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Students Seize Opportunities to Grow and Serve Through Volunteer Program

Al Qasimi Foundation
March 29, 2016

Grade 10 students in the Sheikh Saqr Student Enrichment Program are getting a chance to explore their passions and interests while helping their community through a pilot service-learning program.

Since the program began this January, more than 45 students have participated in hands-on workshops, field trips, and a discussion panel focused on thoughtful service to the community.

The initiative aims to increase students’ awareness of positive extracurricular activities and to support their personal skill development through volunteering.

“The pilot seeks to guide students through the process of civic engagement and volunteerism as a way to benefit themselves and their communities,” explains Ms. Nisha Grimes who is leading the service-learning component of the Student Enrichment Program.

“Although volunteering usually focuses on how the community will benefit, the act of service also impacts the students and helps them to refine soft skills like empathy, problem-solving, and conflict management.”

Such skills are important for success in life, and they also play a major role in preparing students for university studies overseas – the main reason the Student Enrichment Program was established.

“The candidates that universities and employers are looking for today have a combination of academic abilities, soft skills, and a commitment to serving other people,” says Ms. Caitrin Mullan, Director for Community Engagement and Outreach. “These are the kinds of young adults that our program is working to equip through guided service-learning opportunities.”

To kickoff the initiative, students attended a “Youth in Action” panel discussion. The panel was comprised of five Emirati youth who shared personal stories about volunteering and how these experiences have enriched their lives.  

Panelist Ms. Yassmin Al Raeesi, an education student at Ras Al Khaimah Women’s College, explained that volunteering has helped develop her leadership, communication, and time management skills.

“The panel gave me the opportunity to show students how I successfully manage my time between my education and volunteering. I'm still a student, but I firmly believe that I have received the most relevant skills for any future work placement through volunteering in my community.”

The panelists’ message seemed to resonate with students who attended the discussion.

“The speakers were really inspiring! I didn’t know there were so many young people in Ras Al Khaimah involved in volunteering until today. I can’t wait to get started,” said Mohamad, a grade 10 student.

Although the volunteer program is in its early days, participants are already requesting more service-learning opportunities.

Fifteen students have answered the call to serve in the 2016 Global Youth Service Day initiative, which will take place on April 15. These students will be among the first groups of youth from the UAE to participate in the world’s single largest organized day of service.

To prepare for the event, students participated in two project-building workshops and have formulated small service initiatives, which will respond to needs they have identified in their community.  

One group of students is designing a campaign in Ras Al Khaimah Secondary School to raise awareness of the negative social and health effects of smoking and to encourage students to engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and sport. Other students are organizing visits to Saqr and Obaidallah Hospitals to visit with patients and spread joy through stories, songs, and distributing small gifts.

“I really like the volunteer program more than I thought I would, and I have learned a lot of new information—like how to put myself in other’s situations,” says Hajer, another grade 10 student.

In addition to focusing on their local community, students are also discovering how volunteerism works on a national and international scale. During the school holidays students had a chance to visit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and tour its distribution facility in Dubai’s International Humanitarian City. The field trip helped students understand the UAE’s role in responding to humanitarian crises around the world and demonstrated how service projects can be implemented on a global scale.

Although the pilot initiative is modest, service-learning has proven powerful because it challenges students to think of new ways to demonstrate kindness and empathy. It requires a big shift in thinking, but teachers and program staff are already noticing small differences.

“It’s rubbing off,” says Ms. Tina Kennedy, a grade 10 English Instructor. “I have seen significant changes in behaviors from the students since the beginning of the program. Students are starting to tidy up the classroom after they leave, and they continuously offer to help with outside tasks.”

“A goal of the program is to empower young people to believe in themselves. The aim is not only to inspire, but to encourage students to be positive change makers in their own lives through small, sustained everyday actions,” says Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director of the Al Qasimi Foundation. “It’s wonderful to see the students taking this to heart.”

Community organizations interested in collaborating on a volunteer project can contact Ms. Nisha Grimes at for more information.