Real estate developer Tatweer Misr, UNICEF and the Abdel Wahab Foundation are coming together to bring color and art to the walls and streets of El-Borollos, an Egyptian fishing village located in the Kafr el-Sheikh governorate. After signing a memorandum of understanding on September 20, the trio have solidified their partnership ahead of the two-week art symposium.
The symposium, which will take place from October 1-15, will bring dozens of local and international artists to El-Borollos with the goal of inspiring the small village, particularly its youth, by creating a sense of community cohesion amid ongoing economic hardship.
“El-Borollos is a poor and deprived area,” explained Eman Ezzat, an artist associated with the Abdel Wahab Foundation who has been involved in previous editions of the symposium. “As such, we want to continue our efforts on developing the area, with a particular focus on the children, as we want to develop their artistic skills as well as teach them other skills.”
By using artistic and vocational training, the symposium targets teaching youth skills that will benefit them in the years to come. Artists will be able to interact with families and children through UNICEF with the goal of implementing initiatives that promote positive parenting and early childhood development.
“After being exposed to [this project], I hope the children from this area go on to become artists, scientists and dream big,” said Ezzat, who further explained that the project hopes to beautify the area in order to attract tourism, which would directly benefit the people of the village.
El-Borollos has a unique story among the many villages plagued by adversity and lack of development in Egypt. Its location has made it a springboard for illegal migration to Europe, the rates of which have been growing in recent years for Egypt’s youth.
Saji Thomas of UNICEF’s Child Protection department explained to BECAUSE that fully preventing illegal migration is a seemingly impossible task, but what UNICEF can do is try to mitigate the risks and give those seeking a better life opportunities at home.
“It is about giving them the soft skills that make them available in the [labor] market,” Thomas explained. “What we are trying to do is put those educational systems in place and promote the resilience of communities.”
UNICEF’s participation is part of the organization’s desire to be a part of projects aimed at stemming the flow of migration that are already being implemented by the government, but the organization also wants to help build a bridge between the government and civil society.
“This project creates a space for civil society to participate with the government, and UNICEF wants to enable that kind of environment,” explained Bruno Maes, UNICEF’s Representative in Egypt.
The symposium also provides UNICEF with an opportunity to promote the importance of early childhood development (ECD) by creating healthier environments and child-friendly spaces.
For Tatweer Misr, participation in the symposium continues the company’s focus on art and development as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments. Ahmed Mohamed Shalaby, the Managing Director of Tatweer Misr, told BECAUSE that youth and art have been the focus of Tatweer’s CSR activities since the company’s early days.
“This is a very simple action, but it will have a huge impact on the community,” said Shalaby, speaking about the art symposium in El-Borollos. Shalaby also noted the importance of the educational component of the symposium, and hoped that training the youth in the area will help to curb illegal migration.
“As a real estate company, we encourage art and beauty,” explained Shalaby. “These kinds of initiatives speak to the core of Tatweer.”
The symposium will also receive support from the National Coordination Committee on Combating Illegal Migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports within the framework of UNICEF’s Meshwary project, which focuses on developing life and career skills for youth.
This will be the art symposium's fourth year in El-Borollos, but its first to have UNICEF and Tatweer Misr as partners.
Photo credit: Galal El Missary/ARTSMART