EMPATHY: Empowering & Moulding Peace Activists Through Humanitarian Youth

EMPATHY: Empowering & Moulding Peace Activists Through Humanitarian Youth

Nasaji Bagrami IDP Camp & Spencer-Van Etten Central School, Spencer, NY, AfghanistanSpencer, United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

EMPATHY stimulates cross-cultural exchange amongst kids, enhancing international relations, creating young leaders & cultivating world peace.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The majority of the world lives in poverty, often with limited access to basic needs. Yet, a small minority enjoys lavish abundance. This has created a palpable divide in our world. War & terrorism have exacerbated these divisions & fed cross-cultural misunderstandings – lending to ethnocentrism & animosity, & fuelling terrorism & militancy. Technology, like planes & internet, foster cross-cultural exchange, understanding & unity. However, such luxuries are available almost exclusively to the affluent. EMPATHY strives to reverse this trend, connecting isolated, disadvantaged communities, (120 rural Americans & 120 IDP Afghan students) & eradicating prejudices to create space for lasting peace.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

- Build empathy & provide cross-cultural education to shrink the divide & promote peace, targeting & engaging isolated communities & providing them opportunity to experience the world electronically & learn from each other. It exposes children & communities to international experience they might not have otherwise, & provides a space to dispel misconceptions & improve cross-cultural understanding. - Link 2 communities with different cultural & social backgrounds but (in)directly involved with war & displacement. EMPATHY will be implemented (preliminary 3 years) at Spencer-Van Etten School (U.S.) & Nasaji Bagrami IDP Camp (Afghanistan) for 240 total children, aged 5-18 years. The most at-risk children participate. - Use technology to bridge groups. All Nasaji Bagrami schoolchildren benefit from ESL/computer courses. Courses are age-, gender- & culturally sensitive.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

EMPATHY teaches international relations & fosters cross-cultural understanding through video conferencing between rural U.S. children & displaced Afghans. Without EMPATHY, Afghan children may develop misconceptions about Americans due to their experience with war & displacement, triggering animosity & even extremism. Rural American children may develop misconceptions of the world & not understand the reality faced by children in countries at war. EMPATHY students experience the world beyond familiar borders & develop new understandings of each other. Afghan children interact with Americans their age not linked with the Afghan conflict. American children see the effects of war & poverty. This exposure helps children learn firsthand the world’s realities, begin to eradicate misconceptions, & advocate for justice. This is accomplished through varied means. All students: - online classes (international relations, politics, history & geography & influence of culture on our understanding of each); - courses on effective cross-cultural communication & basic Farsi/English; - media material to share experience widely. U.S.: - humanitarian service, identifying & responding to IDP needs; - volunteer travel (safe developing country) to assist displaced communities; - “Buddy” program to connect U.S. students with locally resettled refugees & aid in their adaptation. Afghanistan: - intensive ESL & computer courses to gain skills comparable to global peers.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Rotary & study abroad encourage cross-cultural exchange but are restricted to high schools/universities. EMPATHY targets students of all ages to shape their understanding of the world from childhood. iEARN’s YouthCan/Debunking Stereotypes projects similarly use technology to connect students. However, YouthCan focuses on environmentalism & Debunking Stereotypes solely concerns stereotypes. Numerous short-term projects/conferences also connect students globally. EMPATHY fills a niche by connecting countries whose governments are “friendly” but whose civilians generally distrust one another; connecting the 99% (poor U.S. region with Afghans largely displaced by U.S.); integrating the 1%; providing classes taught by educators from both countries; & involving travel.
About You
I worked several years for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, www.unhcr.org), but this is a personal idea
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

I worked several years for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, www.unhcr.org), but this is a personal idea

Organization Country

, NY, Spencer, Tioga County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, KAB, Nasaji Bagrami IDP Camp & Spencer-Van Etten Central School, Spencer, NY

Your role in Education


The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Public (tuition-free)

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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How long has your solution been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

EMPATHY stimulates cross-cultural exchange amongst kids, enhancing international relations, creating young leaders & cultivating peace.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

