Yasmine El-Baggari, age 22, is doing her utmost best to make a widespread impact on the world, one person at a time. Through her tech start-up Voyaj, she seeks to help travelers make lasting, meaningful connections with hosts in different countries. The Voyaj service, which is preparing for its official launch, uses a matching algorithm that considers users’ interests, emotional intelligence cues, and desired travel locations to find common ground – and like-minded people from around the world. The Voyaj mission is “to open hearts and minds for a more peaceful world through travel.” Yasmine herself has been hosted by more than 100 families around the world.
Since she was 13, Yasmine yearned to travel. Originally from Rabat, Morocco, she was told that she would never have the resources to travel and become, in her words, “a global citizen.” However, when her uncle paid for her to visit him in California to learn English, she jumped at the opportunity. When she was 17, she was accepted into the YES program, a U.S. state-funded program that brings Arabs and Muslims from the Middle East to the U.S. in order to challenge stereotypes.
Connecting for peace and justice
Yasmine received a scholarship to attend Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts, where she was able to design her own major, and study economics, Middle Eastern studies, and women’s rights. She was able to visit 38 of the 50 states, talking with individuals about their perceptions of Arabs and Muslims. One of Yasmine’s biggest goals is to meet people who are different from her, and “Connect people one-on-one through travel to break down stereotypes.” Through this experience, she “realized the power of meaningful one-on-one interactions,” and was inspired to launch Voyaj, her travel-based matching service.
While Voyaj is in its launch phase, Yasmine will travel to all Middle East / North Africa (MENA) countries to talk with leaders about education. She wants to work to change the narrative about MENA, and hopes to “inspire people to follow their dreams and passions.” If anyone can do it, we believe it’s this Moroccan expat – we’ll definitely be rooting for her. Make sure to check out Voyaj, which will be launching very soon!