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U for Urban Impact Lets You Volunteer & Connect With Local Communities

U for Urban Impact, an events platform launched in 2019, is all about inspiring change through urban-oriented solutions, inviting travellers to help in small-scale projects with big impact.

To inspire is to instil in others the belief that their actions will impact the world, even when others think it’s futile. That’s exactly what U for Urban Impact, an events platform launched in 2019, is all about. By travelling to local communities and delivering urban-oriented solutions, U for Urban Impact allows travellers to connect with local communities and volunteer to make their lives better. 

U for Urban Impact was founded by urban entrepreneurs Salma Osman and Lobna Anous, who shared a passion for meeting the needs of local communities. After two years of planning they launched their first initiative, U Meet, which held events that involve activities like recycling to get participants used to seeing the result of their actions. They built up to their first trip under U Travel in 2021, which brought volunteers to Tunis Village’s main street, where they got to work on constructing and painting a colourful wall to help improve the village’s infrastructure.

“I was more interested in people than infrastructure, I feel like this side of urban development is massively underrated,” Osman tells SceneTraveller. “Tunis village succeeded by getting the community together with travellers to work hand in hand. By getting to know the community and contributing to it, the trip became about more than just visiting a place.”

In Tunis village, the travelling urbanists met with the local community and asked them about their needs. The main issue they faced was seasonal. “They couldn’t sell their products during summertime,” Osman recalls. “They also mentioned their pottery festival so we thought about making the entire year suitable for that festival.”

U for Urban Impact mediated the weather's impact by installing tensile shades over the main street where most of the workshops were located. A bench made out of eco-friendly materials and colourful planters were added, as well as maps that showed where every workshop was located. 

And of course it wasn’t just about using tourists for labour; the trip was like any other regular outing, with activities such as yoga sessions held on top of cliffs overlooking the sunset included in the itinerary.

Osman got a Master’s degree in urban entrepreneurship, and began thinking of ways to apply solutions globally, and in Egypt in particular. “The topic was rarely talked about despite there being a lot of people educated on community development.” While Osman handles the planning and communications side of things, Anous brings an urban development background to the mix through operations. 

To make sure everything was executed according to plan there were morning workshops. “We are targeting everyone, regardless of the know-how, we explain how everything is assembled,” Osman says. “We wanted the vibe to be engaging, when people passing by would stop we welcomed them to join.”

The push for engagement came with its own benefits. “It was challenging but people were curious and there was a lot of enjoyment,” Osman recalls. “Especially when they got to see the results, the mark they left and celebrated with the community. We became family, they got to know us and trust us because they could see that we were doing something that is truly for them.” 

While a common criticism of volunteer tourism is the ephemeral nature of its work, U for Urban Impact aims to make real lasting change in spite of the seemingly small scale of their projects. “It’s not only about architecture and building things,” Osman says. “We want to help the communities by spotlighting their actual needs. This sort of small ‘urban acupuncture’ leaves an impact that can be felt.” Regardless of perspectives and how impact is defined, these ‘urban acupunctures’ can create ripple effects that spread positivity. 

U for Urban Impact’s upcoming plans include an extension of their work in Faiyum, with a trip abroad in the works. While we don’t know the full details of their next outing, tickets to their last trip to Fayoum cost EGP 5500 on average. The price included accommodation, transportation to and from Faiyoum as well as internal transportation, food and beverages, workshops and activities, community project implementation and the urban exhibition. The price did not include a felucca trip in Qarun lake and horse riding activities.

The platform also offers discounts for groups, and lower priced tickets for specific phases of the project. Participating is simple, once they announce a new upcoming project you can apply if you want to volunteer and pick out the package that suits you. To get involved, you can start by DMing them on their Instagram account @uforurbanimpact or visiting their website