“I will always remember tonight and cherish this moment of genuine happiness. In fact the memory of tonight is one I will hold on to as a special one in my experience in Saudi Arabia,” was what I told my friends Samara and Christel amidst our chirpy and utterly euphoric upbeat mood coming back from Thuwal. Yes, you heard me right. Thuwal. Our host neighborhood where we were the active audience of a Presentation Skills workshop delivered by the local females at the Thuwal Community Center.
The story began when KAUST installed a ten-seat computer lab in the Thuwal Community Center for females under the umbrella of its Social Responsibility Program. The lab was set up with the help of the KAUST IT Department, ten females from the local community were shortlisted for an MS Office Suite course, but the story was missing a crucial component – a you and me kind of resource… volunteers to teach the course.
When I heard about the initiative I did not hesitate to sign up as a volunteer. Together with eight other ladies from the KAUST community we went to visit the Thuwal Community Center to meet with the participants in order to understand their needs and assess their computer skills level. We went not knowing what to expect, and we left with so many ideas, and after having caught a seriously contagious bug that filled the air… that of enthusiasm! The Thuwal community ladies did have an amazing spark in their eyes and an unquenchable thirst for learning. As we caught their enthusiasm fever, we had no option but to answer to their every request when we put the curriculum together.
We shared two months together, meeting twice a week for a two hour class that totaled to 72 volunteering hours. What initially started as only a basic computer skills course developed into an interactive discussion about resume writing and presentation skills as well. By the end of the course, all the ladies were able to operate word, power point, excel, created email accounts, became familiar with internet navigation, created their resumes and delivered presentations too!
A 37 year old mother of one and center manager told us “now I can develop professional documents in word and email them, whereas before all the center’s documents were handwritten. I am less intimidated and my thought process changed from I cannot to I will try.” Another participant, a 30 year old mother of three, said “I never operated a computer before, now that I created my own resume and have an MS Office certificate endorsed by KAUST I feel more confident and empowered.”
Sometimes it was not easy to go teach for two hours after an eight-hour day at the office, but it was worth it. One of KAUST’s values is inspiration, we thought we will be there to inspire but in the processes we were the ones inspired; the participant’s enthusiasm, eagerness to learn and in class camaraderie spirit was indeed inspirational and a compelling motivation for us to do and share more, truly they were the driving force behind the program’s success. As my friend Samara put it “we wanted to make a difference in their experience, but in the process they have actually made a difference in ours.”
Language was not a barrier either, for the participants also welcomed and enjoyed communicating with my friend Christel, a non-Arabic speaking volunteer, in simple English and with the aid of simultaneous translation offered by an Arabic speaking volunteer. I remember Christel saying “I am very happy to learn Arabic words, and I feel more relaxed and less intimidated from the culture. I was always worried I would culturally offend the locals, but we simply had fun.”
Volunteering nourishes the soul, and we have an opportunity to make a difference just outside the campus gates. Why not!
Citizenship, inspiration and passion are three of KAUST’s core values. Would you be keen on participating in keeping KAUST’s values alive? To make a positive impact on the University’s surroundings, to inspire and be inspired and be passionate about it all!
Together with the Social Responsibility program we invite you to be part of the volunteer family, to be part of the KAUST narrative and tell your story. Remember, the story does not end as you complete your volunteering activity whatever it maybe. The story lives on in the life of the person you have affected. The impression you leave lingers, so make it special, and do it passionately. I am happy to learn that more courses will be offered at the Thuwal Community Center for females and the Thuwal Male Community Association. Sign up to have a chapter in the volunteer story!
Care for our community and dare to be part of the volunteer story! email firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in volunteer-ship,
Rabab WeredaWe use the symbol of a tree in our Social Responsibility logo - Strategic National Advancement and the Social Responsibility Program thank Alaa Al Harbi, Yara Al Shaghrood, Samara Barhamain, Ohoud Baroom, Nafla Harthi, Inji Jaber, Christel Smith, Rabab Wereda and Hiba Zamzam for being the roots of this tree.
August 14, 2020