It connects Afghan IDPs & rural U.S. kids & sends teens abroad to assist displaced communities, bridging gaps & fostering social justice

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

People within the UN and in the U.S. have responded favourably to this project idea. The goal of the project is to start off small but, ultimately, make this program available to students throughout the U.S. and various IDP Camps, connecting children of all ages in order to create greater cross-cultural understanding and to cultivate peace.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Children are the future. EMPATHY will begin re-shaping cultural mindsets, starting with children. By providing children with firsthand exposure to different cultures and people and providing them with the space to develop their own perspectives, they will begin to redefine how we – as cultures – view one another. Within the next 3 years, there will be a clear improvement in the knowledge children have on international relations, geography, and history, and children will demonstrate an interest in traveling and exploring the world.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

- Political changes with election of new U.S. president: Ensure students discuss political party views & respective influences on society/history.
- Military withdrawal: Monitor carefully.
- Time difference/Linguistics: Consider timing & use translator.
- Security: Ensure support/involvement of local actors (UN, NGOs, government) to reduce risks.
- Internet stability: UN & ISAF assist with Afghan connection.
- Financial Constraints: Use connections at S-VE, the UN, & Afghanistan to identify volunteers & corporations for donations (time, equipment/materials, funding).
- Refugees singled out as “Buddies”: Use opportunity for education (definition of a “refugee”, anyone could become displaced). Ensure “Buddy” program is voluntary.
- Cultural & religious differences: Sensitivity.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Support for project is solicited from U.S. School, UN, Afghan Government, & Displaced Camp in Afghanistan. Project is initiated.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Motivate & unite: Meet teachers/administrators (U.S.) & camp leaders/teachers/students (A): identify challenges/opportunities.

Task 2

Secure sufficient start-up funds for equipment & educators in U.S. & Afghanistan. (Write proposals, Kickstarter, UN, ICRC, etc.)

Task 3

I will travel to each location to introduce both groups to each other online & to launch project.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Program is actively running with funding/voluntary efforts – classes, video conferencing, buddy program, fundraisers for IDPs.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Hire college professors/former humanitarian/development staff to teach after-school classes 3x/week.

Task 2

Test children pre- and post-course for statistical measurement of course effectiveness.

Task 3

Set up “buddy” program connecting kids locally (resettled refugees with kids who help them with language & adaptation.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

I first envisioned this project following 9/11. The fear that arose, leaving many afraid to experience other countries & cultures, made me realize the importance of access to accurate information & cross-cultural understanding.

I resolved to implement this project when violently assaulted during a civil war. Suffering from PTSD, a side effect plaguing many involved in war, I gained insight into the effect of violence on the human psyche & the emotional scars it leaves. As I experienced, war triggers trauma & trauma triggers anger, hostility & violence, a vicious cycle.

I realized that we have the technological means to unite people from remote corners of the world but choose to remain largely isolated. It is up to us to use these means.

Tell us about your partnerships

US: S-VE (administrators, teachers, students) is the first school to partake in project, offering constant feedback whilst planning, implementing & monitoring it.

Afghanistan: Support from governmental actors (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Refugees & Repatriations) & Displaced Camp [camp leaders, teachers], clear understanding of their views & transparency with them are essential.

International Community: UN agencies (UNHCR, Unicef) & NGOs (e.g. education sector) will provide insight from their experience, help refining curriculum, & funding ideas/opportunities.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

From both countries: Teachers/Educators/School Administrators, former humanitarian/development staff (UN, Peace Corps, NGOs), former military, volunteers exhibiting a deep commitment to EMPATHY’s objectives and, of course, the students themselves will play a central role in developing a solid project, constantly evaluating its effectiveness & making relevant improvements.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Given the attention drawn to the “1%” & beliefs that they do not understand the realities faced by the world’s “99%”, it’s important to include the 1% (corporations & wealthy individuals, including celebrities & non-celebrities, as funders, idea-generators & volunteers in the above categories, & wealthy students as participants).