“The 10-year-old girl came up to me after everyone had left the classroom. She seemed a bit embarrassed and shy, not her normal bubbly outspoken, sassy self. After three days of travel, conversation and discovery of multiple cultures, she came up to me and said: ‘Miss. Raphaelle, I have a question but please don’t get angry at me. When I came home yesterday, I was talking to my father about countries and he said all people from China are either Jews or Infidels. (Pause, as she looked into my eyes so confused) Please tell me… is he right? Should I not believe him? Or was it wrong of me to ask him?’ Hard questions, hard answers, and the first painful bit of light: the question”.
The anecdote, a thought-provoking contemplation of the importance of travel to break stereotypes, was written by Raphaëlle Ayach, co-founder of Safarni, an NGO that organizes virtual travel workshops for children. Last October, we joined the NGO as they set up a “dance extravaganza” among a student refugee camp in Alexandria.
Organized by Egyptian consultancy STING, the camp gathered 100 refugee students from South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Senegal, who danced to the sound of eccentric rhythms brought by volunteers from six different countries in Abu Qir’s youth center, 23 kilometers northeast of Alexandria.
Gathered in a big circle at the center of the youth center garden, the energetic students danced to hilarious movements brought by Spanish flamenco, French tektonik and Japanse folk, forming a collective motion-symbol of unity in spite of diversity.