GIBTALKS – Some of this year’s speakers

‘Looking at Life’

ANA LYDIA ARMSTRONG DANINO is the author of two books of memoirs, ‘The Snake and the Tiger’ and its sequel ‘Chasing Rainbows’, in which she recalls her life in Africa and South America as well as her travels around the world, including the Far East, and her career as a sophisticated entertainer.

Her Gib Talk is titled ‘Looking at Life’ and draws inspiration from her childhood in the Danino’s household that she shared with a number of sisters and the much-wished-for kid brother: “When I helped my father, I could have used my salary for anything but I chose dance and education. I was ambitious and knew that without education you cannot go far.” Having marked her 68th wedding anniversary milestone with husband Jack, she elaborates:  “When I was young, I did not think that just marrying and having a family was enough. Life had more to offer! I tried to turn the hard happenings into experience for the future, and I always relied on the concept that I could do everything I wanted to. I learnt my lessons and am still learning every day.”

Her outlook is “life is what you make it, as long as you don’t hurt anyone in the pursuit of your happiness”. She accepted the challenge of delivering a talk at this year’s GibTalks to share her experiences with others and to prove how it is up to each one of us to make life as interesting and as good as they desire. “Life is a continuous struggle and the most important thing is to be positive, and achieve your best in your lifetime. I tried to surpass all the harsh corners and make the best of the opportunities offered to me.”

‘Urban Planning Vision’

As an architect and urban planner, CARMEL KHALILIAN recognises that our urban planning and built environment hold a symbiotic relationship with people, but rarely are people involved in the planning process to a sufficient degree. “Because history and culture are cross-cutting and affect all aspects of sustainable development, it is crucial to ensure a common understanding of the need to preserve our built environment,” she explains. “This must be achieved whilst also encouraging development that complements and enhances the existing built fabric of Gibraltar, supported by a strong planning framework together with a comprehensive management strategy and appropriate support mechanisms. People need to be placed at the heart of the agenda since sustainable development brings together the environment, people and development with the focus being clearly on people whose well-being is the ultimate goal of all development policies.”

For this reason, Carmel started Planning Vision with her business partner Joanna Jadczak. In her talk, she will expand on the aims of her professional endeavors to make urban life more sustainable and people friendly: “Planning Vision is dedicated to providing independent and impartial town planning advice to property developers and private individuals, as well as concerned residents and community groups throughout the property development cycle. Efficient use and management of our resources are one of our key focuses towards meeting the demands, needs and requirements of our people. We strive to ensure that planned developments are not only acceptable, but also desirable, sustainable and of high quality, thus creating sustainable places for people to live, work and play.”

‘Impossible Is Nothing’

DAVID DIAZ is one of the main promoters of the renaissance of the Gibraltar Live Music Society and the presenter of a weekly podcast about local music, as well as an all-round music guru, ever-present at Gibraltar live music events, classic or modern. His GibTalks contribution starts from a ‘fateful day in May’ when he took a risk, as he explains: “Perhaps if I hadn’t taken that risk, I wouldn’t be doing this for a living and looking back at my journey so far and what else may come or not come. I am so glad I did. It is very important for me to get my message across to those unsure about taking the risk but – trust me – it is well worth taking it in the end.”

He sums his journey under the Nike motto he borrows for the title of his speech: “The road has been tough and does come with its own bumps, crashes and a lack of belief but once you get going, you will arrive at the destination. When someone is born into a passion then it is just inevitable that somehow they will end up following their passion for a living. In May 2014 I took what I feel has been my biggest leap yet when I launched a podcast interviewing those local musicians I knew. Unemployment got the better of me, so what better way to overcome the boredom?”

‘I’m a migrant; what about you?’

DAYA DEWFALL is a health professional, daughter, sister, wife, mum and very proud granny. She currently works in Public Health, having previously worked as a Staff Nurse in the ICU and PCC. During her time at the PCC, she took on and completed a master’s degree in Allergy from the University of Southampton in 2013. Prior to her career in nursing, she worked at a local fast food restaurant for 11 years – her first degree was in Hotel Management and Catering Technology.

“I have lived in many parts of the world; I was born in Ghana where I spent the first 10 years of my life, then moved to India. Almost 30 years ago, my path led me to beautiful Gibraltar. There is so much talk about migrants and immigrants, their struggles, and how lives are turned around in seconds. I was initially approached by Mark Montegriffo to take part in this year’s GibTalks and hey presto, I received an email from Julian thanking me for agreeing to take part. I wasn’t sure if I actually was at the time. Whilst a lot of my professional and private life involves communicating with people, I was still nervous about this public presentation. Nonetheless, I decided it was time to step out of my ‘comfort zone’ and plunge in.

There are many moments that one feels foreign even in a place of familiarity and comfort, so being a national from another country or being of a certain colour certainly doesn’t make anyone less or more than what they are; we cannot put boundaries around people for their origin without looking at the richness and diversity of cultures and histories they bring to the world.

I have chosen to talk about my trajectory as a migrant; sharing my views and personal experiences in the hope of engaging the audience and illustrating that each of us is in some way a migrant, a traveller on a journey. My life certainly is fluid and remains in continuous movement.

‘The hero and the villain within’

KENNETH CASTIEL is an entrepreneur, CEO, motivational speaker and high performance coach who began his career selling books door-to-door and went on to found one of the leading home grown financial services corporations in Gibraltar. After thirteen years, he sold the company and attained financial freedom at the age of forty-three. He is a Life Member of the Million Dollar Round Table, the premiere international association of financial professionals. He has embarked on cutting-edge education at the highest level in the fields of NLP and archetypal branding and returned to university at the age of fifty-nine to graduate through the school of psychotherapy and psychology, with a master’s in creative leadership from one of the UK’s top universities. Kenneth is the eighty-first civilian in the world to skydive from 30,000 feet, the cruising altitude of a commercial jet.

