On a particularly humid afternoon I sat down with altruistic Jonny from The Sameness Project at 3pm, which in my world is known as Cake Hour. Digging into giant slices of cake we proceeded to chat about Dubai’s newest social initiative. Living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, it’s easy to have only limited associations with people from other cultures and walks of life. The Sameness Project exists to encourage us all to create moments of sameness in which we connect with our best selves, “restart our hearts” and are able to walk through the world in someone else’s shoes. Jonny believes that a moment of sameness can last “a second, an hour, a year, or even a lifetime.”
Dubai Lifer and Sameness Founder Linna Nahhas visited Palestine as a new mother and was shocked by the checkpoints and the expressions of mutual fear evident on the faces of both Israelis and Palestinians. She felt a connection to them all, and realized that despite the major differences all people share humanity and deserve to live without suffering. She returned home and resigned from her position as COO of a major research company and registered The Sameness Project in 2011. Jonny and a startup staff came on board at that time and they’ve been launching ventures for our community ever since.
By the end of this summer, The Sameness Project and their volunteers will have handed out an overwhelming 30,000 bottles of ice-cold water to Dubai’s labourers under the Water for Workers program. With his laid back sounding Kiwi accent Jonny describes why it’s important, “These are the guys who are building Dubai and making it beautiful for all of us. We wanted to thank them for the work they are doing in the gardens and buildings in the forty-degree heat.” On most Saturday afternoons the group meets at Safa Park to decorate water donated by Pepsi Co with labels reading thank you in six languages. Then they pile into their cars and cruise the city for workers. When they find a construction site or park maintenance crew they stop to hand out the water, shake hands with the workers, and thank them for everything they do for our community. Jonny believes, “There are lines that separate us from them in our daily lives. It is so cool to be able to erase those lines and just hang out together.”
Another program, “We’ve Got Your Back,” links up Dubai’s hardworking taxi drivers with fitness instructors who teach them some easy stretches to ease the back, shoulder, and arm muscles that grow sore after hours on the road. Stopping off at cafeterias frequented by drivers to hand out pamphlets that illustrate the stretches has brought local cabbies, yogis, and trainers together.
If you’re ever in Al Quoz or Safa Park keep an eye open for “The Conversation Chair.”It’s a Sameness Project idea that plants a chair built for two strangers in a public place. The idea is that you and a complete stranger will sit down and hold a conversation. A bouquet of balloons float overhead, each one inscribed with a question about your daily life. Pull a balloon down and discuss the topic with your neighbor until you discover something in common. You might just meet a new friend this way.
Good Idea: You can join The Sameness Project to participate in Water for Workers 2 November and Saturday 7 December Meeting at Emirates International School, Al Thanya Road, Jumeirah at 10am. To learn more about these events and The Sameness Project visit their website here.