TEDxYouth@Maastricht 2016 Out of Bounds: “Going beyond your own limitations.” 

Getting up bright and early for this year’s TEDxYouth@Maastricht was not a big deal: the team had chosen to host their 2016 event in the former Augustijnen-church in the centre of Maastricht, just a short walk from my home. That made it easy to be there with plenty of energy to make the most of their excellent lineup of speakers! For the third year in a row it were United World College Maastricht students that organised TEDxYouth@Maastricht. Again, they put in a huge effort to make everyone feel welcome and to provide drinks and bites from all over the world and for all tastes and likes! The 2016 theme, ‘Out of Bounds’ was a promising one, a theme that made me think even before the first speaker got on stage: what does going beyond your own limitations mean and what does it do to you as a person? Does it change you or not?’

Speakers came from far and wide, with subjects that showed that wherever you are, whatever you do that despite the boundaries that you experience, taking action does work. There was Mirwais Wakil, an Afghan refugee, UWC Mostar graduate currently working with the Austrian Red Cross in shaping the definition of integration. Isin Onol, a Turkish writer and curator who slow but steadily works to realise Nesin Art Village, a village where young people from around Turkey can find a openminded learning environment curated by artists, writers and academics. But want to tell you a bit more about who I found to be one the most inspiring speaker: not because I didn’t like the others but because I would like to highlight one that left the most lasting impression.

Sabriye Tenberken from Germany, blind since the age of 12, demonstrated how you can overcome your own limitations and even use them as an everlasting source of inspiration. Being treated as a second rate citizen by the school system, being told ‘there’s no need to speak up, to voice your opinion, you should be glad to be allowed to study here’ she decided to not let that hinder her to follow her dreams. First she studied Tibetology and -being the first blind Tibetology student ever- in the process developed the Tibetan Braille script. Not content with the language itself, she travelled to Tibet to learn more about the situation of blind children and as she did not want to be just a passer-by she founded the Braille Without Borders Association. Today, BWB not only helps blind Tibetan children to get an education but also supports them finding a career after school. The Association currently operates four projects in Tibet. From there Sabriye went on to establish the Kanthari Foundation that helps those who have overcome their own adversity to grow and  drive social change all over the world. The Foundation currently has realised more than 70 projects and has around 20 projects in the pipeline. In the end, the question the now 45 year old Sabriye asked all of us at the end of her talk was the question that best sums up what TEDxYouth@Maastricht 2016 was all about: “How far are YOU willing go to make a difference?

Robert Hoogenboom, communications team