Eduardo Della Maggiora
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Can you imagine biking like this for six, seven and up to 10 hours? After swimming between one and two hours in open waters? And after swimming for two hours, biking for 10 hours, start running a marathon or 26.2 miles? Today I want to tell you a story of how doing something as crazy as this, has the potential of saving thousands of lives around the world. I want to begin this story from when I was 10 years old. It was the year 1990, and in those times fast food was beginning to skyrocket. And I had a big problem: I couldn't stop eating. Today I laugh about this, but at that moment I was having a hard time. And not only because of the physical part and all the extra pounds, but I would get tired very easily, I was the slowest of my friends, and of course I had trouble doing all kind of sports. From 1990 to today, childhood obesity figures have risen dramatically. And in some countries this has been way worse than in others. Chile holds the first place in childhood obesity in Latin America, and sixth in the world. When I was about 10 years old, some by my own initiative but more because of my family, I discovered sports through tennis. I quickly realized that the more tennis I played, the better I felt. After every training session not only was I having fun, but I was also full of energy. First, I started playing once a week, then twice a week. Then it was five times a week, then it was twice a day. And little by little, tennis started becoming the center of my life and my first passion. Something told me that doing sports and playing tennis for the rest of my life was something that would make me very happy. And when I was about 15 years old, I started to think about the idea of becoming a professional tennis player. And what do you do when you're 15 years old, and want to become a professional tennis player? You have to convince your parents that this is a good idea. Just weeks before sitting to discuss with my father about my tennis dreams, and the many benefits this would bring to my life, something unexpected happened that changed my life forever and forced me to completely change my plans. My father suffered a heart attack that left him with severe neurological damage, and a very critical health condition. Tennis matches were quickly replaced by very long hours at the hospital, waiting for medical diagnosis, and different possible treatments to save his life. What followed were months and years of great uncertainty. And among the many things I lost during that period, including my father, was my dream of becoming a tennis player. Facing the death of someone close to you quickly makes you look at life with a different perspective. In my case, many years went by before I experienced something similar, and that this time made my life take a 180 degree turn. Would you believe me if I told you that 15 years later I found myself in the same place, in the same hospital, in the same floor and talking to the same doctors? At her 55 years of age, my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, with a very rare and aggressive type of genetic translocation. Once again, I was facing an event that showed me how fragile life is and how everything can change in an instant. This led me to ask myself the following question: If today was my last day on earth, how would I measure my life? Would I measure it by the grades I got in college? By the success I achieved professionally? By the amount of money I have in the bank? After lots of reflection, and thinking about this question, I concluded that a good way to measure my life would be to see how I was using my skills to help other people, how I was using the gifts God had given me, to help others. Today, there are hundreds of people watching this talk in this room, but many more from their computers or cell phones. Each one of you with particular interests, passions, and goals for your life. But more importantly, each one of you with a unique gift to give back in this life. In my particular case and at that point of my life, I began to ask myself: What was I doing to improve other people's lives? How was I using my skills to help others? And I was not able to answer these questions. And this is how, very shortly after, I quit my job. My dream job, in which I had been working for 10 years, living in New York, a city where I always wanted to live. And I decided to embark on what, at the time, seemed a crazy idea. This was the year 2013, and I was 32 years old. I decided to go to Africa as a volunteer. I wanted to spend six months of my life, using all my skills and abilities to help others. I grabbed my bags, jumped onto a plane and moved to Moshi, a small town in northern Tanzania. My volunteering in Africa consisted of doing Math and English classes, in a school for children between four and seven years old. Every day after school, we would give the kids a meal made of corn and water. And something that caught my attention right away was that for more than half of my students this was the only meal they would eat during the day. This is how in an indirect way, by teaching English and Math, I got to see the reality of child malnutrition up close. If you look at all deaths of children worldwide under the age of 5, close to 50 percent are linked to severe acute malnutrition. Every 10 seconds, one child dies due to malnutrition in the world. While this information is daunting, there is a solution and it's called RUTF or Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food. It's a sort of nutrient-dense peanut butter paste, with very good taste. A six to eight week feeding program with RUTFs, two