Peter Van Geit
News Monday, October 11, 2010
Yesterday, I presented the CTC story at the Chennai TEDx 2010 conference in IIT. I will share the video once its made available and add it to our web site.... (seats were limited/entrance fee was 3K ;-)
Lots on interesting speeches at the conference by a variety of renowned individuals on various amazing non-profit initiatives... or in TED's wording "ideas worth spreading...."
ANIMATED: G.J. Siddharth recalls his struggle against cerebral palsy, at the second edition of TEDx Chennai on Sunday.
Members of the audience were in tears when they heard the struggles of G.J.Siddharth, recipient of the Helen Keller Award for 2009, on his attempts to conquer the challenges of cerebral palsy; they were in splits when they heard from corporate trainer T.Chendil Kumar's ways to infuse humour in business presentations; they were in rapt attention to ace guitarist R.Prasanna's solo; and were cheering at the efforts of S.Chinny Krishna and the Blue Cross towards the scientific birth control programme for street dogs in Chennai.
The second edition of TEDx Chennai, the independently organised TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) event, at IIT-Madras on Sunday was a rollercoaster ride right through. Speakers, achievers from diverse fields – from arts to business to animal welfare to wildlife photography – brought to fore the can-do spirit.
It ended with an emphatic hurrah from the organisers and the volunteers in calling to make the next TEDx Chennai event – slated for 09/10/2011 – an even bigger success.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Lara Stein, the director for licensing at TED, said such independently organised conferences (suffixed with ‘x') managed to capture the spirit of TED conferences that have become synonymous with the tag line “ideas worth spreading.” The idea is to bring together achievers from various fields together and provide a forum for exchange of ideas.
Rasmus Ankersen, peak performance coach and best-selling author, said TED conferences were very inspirational in various aspects. Pointing out that the speakers were not just influential, but “managed to influence the world for the good,” he added, “No weapons of mass destruction here.”
Other speakers at the event included wildlife photographer Shekhar Dattatri, organiser of TED India Lakshmi Pratury, Chennai Trekking Clubfounder Peter Van Geit and renowned dancer Ananda Shankar Jayant.
S. Kiruba Shankar, curator, TEDx Chennai said, “A core committee of volunteers met every Saturday over the last six months to make the event possible,” he said. “The spirit of TED is in sharing and doing things together.”
One of the volunteers, Vatsala Dorairajan likened being a volunteer in a TED event to being an iron nail next to an induction magnet. “With so many inspiring people under one roof, you cannot but feel equally inspired.”
The entire event was streamed live on www.tedxchennai.com and was also live updated on Facebook.
Peter Van Geit was welcomed to thunderous applause and a few whistles at Tedx Chennai. Everyone had either heard of or participated in the Chennai Trekking Club’s activities and Peter’s job was made ten times easy. He told us about his Belgian roots and about what drives him – Adventure and the Royal Enfield (which he drives back!). The CTC began as a small trek with a group of his friends from CISCO. They began posting their trek experiences and photos on a blog, which soon got followers. People wanted to join them on these treks and soon started signing up. As Peter puts it, “Google did the rest”. Today, the CTC is 8000 members strong, with 400 members joining every month. It is a purely volunteer-driven organization, with a group of strangers coming together every weekend to ‘go and live in a jungle’ or ‘explore a place no one has been before’. The reasons that it worked, he tells us, include their high frequency of events, using technology (read Google) the right way, inviting anyone and everyone to try trekking, being one of the rare trekking clubs in Chennai and – here it is – because there are “very few outdoor possibilities” within the city. The CTC has also gone beyond traditional trekking, to include special Women Only, Kids only and even seniors only treks. The reason the CTC is still alive, kicking and interesting, Peter says, is “because Fun never goes out of fashion!” He also spoke about how magic happens when people meet, how living in a jungle can forge really strong friendships between people who were strangers two days ago. CTC has no entrance criteria, is entirely membership driven and the best news is, they also conduct ‘Social’ Treks. Started in January 2009, these treks take out children from orphanages along with members of the club and give them a fun time, which they usually never get. They have taken out around 800 kids in the last 3 years. They also run clean-up drives along the beach, the ‘Save Tada Falls’ campaign, blood donation awareness drives and an inexhaustible list.
And Peter takes leave to a standing ovation and whistles again, identified and loved as the ‘Chennai boy’ by the crowd here at TEDx Chennai.
Peter Van Geit, born and raised in Belgium, is settled in Chennai for the last 12 years, working as a Project Manager in CISCO Systems India.
An explorer by nature, Peter has driven over 50,000 kms across India on his bullet and has conquered the Himalayas thrice. A few years ago, he founded the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC), a non-profit volunteer based group of trekking enthusiasts who explore mountains and jungles across South India nearly all weekends of the year. This Chennai based group has currently close to 8000 members and is rapidly growing with 500 new members each month being the largest and most active trekking community in India. CTC is a place where like-minded strangers come together in a open, volunteering and collaborative environment - overcoming challenges together as a team, pushing oneself beyond his physical and mental limits, surviving by their own means, breeding a selfless volunteering attitude, mentoring organizational skills and come out as friends for life and recharged human beings.
Peter, an expert in map reading, navigation and GPS, has taken thousands of trekkers to many previously unexplored locations and discovered hidden waterfalls, beautiful gorges, ancient forts, jeep trails hidden deep inside the jungles.
Peter Van Geit
News Monday, October 11, 2010