When your story is a powerful as UNHCR’s Vincent Cochetel – of his 317 days in captivity near Chechnya as a hostage chained to a bed, in darkness but for 15 minutes a day of candlelight and able to take 4 small steps and no more – simply the facts can have a profound influence on listeners. But when you tell it as eloquently and powerfully as he did at the recent TEDxPlaceDesNations, you have a message that sears itself into the memories of your audience.
If you have 20:44 minutes, watch his talk, “Attacks on Humanitarians are Attacks on Humanity“. Listen to the message and see if you can keep a dry eye. It’s a beautifully told story of a captive, an object in a political struggle, that makes himself a human being in the eyes of his captors, an act that ultimately makes it easier for them to free him. It’s told in a quiet way – an example of storytelling of the very best kind in my opinion, and humbling to watch. I was sitting in the second row of that grand hall in the Palais des Nations in Geneva for the event, and his talk gave me an immediate sensation of the humanitarian work that goes on within the United Nations system (I worked there myself for a few years, although, as a young professional, I was in a big building in Geneva far from the reality that Vincent speaks of).
Watch him take his 4 small steps, light his candle for that 15 minutes, and speak in the hushed tone of a captive. His words transport you – you’re there in that small room with him. You might find yourself, as I did, wondering how many other humanitarian workers throughout the world right now are in captivity still waiting to see daylight again, and what more can be done to help them.