In June 2014, we designed our first experience in India, a partnership between OX Adventure, GUST University, and Ooredoo Telecom.
Society of this era seems to have a universal agreement that more is best and less is inadequate. The old concept of “less is more” has been tossed aside and replaced with greed, overconsumption, and waste, and sadly and interestingly enough, lack of happiness is present more than ever. This is particularly prevalent in Kuwait and the entire Gulf region. People have questioned what they need to buy or the next thing they think they need to have to trigger happiness instead of considering what they need to give.
However, recently there seems to be an awakening; people are seeking happiness in places other than tangible items of monetary value. The GUST University interns and participants who joined our experience in India, seeking this new type of happiness, returned with a new view on life. They learned the gift of giving and how rewarding that can truly be.
“We wanted students to step out of the classroom and gain some valuable life experience. This trip was a great opportunity for them to develop their teamwork skills, produce media materials, and gain confidence. Most importantly they were able to give something back to society by helping others,”Commented Dr. Fahed Al-Summait who runs the Mass Communications and Media Department at GUST.
“Our students and volunteers worked extremely hard in the short time they were in India and they came back with fresh perspectives on the world. They even continued to do charity work as soon as they returned to Kuwait and we hope they will do even more in the future. They are certainly worthy ambassadors of our university, our country and their generation,”Said Dr. Al-Summait.
Our experience in India was completed over the course of 16 days in rural Bangalore, India under the supervision of Global Citizens for Sustainable Development. Instead of setting off for a summer full of fun and relaxation, volunteers spent 10 days under the blazing Indian sun to construct a dormitory for at-risk children who live in the Eco-Residential School, Vedike. Construction lasted 6-8 hours a day, and involved heavy lifting, bricklaying, and cement work, breaking up and carrying large boulders, and working side by side with the local Indian workers to put the walls up that will provide shelter for children for years to come. With nothing but luke-warm water to quench their thirst, a diet of white rice and spicy vegetable curries just like the locals eat, and no internet, television, no air conditioning, and a shared room of 6-8 people, the participants’ summer was a stark contrast to their friends in Europe.
Lujain Al-Hasawi was afraid when she applied that she would not be physically or mentally cut out for the task, and admitted that she even felt resentment and fear when she left the interview. She was terrified to throw herself this far out of her comfort zone as she had traveled a lot, though not in this way.
“I went on an unexpected journey with complete strangers and I came back a different person with a new perspective on life. The things that keep a smile on my face now are not the tangible things but the joy of creating another person’s happiness—the smiles on the kid’s faces, the kind-hearted locals, they all made me realize how much I have mistaken my own happiness.”After the trip, Lujain said,
While OX Adventure is based in Kuwait, applicants from all over the world are accepted. Nasser Al-Naama, a volunteer from Qatar, decided the familiar creature comforts of a generic summer holiday could not compare to the opportunity OXinda provided.
“This trip was very much about self-introspection and learning, as much as it was about doing good—I wanted to understand the lengths I would go to help others without expecting anything in return or stroking my own ego. I wanted to see the extent to which people, in our case children, could survive in impoverished conditions and yet still flourish. People understand poverty intellectually, but they can’t relate or identify with it insofar that it doesn’t personally affect them, or at least the people I know,”Said Al-Naama.
He believes that only when one is physically present and experiencing the hardships first-hand can the gravity of the situation be truly comprehended. He was humbled by how instead of seeing misery and anguish on their faces, he saw pure joy and contentment that is not attributed to material wealth.
“Volunteerism is no longer an option, but rather an ongoing process of eradicating this disproportionate ratio of wealth in the world,”Said Al-Naama.
Ahmed Al-Refai, a recent GUST graduate, came because he wanted to look back on this trip knowing he made a difference in many lives.
“When you give back, you gain so much more in return; you gain satisfaction and happiness. I believe that we as citizens of this world do not have to be from a place, country, or race to help others and share. As long as we have, we must share. Once we do that, I can assure you this world will be a better place,”Said Al-Refai
“Given the success of the program and the great response from everyone involved, we hope to continue working with outstanding organizations like OXadventure to offer similar aid-work internships every summer.”Said Dr. Al-Summait