Thanks to Kids at Iran, children from Amsterdam and Teheran learn about one another's living habits and ideas. The Tropenmuseum Junior's cultural exchange project runs over the Internet and will be concluded in December. Whether the children will truly meet one another is uncertain.
The opening of the children's exposition about Iran's culture, 'Paradise & Co' in September 2003 also marked the beginning of Kids at Iran. "We soon discovered things were more complicated than we thought," Tropenmuseum's Saskia Goldschmidt explains. "A variety of material requirements had not yet been met in Teheran." The people assisting the children in Iran also proved to have insufficient computer skills.
"But now we have an excellent website," beams project manager Goldschmidt. With information in three languages: Dutch, Persian and English. As a result, children in the highest three grades at two Amsterdam grade schools, De Kraal and ASVO, have been exchanging their own photos with children of the same age in the Kanoon cultural centre in Teheran. Chat sessions are also regularly arranged, during which the children try to communicate in anyway they can. And despite the language barrier and cultural differences, Goldschmidt says the children have clearly bonded.
That the project is going smoothly despite its troublesome start is in part thanks to its sponsor, Shell Development Iran. "And that is really special," Goldschmidt emphasises. This is the first time since the 'Islamic Revolution' of 1979 that a Western company has sponsored a government institution like Kanoon. "The Dutch embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were extremely happily surprised by what culture can mean to economic relations."
Since the new, ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August 2005, however, the Iranian teachers involved in the project appear to have become more cautious. In an exposition in Teheran, for example, photos of girls in Amsterdam with bare arms were not permitted. Moreover, a scheduled meeting between the Iranian and Dutch children in Amsterdam was cancelled. Goldschmidt is still trying to organise a meeting, but now in Teheran. "Which would be a really great end of the project."