Home does not always need an address – at least that's the message NYU Abu Dhabi students are trying to get across in their new storybook written for refugee children titled Where Is Our Home?
Written and illustrated by the university student group ElevatED, the children’s book is written in English and Arabic. It centres on three characters: a mother, father and their child, to whom they share the story of the many places they lived as they search for a final home. Elements of fiction and history are woven into the narrative, with the parents referencing the Great Pyramid in Egypt and the pocket of a kangaroo as some of the former residences.
"We wanted to make the children think about the idea of belonging and have them grapple with the idea of having many different homes," says student Malak Abdel-Ghaffar, who co-authored the book with Ian Bryce Hoyt. Where Is Our Home? tackles migration and portrays home as a place of love within our interpersonal relationships, rather than a physical location and space.
“Each character found a sense of belonging no matter which place they were in because of the people they had around them. The moral of the story is that true home is where our family is,” she says.
She adds that the details of different geographies, including places in Asia and Africa, were included to provide children a glimpse into environmental diversity around the world. The book features 15 illustrations by Davit Jintcharadze, a student of psychology at NYUAD.
The book is meant to be distributed to about 3,000 refugee and underprivileged children from ages five to seven in Jordan, with ambassadors NGO We Love Reading tasked with handing out the copies. However, the coronavirus pandemic has put these plans on hold and their shipment has not yet left the UAE. As a result, the students and organisers are finding ways to accelerate plans of taking the book online, potentially in the form of a downloadable e-book.
The project was led by student Sara Pan Algarra, who is studying Social Research and Public Policy and Theater. Other students involved in the project include Alex Markova, Jude Al Sharif, María José Alonso Rivera, Tom Joseph Abi Samra, Mai Awamleh, Claudia Gabriela Neumann Vallejo, Ivona Feldmarova, and Mirela Valentinova Minkova.
Currently, the book is being presented at the the World Literacy Summit 2020, an event that brings together NGO leaders, researchers and academics to discuss issues of literacy across the globe. The event, which was meant to take place at Oxford University this year, has been converted to an online conference following the Covid-19 outbreak