to three times a day, permanently eliminates severe acute malnutrition in 95 percent of the cases. What follows, has to do with how I started the talk. Remember? On top of this bike. One night I was surfing the internet, in my bed under my mosquito net, and I came across a video of Ironman Kona, Hawaii. An Ironman, for those who do not know, is a long-distance triathlon where you swim for 2.4 miles, then bike for 112 miles, and finishes with a marathon or 26.2 mile run. All in the same day, and in the shortest time possible. And the World Championship of this sport, is Ironman Kona, one of the most humid and hot places in the world. I remember finishing watching this video of Ironman Kona totally inspired by the stories of people who crossed that finish line, and thinking two things at that moment, First, how can a human being do these distances and under these conditions? And second, I have to do this race at some point of my life! And so the journey began, and I started crossing finish lines. And you can't imagine the road I had to travel to cross each one of them. Each finish line with a different meaning, that makes it special, and different form the rest. But with a common feeling; that feeling that makes all you had to sacrifice and leave aside to get there, worthwhile. And makes you feel proud and happy just by the fact you crossed that finish line. What if I told you that we can make, this satisfaction of crossing finish lines even more fulfilling? What would happen if each pound we lost preparing our next marathon, soccer game, exercising, or doing any type of physical activity, could be given to another person that needs this pound? If each calorie we burn exercising, going to the gym, surfing or training for our next race, could be recycled and converted into emergency nutrition for someone who needs this calorie? We have two types of people in the world. People who have too many calories, and people who don't have enough calories. Through the use of technology we have a unique opportunity to connect two global health concerns, such as obesity and malnutrition, in a way that helps solve them both. Today, I want to show you how we are making this possible, and how all of you can participate. We created a platform called Burn to Give which recycles the calories we burn walking, running, jumping, dancing, moving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and converts them into emergency nutrition calories for someone who needs them. For every calorie burned exercising and doing sports, one calorie is given to a person in need. But for this to work, we need to create a team. A team with three types of participants: First, those who will be burning these calories. Athletes, future athletes, people who are sitting in the couch and need an additional incentive to get moving. All of these team members will have access to a platform, with training plans, diet tips and, more importantly, guidance on how to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. We want to motivate the 80 percent of people in this world who are leading sedentary lifestyles, to get moving but not through the conventional logic that doing sports is just good for you, but by touching their hearts. Second, those who will be receiving these calories. The children we will be helping. With today's technology we can see with great precision, who and how we are helping. Imagine for a moment that, after your next run, where you are going to burn around 500 calories, you could know the name of the child who will receive a 500-calorie meal, that thanks to your run was possible. And third, companies that will sponsor this team. Visionary and innovative companies, who are using their marketing budgets with a double purpose; first, motivate and inspire millions to lead healthy and active lifestyles. And second, help and feed millions of people who need it. These companies are going to measure the exact return, impact and reach that each of their marketing dollars are having by sponsoring this team. This coming October 13th, I will have the honor to represent Chile, at the Ironman World Championship in Kona. (Applause) In order for me to cross that finish line, I'll be spending hundreds of hours swimming, biking and running, with the purpose of pushing the limits of my body and mind, but with a much greater purpose; from today up to Ironman Kona, all the calories I burn exercising will be given to someone who needs these calories. And to see this in concrete numbers, from today up to Kona, I plan to train for about 600 hours, where I will burn close to 400,000 calories, which in turn will be enough to feed and save the lives, of five children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. (Applause) Last week we launched our first Burn to Give challenge. What is this challenge about? For the next 30 days we're inviting everyone to get active and exercise, in order to reach the goal of 30 million calories, that will be enough to feed 400 children in Haiti. You just have to do three things to participate; first, start moving and doing some type of sport or physical activity. Second, log in your calories at www.burntogive.com and third, invite all you friends to do the same — your cousins, siblings, parents, nephews, colleagues and everyone you know. Because the more we are, the more calories we can burn, and the more children we are able to help. Today, I want to leave all of you invited to be part of this team. This team of people that burns calories, to give them to someone in need. So we can all together transform our lives, but more importantly, the lives of thousands of children around the world. Thank you very much! (Applause)