3 Years of Virtual Experience: Culture Exchange, Digital Hackathon and more…

Here, in Jovesolides Egypt, “we believe in the good for all and the good for us”. And that explains the story of our main projects which is virtual exchange since 2018 when one of our Co-founders, Mohamed Okasha experienced a great culture exchange when he visited Finland to participate in a robotics hackathon and joined an international team of 4 members from Canada, Egypt, Finland and India. This was the trigger for having passion for multicultural dialogue but faced some issues in achieving such a travel journey again due to economical status, study commitments and uncontrolled obligations. Here comes the great role of Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange as a way for achieving that while sitting at your warm house and still get the chance to meet people from all over the world. After joining individually, he thought about spreading the benefit for young people from Egypt and the Middle East. So, our team worked on it to build a partnership. We are proud to be one of the first NGOs to participate in coordinating the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange in the MENA region. Continuing for 6 semesters now with impact for more than 150 participants from around the Arab World via our cooperation with Soliya and Sharing Perspective Foundation. Many topics have been discussed throughout various programs like Intercultural Exchange, Migration, Sustainability and Climate Change.

As a response to the ongoing circumstances, in April 2020 our initiative of MENA Hacks organized “Crisis HackX”: an online hackathon to fight the crisis of COVID-19, by empowering young people to innovate and create ideas that can relieve some problems raised recently due to COVID-19. The hackathon focused on three challenges of Support Health, Support Education, Support Business/Remote Work. Also, took an international style, by bringing partners, mentors and participants from 14 Time Zones from 5 continents around the world.

We share a sentiment common across the youth of the world: we understand the importance of cultural exchange and common understanding. We also realize that traveling is not an easy or simple feat for many youths. For example, some might be unable to travel due to financial restrictions, visa restrictions, unaccommodating schedules, etc.. In the light of the current COVID-19 crisis the world is experiencing, travel has become more difficult than ever with travel bans and restrictions in place. Therefore, it is of immense importance that we harness the power of technology and embrace the tools of the digital age.

Jovesolides Egypt is proud to announce that it has successfully implemented the first Middle East-based virtual cultural exchange program. SDGs VirtualXchange is a cultural exchange program by Jovesolides Egypt and MENA Hacks in memory of two of our greatest leaders, Nelson MAndela & Kofi Annan. The purpose of this program is to help youths globally think of the challenges facing sustainable development goals, how to overcome them, and how to achieve the global SDGs.

In the pilot round of this program, we had over 400 applicants from 29 countries, and it was insanely difficult for us to select 15 out of the 400 who were all extremely qualified. We had a diverse group of participants and facilitators from all continents, from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

The program was 6 weeks long and it consisted of weekly facilitated dialogue sessions as well as a MOOC about SDGs provided by SDGs Academy. At the end of the program, the participants were asked to think about an SDG and the challenges it faces in their respective countries. And in the last session, we were amazed by the incredible presentations the participants brought up. The presentations were truly meaningful and insightful and they showed how passionate, thoughtful, and logical the participants were.

It was heartbreaking for us to see the program come to end and to part ways with the participants and facilitators; however, the success of the program is fueling us to make more rounds and have multiple groups! And we even think of building more on that to launch the 1st virtual exchange platform to connect young people from the Middle East together and the rest of the world.

We asked the participants to briefly describe their experience in the virtual programs. Here are some testimonials:

I consider my experience as a Jovesolides Egypt participant with Soliya in the Erasmus+ Virtual exchange program as one of the greatest things I have ever had. Every single moment with the participants was informative, interesting and enjoyable. The exchange was taking a huge part of the conversation where we had an understanding of differences and a discovering of similarities. In addition to that, we have built friendship from different parts of the word. It was my pleasure to be part of the program.

  • Fatima Elzahra, Morocco|Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange

Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange was a great program I gained a lot of experience and conference for me and helped me alot exploring the culture of many countries. The participants and facilitators were kind and helpful. They helped me out with the topics and also improved my English language. I hope to participate again in the future.

  • Mohamed Hamdy, Egypt | Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange

It was a life changing opportunity to participate in this program , having contact with people outside my Country understanding their Cultures as well as how they apply SDG’s

  • Frank Mgimwa, Tanzania |SDGs VirtualXchange

This virtual exchange was a challenging experience where I could develop my skills and share my experience in the social field. It was an enriching opportunity to get to know different aspects of life in other societies.

  • Joaquín Cruzalegui, Argentina|SDGs VirtualXchange
[My favorite aspect of this program was] being connected with different people from different nationalities and sharing our thoughts together ,as well as going through the learning process together.

  • Hasnaa Elgndey, Egypt |SDGs VirtualXchange

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