The group offers simulated travel experiences for children to experience diversity.
Safarni, an initiative by Egyptian organisation Etijah, has been nominated as one of ten finalists for the The Intercultural Innovation Award, which is a partnership between the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group.
Safarni’s goal is to expose Egyptian children who are unable to travel to diversity. They believe that only interaction with diversity can result in accepting and celebrating it.
To tackle xenophobia, an issue pervasive in all cultures, the group simulates travel experiences, “providing a context for people to share authentic experiences with ‘the other’,” according to their website.
The programme wants to make “every child a global citizen” and does so by organising International Children’s Workshops, imaginary journeys through different “countries”, bringing natives of those places to eat, sing, dance, and make emotional bonds with the Egyptian children.
“I believe that around the world, now more than ever, we need to learn how to embrace diversity,” Safarni’s Founder and Director Raphaëlle Ayach told Cairo Scene. “Safarni is unique because it allows us to explore it in a way that feels safe and fun. It's all about having the opportunity to connect with people that have different nationalities, lifestyles, religions- even just different perspectives; it's relevant to any child that doesn't have the opportunities to connect.”
“All over the world, there exists a natural tendency to fear what one doesn’t know. These tendencies are augmented by a poor educational system, and other societal constructs, which make interactions with diversity infrequent and non-impactful,” their About page reads.
“You could be living in a neighborhood filled with diverse cultures and migrants, but in many cases that doesn't mean that you've connected or challenged your preconceptions,” Ayach said, adding, “friendship creates solidarity, and our simulated travel adventures are designed to create those connections.”
The UNAOC was created by then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and sponsored by the governments of Spain and Turkey. Their mission statement describes the organisation “as an entity that would assist in diminishing hostility and promoting harmony among the nations.”
The award that Safarni is a finalist for was created to support that mission, aiming to “support the most innovative grassroots projects that encourage intercultural dialogue and cooperation around the world.”
A competitive selection process identifies the nominees, as winners receive a monetary prize and a one-year tailored support package to help them expand their efforts. Safarni would certainly put that help to good use.
“Safarni is made for all kids anywhere,” Ayach asserted. “In addition to Cairo, Safarni workshops have taken place in Istanbul, Tokyo, and Berlin, and we always get the same enthusiastic response: ‘when is the next Safarni day?!’ We know there is definitely a global need and potential for impact.”