Sharing is Caring 2019: KAUST supports neighboring communities during Ramadan

Over 120 volunteers from the University's community took part in this year's Sharing is Caring program organized by KAUST Social Responsibility. They assisted with providing food and gifts to the University's neighboring communities during Ramadan and Eid. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

By Virginia Sealey, Social Responsibility

Sharing is Caring is an annual KAUST Social Responsibility program that enables the University's community to give back to its neighbors in the spirit of the season of Ramadan. The program consists of two elements: Ramadan Food Pantry and Eid Gifts.

This year's Sharing is Caring Food Pantry assembly took place in a new venue—the Community Hub in KAUST's Discovery Square. In approximately three hours, 128 volunteers constructed and filled 200 boxes in a smooth-running assembly line. Each food hamper contained a range of 29 healthy and seasonal food items to assist families in planning their Ramadan menus.

The event was kick-started by the early arrival of KAUST School teacher Caitlin McQuaid and her team of dynamic and dedicated Grade 5 students. The students got to work distributing food items to packing stations so that when the first wave of volunteers arrived for their session at 4:00 p.m., they could begin promptly. With volunteers arriving at hourly intervals for their pre-arranged slots, the project finished smoothly and efficiently. Volunteers also wrote Ramadan greeting cards to their neighbors in Thuwal that accompanied the food hampers.

Food items took center stage in the Community Hub in Discovery Square, where KAUST volunteers assembled them into hampers for neighboring communities during Ramadan this year. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

This year, 1,300 Ramadan food boxes were distributed along with the greeting cards and vacuum-packed boxes of fresh meat to families in Thuwal with assistance from the Thuwal Albir Society.

After obtaining feedback from Thuwal community families in 2018, Social Responsibility specifically chose the content of food boxes, customizing them to families' preferences and needs. This also included a nutritional component, with families requesting more protein-based foods in the boxes.

Using a specially designed app, families ordered specific quantities and cuts of meat according to the amount in kilograms allotted to them based on family size. The University then paid suppliers for meat, and families picked up their meat at a designated location in Thuwal.

At the hamper collection venue, Thuwal community members wrote their own greeting cards for KAUST, and these were later displayed in the seasonal Ramadan Lounge located in KAUST's Harbor Walk area.

A young volunteer peers into a food box assembled on campus during this year's Sharing is Caring program. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

"The feedback loop from families was important for us to meet their needs," said Maha Aldubayan, manager of Social Responsibility, who is also in charge of the Sharing is Caring program. "Through the app, we utilized new tools to support families and ensure correct and nutritious foods were easily accessible to them. We continue to gather feedback to make sure our neighboring communities are best supplied through our programs next year."

2019 is the fourth year Social Responsibility organized Sharing is Caring, enabling the KAUST community to contribute their time and energy for their host community during the important time of year. The enthusiasm of the volunteers led to a great and productive afternoon and evening. Social Responsibility was encouraged by the level of support to increase the number of boxes prepared by KAUST volunteers in 2020.

Volunteers worked hard to make sure families in the University's neighboring communities received fully stocked food boxes during the 2019 Sharing is Caring program. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

The Eid gifts of games and exercise equipment were selected with the theme of "Your Own Home Gym" to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle. Each year, Social Responsibility works with the Albir Society to ensure that gifts are given to orphaned families in the community as part of the University's social and educational support of the most vulnerable members of KAUST's host community. KAUST delivered 108 items to 47 beneficiaries with the invaluable support of sponsor SMSA.

Sharing is Caring can only be completed with the significant support received from volunteers in the community and the University's partners, vendors and sponsors. Sponsors that gave some or all of their services free of charge this year were SMSA, Jeddah Store and Helmy Alsagaff Photography. Vendors Sarawat and KAUST partners Procurement, Campus Support, Community Life and Marketing Communications all worked together to create a successful outcome.

After assembly, food boxes were taken to families in the neighboring village of Thuwal for distribution. Photo by Andrea Bachofen-Echt.

Social Responsibility also welcomes feedback from volunteers to improve their experience. Based on feedback from 2018, the 2019 event was an even greater success.

Social Responsibility looks forward to welcoming returning and new volunteers next year. To ensure you hear about Sharing is Caring 2020 and all other volunteer opportunities, please visit the KAUST Volunteer Program website.

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