KAUST Social Responsibility  

We are all fortunate to be members of the KAUST community and joining in with volunteer projects gives community members a chance to acknowledge this. Not only is volunteering a personally rewarding way of ‘giving back’, it provides an invaluable opportunity for you to enhance your own skills, knowledge and experience that will prove beneficial to you on your journey beyond KAUST.


Our volunteers are drawn from across KAUST, supporting our broad range of programs and projects.   Our skills-based volunteers include faculty, post-docs and students, as well as TKS teachers and pupils, who work with Social Responsibility to devise and deliver programs to Saudi students in local schools and adult training initiatives.  We also have enthusiastic support from the KAUST community for our broader projects.



Connecting with schools in Thuwal and Qadimah

After five years as a Grade 5 International Baccalaureate teacher at The KAUST School, Caitlin McQuaid is moving on to her next post.  Caitlin received her KAUST five year Service Award in April 2019, an award that could not be more aptly named for this recipient – one of the reasons she is such a valued teacher is she takes the IB values of Service and Action to heart.  As a teacher and volunteer that has given her time to both The KAUST School and the social responsibility work of the school and University, I wanted to find out what motivated her and her Grade 5s. 

Caitlin says she didn’t become a teacher to simply focus on math and learning, she was far more interested in instilling a work ethic, teaching empathy, perseverance.  Some elements of course have to be classroom-based and perhaps more ‘traditional’, but there is so much that can be learned through experiences.  The language and framework of the IB Middle Years Program ties in any experience to the MYP’s five Approaches to Learning – thinking, research, social skills, speaking and fine motor skills.

It was this desire to introduce learning through experience that encouraged Caitlin to build on the work a former TKS teacher had engaged in – Luis Lopez encouraged his students to explore the local community by taking them to the beach in Thuwal and getting in touch with the Thuwal schools.  Caitlin’s involvement began in the 2016-17 school year, when she encouraged her Grade 5 students to help out with the KAUST Social Responsibility 2016 Back to School campaign.  Caitlin and her students became more engaged in the following year when they not only helped with the assembly in the Back to School campaign but participated in the delivery to two of the elementary schools in Thuwal and Qadimah.

For Caitlin’s students, delivering the Back to School items to schools and interacting with the students was a pivotal moment.  As part of the Middle Years Program, Grade 5 students undertake a Personal Project and, in realizing that they wanted to do more to support their peers in their host communities, with Caitlin’s guidance, they started devising a project that could benefit the schools they had visited – this project became the purpose of their Grade 5 Exhibition. 

The students assessed options they could action, they asked questions, wondered why it mattered, talked with Social Responsibility and the local schools – the result of their research led to them focus on enhancing two school libraries, and supplementing the schools’ sports equipment – for play time activities and also in light of the then recent government initiative of introducing sports lessons into girls’ schools.

The students identified the sports equipment needed and sourced through donations or upcycling equipment located at KAUST – two soccer goals were repainted and refreshed with nets prior to delivery to Thuwal.  They approached the TKS Library for books and persuaded tall teachers to lend their time and their height to painting the tall walls of the library in Qadimah School for Girls.  Social Responsibility worked with Procurement and The KAUST School to source, select, prepare and deliver furniture and, to date, two phases of delivery and refurbishment have been undertaken, with more yet to come.

In encouraging her students to explore the world around them, to be mindful of needs and differences, Caitlin enabled their wish to extend interaction with Thuwal schools to develop organically into their Personal Project.   This natural transition infused the Project with an authenticity that lends huge value to the experience of the process and the outcome, and real long-term benefits to both the Grade 5s and their fellow students in Qadimah and Thuwal.

So, although the Personal Project is a component of the curriculum, a successful outcome depends on all involved contributing much more than school hours.  Caitlin’s students have learned that the output reward can exceed the input and this stands true for the other volunteer work that Caitlin has been involved in during her time at KAUST– be that coaching athletics, swimming, U19 basketball, netball or soccer, giving time to the Student Council or getting involved with the Parade of Nations. 

Like many KAUSTians, Caitlin was used to volunteering in her home country and, although the opportunities may seem fewer here, there are plenty – in school, the community, the University or with Social Responsibility.  Much of the KAUST Social Responsibility interaction with schools in our host community was due to Caitlin’s energy and encouragement of, and belief in, the potential of her students.  We have been lucky to have her and wish her the best for her next adventure – teaching in Hong Kong.

Although this is a farewell focus on Caitlin, the KAUST School has a great team of enthusiastic supporters of the programs and activities connecting the KAUST and Thuwal schools.  As we go into the new academic year, we are so pleased to continue working with our school liaisons Alanud Alfaqir, Beth Lincoln, Betsy Ryan and Monica Hall.  Next up … the 8th annual Back to School campaign!

UN Sustainable Development Goal #4  UN Sustainable Development Goal #11

KAUST Social Responsibility is dedicated to advancing the KAUST mission of being a good neighbor and responsible citizen, and ensuring that intellectual and social capital is used to sustainably improve quality of life in our neighboring communities. The YLDP aims to help the next generation of Thuwal students reach their full potential by developing skills in English, STEM, digital literacy, soft skills, and environmental awareness.

If you would like to become a Social Responsibility Volunteer, please send an email to volunteer@kaust.edu.sa.

August 1, 2019

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Teamwork makes the dream work!

We can engage at any level that works with our family and work commitments but every little action helps, every individual piece is a vital part of the whole. Some projects require a big commitment and others smaller – if we all give what we can when we can, the payback for us and our community is enormous. From seeing the beaming child receiving their ‘Back to School’ backpack to the quiet pride we can take at a finished project and knowing what we did to make it happen, the rewards are many. Being a part of something good, feels good!

The KAUST Volunteer Management Platform is a useful tool for volunteers, enabling volunteers’ skills to be matched with program needs.  Volunteers can browse the database to explore and sign up for projects that interest them.  Volunteers can also view their service record and the number of hours they have accrued.

KAUST Volunteer Management Platform

Planned Initiatives