Safety First and Foremost
Safety First and Foremost
Zeina Kassem, founder of Roads for Life – The Talal Kassem Fund for Post Accident Care, talks to us ahead of the charity’s auction, titled When Art Saves Lives and which ArtScoops is hosting, about the valuable contribution that sales of the brilliantly designed Harley-Davidson helmets will make in supporting its critical work
Where did the idea come from to hold a charity art auction as part of Roads for Life’s fundraising efforts?
We believe that art has the ability and power to save lives hence our hashtag ‘art saves lives’, which is the slogan of our social media campaign. Similarly to seatbelts, helmets are a vital precautionary measure to protect the brain in the case of accidents, but unfortunately, are not used by all motorcyclists. Therefore, we wanted to emphasize the importance of helmets by also making them more visually appealing. The ultimate goal is to mobilise public opinion and demand that anybody riding a motorcycle must wear a helmet.
It’s part of our effort to highlight helmets as a tool that can save a life on par with the classes that we provide on with the ATLS, PHTLS, ATCNN and TCCC life-saving techniques for post-trauma care. By auctioning these customized helmets, we’re using positive publicity and the powerful appeal of art to creatively draw attention to our ongoing efforts to prevent as many road traffic accidents as possible.
Tell us something about the exciting partnership with Harley Davidson and the brilliant idea of having crash helmets as the theme…
We are thrilled to be partnering with Harley-Davidson, true pioneers of motorcycles worldwide and masters of their craft. While it’s true that most motorcyclists here are usually on scooters, including a personalized Harley-Davidson represents the crème de la crème of motorcycles. Having an artist as distinguished and as successful as Elie Saab offer his services to personally design a Harley-Davidson is an incredibly kind gesture for which Roads for Life will always be grateful.
Do you have a personal love of art and if so, what styles and genres do you prefer?
I might not be an avid art collector, but I do appreciate the beauty in art. What I appreciate the most is the different interpretations we all have of different pieces of art. Depending on our backgrounds and personal experiences, we all absorb meaning differently, which makes it so unique. In terms of a favourite genre, I don’t think I really have one, but I often find myself being drawn to those inspired by or relating to the Middle Eastern/Arab world. It’s what I identify with the most.
Roads for Life was set up in terribly tragic circumstances, but has gone on to accomplish great things. Is there a specific achievement that makes you particularly proud since the launch and what more do you hope to accomplish?
Over the past few years, we’ve played a leading role in raising awareness on road safety in Lebanon and are seen as one of the leaders in that regard, which makes me very proud. In terms of specific achievement, I’d say one of our biggest accomplishments is having successfully trained over 1500 doctors, nurses and paramedics. We’re also in the process of initiating the first training course of tactical combat casualty care with the Lebanese Army, in partnership with AUBMC and Fransabank. Also, we have launched the First Responder Training Program this year with the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and will be working with municipal police next with our Stop the Bleed campaign. We believe all of these initiatives are a first for Lebanon which is making us a leader in the region and inspiring others to also make a difference.
We want to continue increasing awareness about road safety in Lebanon while forging a closer relationship with the government for better road safety laws. Driving here is dangerous and we need better laws and follow up in terms of enforcing them to ensure that our roads aren’t death traps.
One of the key areas in Roads for Life’s work is raising awareness about the critical Golden Hour of Trauma, which can make the difference between life and death. Have you seen much progress in this field since saving lives was set up in 2011?
When we first started Roads for Life, we became acutely aware that much of the training on life-saving techniques and procedures weren’t being provided. This is why we personally invested in forming partnerships with institutes abroad to ensure that courses in ATLS, PHTLS, ATCN would be made available and accessible to those working in healthcare, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and emergency responders. These courses, provided in Arabic, would then help educate and disseminate the most modern and affective methods on how to save lives. Currently, we’ve provided training to over 1500 healthcare professionals geographically throughout Lebanon, refusing to confine ourselves to a specific region. What’s the point in knowing how to save lives if you don’t spread that knowledge? I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, but taking into account the yearly death toll that occurs on our roads, we have a lot more to do.
Are there any specific projects that money raised from the Art Saves Lives auction will go towards?
The money from the auction will go directly towards enabling the continuous training of all medical personnel, ISF and army medics on different courses as part of our strategic partnership with BLC, Fransabank and Banque Audi. It’s part of our mission to guarantee that those involved in healthcare have the best tools at their disposal to make a difference by saving lives.
What message do you have for anyone who’s angry or drunk and is thinking of getting behind the wheel of a car today?
Very simply for them to think of their mother.
Art Saves Lives will begin on ArtScoops’ online platform, with bidding opening on Thursday, November 8 until Saturday, November 17, and culminates in a live auction on Sunday, November 18, at Le Yacht Club, Beirut