It is known internationally that Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest producers of black gold, petrol, however what remains an enigma to many is our culture. To introduce the public to Saudi culture, a group of Saudi volunteers started an initiative called “Call of Culture” to encourage individuals to reach out to other parts of the world to promote the real Saudi culture.
The goal of Call of Culture is to promote intercultural communication between different societies and advance a common understanding, for a better world. There are six Saudi volunteers behind this initiative; among them is Mohammed Bakhraiba, the Goodwill Ambassador and the force behind the project.
Bakhraiba has been volunteering with the World Health Organization for seven years now, and this entails a lot of traveling around the world. “Typical questions are always raised up during my visits to these conferences, people ask me about my culture and what our lifestyle is like. This is what inspired me to start the initiative, to spread the word about the values of our culture and our heritage,” he said.
Call of Culture’s initiative started in September 2011 when Bakhraiba did a survey among Saudi youth and asked them about their own culture. He was surprised that many of them showed a limited understanding about their culture and most of them did not even know what the word culture means. “We started this project to articulate the Saudi culture to the youth and mobilize them to travel the world and spread the word,” he said. “This is how we managed to bring more people to join this initiative and work on raising awareness about Saudi culture,” he added.
In 2011, Bakhraiba attended the International Conference for Social Innovation in Naples, in which the European social committee developed a project to invite people from around the globe to see the social problem in Naples and suggest solutions. “It’s like a social gathering of people from all around the world to discuss solutions and our part involved helping the committee spread the word. As a token of appreciation, they gave us the opportunity to speak in front of 200 international organizations,” he said. “The day we addressed the delegates happened to be our national day (Sept. 23). We dressed in our national attire and spoke to the attendees about cultural dialogue, and provided insight into our culture,” he added.
According to Bakhraiba, the Saudi media is not promoting Saudi culture adequately enough, and that is why Call of Culture aims to fill the void. “We talked about this idea in Ted Ex Arabia at Effat College in Jeddah hoping this initiative will receive greater attention and more people would join,” he said. “We also received an e-mail from someone in Hollywood, which made us realize our project has great international potential and people need to know more about our closed society,” he added. Call of Culture’s team met with the Hollywood team in Dubai to discuss further collaboration.
Call of Culture also attended a conference of the 360 most active individuals. “The committee dedicated three professors to help us find a way to sustain our project. Later on we registered the project in Washington DC because we wanted to have an intentional platform and follow international law,” said Bakhraiba. “We have three different lines of work which include, raising awareness through events; developing short videos that we broadcast on the Internet; and various other projects that aim to enlighten people about the Saudi culture,” he added.
The initiative has acknowledged that long-term commitment to volunteering projects is difficult; therefore they have developed a scheme in which people can join for the duration of a single project and then be free to leave.
There are six committed people to this initiative, who pitch out ideas and help in the execution. These are: Fadi Eisa, Hani Bajar, Manal Felemban, Ali Al-Qahtani, Wesal Aseeri and of course Bakhraiba. “We have developed a business plan called the six circles and we are going to talk about it in Ted Ex. This business plan is a model for social projects to help them sustain and develop their initiatives,” he said. “Many social projects stop, due to lack of funding. Call of Culture however, has signed a contract with a company that will help us sustain the project,” he added.
Social media is one of Call of Culture’s biggest sources as they utilize it to reach the largest number of people through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. “Our Facebook page has already 12,000 fans from 20 countries and they actively engage in the dialogue and discussions,” said Bakhraiba. Call of Culture calls upon every individual, institute and organization in Saudi Arabia to partake and help promote the rich Saudi culture to the world.