B1 Intermediate 16 Folder Collection
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you have a negative feeling about things.
You're not happy about the way things are going.
You feel frustrated and dissatisfied,
and so often, we choose to live with it.
It's a negative that we tell ourselves we have to endure.
And yet, I passionately believe
that we all have the ability
to turn that negative feeling
into a positive
by allowing our dissatisfaction
to give birth to change.
On January 6, 1999,
I was working in London
when the news channels began to report
the rebel invasion of my hometown,
Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Thousands of people lost their lives,
and there were bodies littering the streets of Freetown.
My husband's elderly aunt was burned alive,
and I thought of my own two-year old
as I saw images of little children with amputated limbs.
Colleagues said to me,
"How could we help?"
I didn't know,
so I began to call the telephone numbers that came up on my screen
as international aid agencies started to make appeals
to raise money to address the tragedy.
The vagueness of those telephone conversations disappointed me.
It felt like the people who were raising the money
seemed so far removed from the crisis,
and understandably so,
but I wasn't satisfied
and I wasn't convinced
that the interventions they would eventually implement
would actually have the level of impact that was so clearly needed.
There were butterflies in my stomach for days
as I continued to watch horrors unfold on television,
and I continuously asked myself,
what could I be doing?
What should I be doing?
What I wanted to do was to help children affected by the war.
So that's what we did.
Myself, my sister and some friends
started the Sierra Leone War Trust For Children, SLWT.
We decided to focus on the thousands of displaced people
that fled the fighting
and were now living in really poor, difficult conditions
in camps in Freetown.
Our work started with the Ross Road Camp
at the east end of the city.
Working with a local health organization,
we identified about 130 of the most vulnerable single mothers
with children under the age of five,
supporting them by providing business skills,
whatever they asked us.
Working in those difficult conditions,
just getting the basics right, was no small task,
but our collective sense of dissatisfaction
at an unacceptable status quo
kept us focused on getting things done.
Some of those women went on to open small businesses,
repaid their loans
and allowed other mothers and their children
to have the same opportunity they did.
And we, we kept on going.
In 2004, we opened an agricultural training center
for ex-child soldiers,
and when the war was behind us,
we started a scholarship program for disadvantaged girls
who would otherwise not be able to continue in school.
Today, Stella, one of those girls,
is about to qualify as a medical doctor.
It's amazing what a dose of dissatisfaction can birth.
Ten years later, in 2014,
Sierra Leone was struck by Ebola.
I was working in Freetown at the time on a hotel construction project on May 25
when the first cases were announced,
but I was back in London on July 30
when the state of emergency was announced,
the same day that many airlines stopped their flights to Sierra Leone.
I remember crying for hours,
asking God, why this? Why us?
But beyond the tears,
I began to feel again
that profound sense of dissatisfaction.
So when, six months after those first cases had been confirmed,
the disease was still spreading rapidly in Sierra Leone
and the number of people infected and dying continued to rise,
my level of frustration and anger
got so much that I knew I could not stay
and watch the crisis from outside Sierra Leone.
So, in mid-November,
I said goodbye to my much loved
and very understanding husband and children,
and boarded a rather empty plane
to Freetown.
Freetown was now the epicenter of the outbreak.
There were hundreds of new cases every week.
I spoke to many medical experts,
and ordinary people every day.
Everyone was really scared.
"We won't succeed until we're talking to people under the mango tree."
So said Dr. Yoti,
a Ugandan doctor who worked for WHO
and who had been involved in pretty much every Ebola outbreak
in Africa previously.
He was right,
and yet there was no plan to make that happen.
So during a weekend in early December,
I developed a plan that became known as the Western Area Surge plan.
We needed to talk with people,
not at people.
We needed to work with the community influencers
so people believed our message.
We needed to be talking under the mango tree,
not through loudspeakers.
And we needed more beds.
The National Ebola Response Center, NERC,
built on and implemented that plan,
and by the third week of January,
the number of cases had fallen dramatically.
I was asked to serve
as a new Director of Planning for NERC,
which took me right across the country,
trying to stay ahead of the outbreak
but also following it
to remote villages in the provinces
as well as to urban slum communities.
On one occasion, I got out of my car
to call for help for a man who had collapsed on the road.
I accidentally stepped in liquid
that was coming down the road from where he lay.
I rushed to my parents' house,
washed my feet in chlorine.
I'll never forget waiting for that man's test results
as I constantly checked my temperature then and throughout the outbreak.
The Ebola fight was probably the most challenging
but rewarding experience of my life,
and I'm really grateful
for the dissatisfaction
that opened up the space
for me to serve.
Dissatisfaction can be a constant presence in the background,
or it can be sudden,
triggered by events.
Sometimes it's both.
With my hometown, that's the way it was.
For years, our city had changed,
and it had caused me great pain.
I remember a childhood
growing up climbing trees,
picking mangoes and plums
on the university campus where my father was a lecturer.
Went fishing in the streams deep in the botanical gardens.
The hillsides around Freetown were covered with lush green vegetation,
and the beaches were clean and pristine.
The doubling of the population of Freetown in the years that followed the civil war,
and the lack of planning and building control
resulted in massive deforestation.
The trees, the natural beauty, were destroyed as space was made
for new communities, formal or informal,
and for the cutting down of firewood.
I was deeply troubled and dissatisfied.
It wasn't just the destruction of the trees and the hillsides
that bothered me.
It was also the impact of people,
as infrastructure failed to keep up with the growth of the population:
no sanitation systems to speak of,
a dirty city with typhoid, malaria and dysentery.
I didn't know the statistics at the time,
but it turned out that by 2017,
only six percent of liquid waste and 21 percent of solid waste
was being collected.
The rest was right there with us,
in backyards, in fields, rivers
and deposited in the sea.
The steps to address that deep sense of anger and frustration I felt
didn't unfold magically or clearly.
That's not how the power of dissatisfaction works.
It works when you know that things can be done better,
and it works when you decide to take the risks to bring about that change.
And so it was that in 2017
I ended up running for mayor,
because I knew things could be better.
It seemed the people agreed with me, because I won the election.
Today, we are implementing an ambitious plan
to transform our city,
and when I say we,
what gets me really excited
is that I mean the whole Freetown community,
whether it's being part of competitions like rewarding the neighborhood
that makes the most improvement in overall cleanliness,
or whether it's our programs
that are leading and joining people and waste collectors
through our apps.
In Freetown today,
it's a much cleaner city,
and those trees that we're so well known for,
we planted 23,000 of them last rainy season.
And in 2020,
we plan to plant a million trees as part of our "Freetown the Tree Town" campaign.
Sometimes, sometimes we have a negative feeling about things.
We're not happy about the way things are going.
We feel dissatisfied,
and we feel frustrated.
We can change that negative into a positive.
If you believe that things can be better,
then you have the option to do something rather than to do nothing.
The scale and circumstances of our situations will differ,
but for each of us,
we all have one thing in common.
We can take risks to make a difference,
and I will close in saying,
step out,
take a risk.
If we can unite behind the power of dissatisfaction,
the world will be a better place.
Thank you.
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How to turn your dissatisfaction into action | Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

16 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on July 3, 2020
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