Kenneth’s talk touches upon topics discussed in his forthcoming book The Hero and the Villain Within. “Society tells us that there is only one way to live: succeed, grow old, get sick and die. After a certain point, we are told, change is neither prudent nor possible. But society is wrong. It is always the right time, no matter when to win at the game of life. To make changes and create a financially sound, physically fit and psychologically fulfilling life. Our social conditioning passed down from generation to generation forces us to participate in a collective fiction that often leads to limitation and fear. Through our inherited values and beliefs, we make agreements about who we are and what we are capable of doing; whether or not we are worthy; and who we think we should be. To be able to win at the game of life we need to break through the disempowering agreements we’ve made based on these invented notions.”

‘Sandals of Fire’

MARK RANDALL is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and former Commanding Officer of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment with twenty-six years military service. An avid long distance hiker with over a dozen Caminos de Santiago under his belt, his footwear of choice is the humble sandal. He has a Masters in International Liaison and Communication and was awarded the Gibraltar Medal of Distinction for services to his Regiment and Gibraltar. Mark has co-authored two books with his son Matthew: Walk to the Rock, and On Ancient Trails – A Pilgrimage from Gibraltar to Jerusalem. Since 2015 he has managed to raise £52,000 for charity between his walks and his books. When not walking he can be found exploring mountain areas, cooking and blowing his bellowing bagpipes.

In April 2016 Mark embarked on a journey that would take him from his home all the way to Jerusalem itself. Nearly two years later he is still coming to terms – not just with the enormity of the pilgrimage itself, but with the profound effects it has had on him physically and emotionally. “The daily hardships of walking the ancient pilgrim paths of Europe are not for the faint hearted,” he says.

“The Way is a religious and spiritual pilgrimage where many find solace, find hope for their future. They find the path in life that they want to follow,” and what best platform than GibTalks for Mark to engage with the people who have supported him on his endeavours and to share some of his experiences and the most profound teachings of the Way.

‘Finding Peace in Chaos’

Yogi, spiritual guide, author, lecturer and Integral Yoga Centre founder NALANIE CHELLARAM is making the most of her fifteen minute slot to reveal the secret of ‘Finding Peace in Chaos’: “We are surrounded by noise. We are surrounded by fear. When we listen to the news, all we hear about are wars, bombs, destruction, earthquakes, floods and climate change and we are not even sure anymore about what is true and what isn’t! Families are breaking apart. We are so busy trying to make money to buy the good things in life, but never seem to have time to enjoy the money we make. We spend too much time on social media and save little time for face-to-face quality time with friends and family. We have no time to sit and be, no time to think about our lives in a meaningful way. We hear about suicide cases and people dying of cancer on a daily basis. There are too many people suffering from anxiety attacks and depression. Where has the peace gone? What is happening? How can we get out of this vicious circle?”

There is a way out, she reassures her audience: “The Buddhist calls it mindfulness. The Yogi calls it meditation. The naturalist calls it contemplation. Religions call it prayer. By learning how to observe our thoughts, by taking time out to watch Life from a neutral point of view, we see the world from a totally different perspective and then find our solution to peace.”

‘The Plastic Brain’

Neurologist TREVELAYNE FALLER tells the audience how to be brainier. “The Plastic Brain” explores the ongoing research on the ability of the human brain to rewire itself if a neural pathway were to be disrupted, because of injury for example, when the brain would have to carve out an alternative neural pathway to continue carrying out an acquired behaviour.

“The human brain is an extremely dynamic organ,” she explains. “It contains billions of neural pathways which connect and relay messages back and forth between multiple sub-structures. These neural connections are what allow us to move, think and feel as we do. Every time we think in a certain way, practice a specific task or feel a specific emotion, these neural pathways are also strengthened. For example, when learning a new behaviour, a new neural pathway is carved out in the brain. The more we repeat that behaviour, the stronger that neural connection becomes.”

Scientists used to believe that our brains stopped developing once we reached adulthood and these neural pathways became hard-wired. However the good news is that research has shown that the brain retains its ability to alter itself well into adulthood. “Our brain is constantly updating and changing its responsiveness and connectivity, based on experience. This ability is called neuroplasticity. A key challenge in contemporary neuroscience is to study this elusive process of neuroplasticity, and its potential implications for behaviour and rehabilitation.”

The purpose of Trevelayne’s talk is to make the concept of neuroplasticity accessible and explore the potential of utilising the brain’s capacity to rewire itself in order to find new ways to heal injured brains, or enhance the skill in healthy ones.

‘What’s biology got to do with it?’

DR JENNIFER BALLANTINE PERERA’s GibTalk will offer factual data whilst also setting out how far we have come down the cultural road to understand if women are still determined by, as Simone de Beauvoir outlined in her 1949 book, The Second Sex, their biological function.

2018 marks 100 years of the Vote in the UK with the passing of the Representation of the People Act on 6th February 1918 – an Act that was to reverberate worldwide with women in other countries making their case for universal suffrage.  Still, even with the passing of the People Act, women did not have equal enfranchisement in the electoral system until a decade later. In Gibraltar this happened in 1947, the same year in which Dorothy Ellicott became the first woman in Gibraltar to hold a governmental position. Opportunities for women have proliferated broadly in the past seven decades, at least in many parts of the Western world, but the fact that we are still debating gender equality across a number of areas raises all sorts of questions as to the terms under which equality is couched. Certainly issues remain in respect to equal pay and in the underrepresentation of women in a number of professional, corporate and political settings, but the reinforcement of cultural norms in societies such as Gibraltar also go some way in underpinning views on gender that, once normalised as societal values, become difficult to dislodge.