Enticing young people to travel abroad and see the world should be a priority for any society. They are our future leaders, and in today’s globalised world, cross cultural exposure is a quality every top leader needs.
The Egyptian youth are resilient, resourceful, and keen to leave their comfort zones to build relationships with their contemporaries around the world. They have a drive to interact with other people and cultures.
The Egyptian Friendship Association (EFA) is an exciting association based in Hong Kong. The president and founder of the EFA are Ehab Gouda and Mary Lai. It is not often you come across two people as generous and passionate as they are, and I had the chance to meet them and find out about what they are doing for youth in Egypt. They told me their plans to provide young people with the opportunities for cross-cultural friendship and to increase their understanding of the global world in which we live.
Abiir: Hi Ehab and Mary. Would you start off by explaining a bit about what the EFA really is?
Gouda: The association is very young and was only officially registered last August in Hong Kong. Our goal is to connect the world with relationships of respect and unity. EFA promotes friendship through creating venues for a deeper development of diplomacy between Egypt and other nations.
Lai: We offer innovative, quality cultural exchange activities, which include sport, music, art, and educational exchange programs. We organize activities to bring together Egyptians and all kinds of people from different nationalities, who believe that cross-cultural understanding will strengthen our global community.
Abirr: Why did you choose the base as Hong Kong?
Lai: Well first of all, I am originally from Hong Kong. That’s how it started. Hong Kong is a multinational city and plays an important role in international cultural exchanges.
Abiir: What kind of cultural programs has your association been offering Egyptian youth?
Gouda: A unique program for sharing culture and experiencing life! Last July we organized for 16 Egyptian young people to travel to Guangzhou in China for a six-week handball tour. In August last year, another 18 young Egyptians attended the Cultural Exchange Week for International Youth in Beijing. Cross-cultural friendship program uses the arts and sport as a common language among youth from diverse communities.
Lai: This summer, we sent four Egyptian teams to Hong Kong, Tianjin and Beijing, to take part in sport and artistic activities. They enjoyed themselves immensely and gained important skills and self-confidence. They can apply what they learned later in life whilst developing their interpersonal, communication,, and teamwork skills. Through these cultural and sports events young people have become more aware of the importance of cross-cultural involvement and also the significance of global issues both in their own communities and other countries.
Gouda: Now we have already received many invitations from many countries, for example, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan, for a sports and arts exchange program.. EFA promotes the youth program ‘Go Global’, for young Egyptians to explore the links between their own lives and people, places, and issues throughout the world. In this new cultural setting, youth leaders can see how sports and arts can break language barriers and connect people from different cultures. This unique cultural experience is an opportunity like no other, and working with people from different cultural backgrounds has given me a more broader outlook.
Abiir: If you had a message for the both the Egyptian and international community in Egypt, what would it be?
Lai: We look at issues around global citizenship, diversity, social cohesion, and international development. We encourage young people to explore and make sense of both local and national issues. Think creatively about topical and controversial issues. Learn to communicate with people from a range of different cultural and religious backgrounds to develop self-awareness and positive attitudes towards difference, and to participate in society as active and responsible citizens.
Gouda: Yes, we are delivering experiences and impacting lives! Our mission is to introduce youth to people, places, and things that they would not normally or easily experience in their daily lives. By providing positive, unique, and educational experiences, we empower youth to believe in their future, pursue active roles in society, and stay true to their dreams and themselves.
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Egyptian Friendship Association Ltd.
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