Monday, December 04, 2006

WHAT WE SHOULD ALL BE DOING THIS TIME OF YEAR--an invitation for all in Kuwait to volunteer more and more

Over this past weekend, I was blessed with an opportunity to help a needy person as follows.

I was home in my flat here in Kuwait on my day off. Suddenly, I heard a knock on my door. Too my surprise, it was from an unknown elderly Bengladeshi woman, wearing a black hijab. She explained that she worked in a local factory in Mahboula township. She said she didn't have enough money. Her face was old and withered--and she was quite thin.

She spoke to me in Arabic--which I could barely understand. She mentioned something about not having money.

I then asked her to sit in a chair while I first looked around for either some gifts or cash for her.

Not wishing to turn the old woman away—especially as I don't often find NEED knocking so clearly on my door--, I went to my kitchen and soon came up with about 20 pounds of goods, including a large unopened 5-kilo package of rice, some fresh fruit and canned vegetables.

As I returned to the front entrance of my flat where the aged woman was seated, this aged female worker jumped up and eagerly took the large bag of rice and other goods out of my hands. Then she smiled.

I had been afraid till that point that, being so old, frail and exhausted-looking, this poor elderly woman would not be able to carry the two bags I had ready for her.

However, after thanking me, she looked refreshed and almost skipped quickly out the door--touting the goods with a great joy in her steps.


SITUATION IN KUWAIT

Civil society and voluntary charity participation in Kuwait is at a minimum these days—although the needs here are often great. One major reason for this lack of participation is that it is widely believed that one needs to have official permission to organization most activities. It is also believed that forming such a group requires having special government connection.

Nonetheless, there are both a few legal and a few informal bodies in this country who do, in fact, privately help the many immigrants to this multicultural state.

One exception to this trend of lack of volunteerism in Kuwait is the recently (2005) founded: Operation Hope-Kuwait. See information on it at http://www.operationhopekuwait.com/ .

According to the Operation Hope website, the group had been set up to guide a “mission that seeks to Help Others Practically & Evangelically [hence HOPE] by providing gifts of coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and socks for those less fortunate during the colder season in Kuwait & to share the love of God by serving them” Operation Hope seeks to serve the poorest in Kuwait, many of whom might often earn less than U.S. $150 a month in an otherwise, resource-wealthy land.

Operation Hope-Kuwait is also seeking volunteers and donors to fulfill their mission of aiding the poor, and it is holding another year-end drive now as the coldest weather from both Asia and the desert invade this coastal oil-boom land each winter


VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

In contrast, in America, where I grew up, there were very many opportunities for young people to learn how to volunteer and help others in their own community or around the globe. For example, I recall that we participated as teenagers in fundraising walks of awareness against poverty, such as in the CROP Walk. See http://www.churchworldservice.org/CROP/ for more info on this way of helping others.

Later, in college, I participated in Special Olympics as a hugger—of all things

Over the years, I have also volunteered in soup kitchens and in townships in the wake of tornadoes, with such organizations as the Mennonite Disaster [Relief] Service: http://www.mds.mennonite.net/

I share this message now in December 2006 as another Eid (Holy period and celebration in the Islamic calendar) and the Christmas holiday are only a few weeks away. It is at this time that All of Us are asked to not only celebrate—but more importantly to not forget the poorer and needy of this world.

I also write this as a special encouragement for all my former Kuwait students at Gulf University. I ask them to reach out more and more to the poor of this world and, thus leave a positive impression on others in this society—who are often criticizing the youth of today for not showing much concern and respect for others.

In a series of discussions I have had with young adults in Kuwait, I have learned that many young people have certainly felt inclined to volunteer and aid others in their own civil society and even go abroad and volunteer assistance to others. However, there are almost no networks where young people can turn to, in order to get advice or training as to how to work with handicapped, sick in hospitals and other needy peoples in this country. This is certainly a neglected part of the educational process in a nation with the highest per capita income of any nation on earth. [Admittedly, there is among Kuwaitis also wariness--or an underlying fear--that such organized charities may be fronts for the few sinister and extremist Islamic causes!!!]

I encourage you (all these former young Middle Eastern students of mine) to step out of your routines and find out how to be legally volunteer and incorporate yourself as an NGO volunteers active in Kuwait, in order to make this land of yours a better place for all to live in!

I also certainly encourage other throughout the Middle East to try and make a special effort to help the poor in 2007, too.

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