local problems are indistinguishable. When an iceberg melts in the Arctic, an island will disappear in the Maldives. When the stock exchange crashes in New York, people become poor in China. When bombs explode in Ukraine, refugees need shelter in Belarus. Conventional borders and fences, and walls no longer offer us the protection that it used to,” Mr. Samarasinha said.

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During the four years of his work in Belarus, Mr. Samarasinha has witnessed some positive change, too.

“When I first came to Minsk, I used to often say, “Belarus is the best kept secret in Europe. We must change that.” You have a country blessed with beautiful nature and inhabited by a resourceful, resilient and hospitable people. But I found it unfortunate that few people around the world knew much about this wonderful place. I am glad to see that in the few years that I have been here this has begun to change with more and more Belarusians traveling abroad and international events such as the Ice Hockey Championship bringing people from around the world to this country,” he told BelarusFeed.

“At the same time, I have begun to see a renewed curiosity and desire among young people in Minsk and other cities to embrace new ways of doing things, whether its learning a new language, helping their communities in different ways or starting a small business of their own. Thanks to technology the world has shrunk. Many young Belarusians are exploiting whatever tools they have at their fingertips to learn more and more about the world we live in and in the process finding themselves far less isolated than their parents,” Sanaka Samarasinha said.

He believes the culture of social entrepreneurship and innovation should be encouraged and cultivated, because the youth of Belarus holds enormous promise and potential. In fact, it may be the greatest resource Belarusians have.

Sexy birdwatching and 4000km ride on a hand-bike

Environmental biologist, birdwatcher and head of the public organization Ahova Ptushak Batskaushchyny (APB-BirdLife Belarus) Alexander Vinchevsky spoke about the ways in which modern technologies enable us to get closer to birds and learn more about these amazing creatures.

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To the public’s astonishment the speaker revealed how to charm a woman with birdwatching! He also voiced a surprising idea that the national Belarusian bird is not the white stork, as most people believe, but the aquatic warbler – the world’s biggest population if this rare bird lives in Polesye in the south of Belarus.

Other talks of this year’s TEDx Niamiha included speeches of Tatiana Apet on homeschooling that enables children to discover what do they want and can do for this world; surgeon and transplantology researcher Denis Efimov who presented transplantology as manifestation of human love.

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Maria Kolesnikova

Musician Maria Kolesnikova who dwelled on life inside the orchestra that’s hidden from public; lawyer Anna Pavlyuk who inspired the listeners to be more aware of their behavior on the Internet and carefully check all the judgements they make online; and Ivan Reznikov who spoke about the development of a new type of petrol sorbent from woodwool.

Special atmosphere at the event was created by the actors of InZhest, famous Belarusian plastic theater company. The guests were clearly surprised as they didn’t expect that the performers would be sitting among them.

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TEDx Niamiha ended with an honest and breathtaking talk by Alexander Avdevich who rode 4000km from his native town Lida to Portugal on a hand-bike. With his personal example the young man showed that boundaries exist only in our heads.

Alexander, who remained disabled after a car crash in 2011, is the creator of a platform invalida.by and a video blogger. He shared impressions about his travels where he could always find attentive and caring people:

“The more you are open to this world, the more this world opens to you.”

Nest step – 1000 guests at TEDx Niamiha

Those who were not present at the event could follow the talks online. The recording of the conference will be available at the TED website in the beginning of summer.

Once again TEDxNiamiha was a huge success with the public but there is still much work ahead, the organizers said. The next step is to get the license for 1000 guests.


Written by Nadzeya Prasvirava for BelarusFeed. Photo: Vladimir Evsivfiev for TUT.BY