Many groups in Saudi Arabia distribute bags of essentials as gifts to workers prior to or during Ramadan. This year, TASIS boarding students who could not return to the UK in January wanted to help the family of TASIS sophomore Valentina, who has spearheaded just such an annual service project since 2013.
The family normally provides 100-120 bags full of items to the local laborers. Valentina’s fellow tenth graders Aaron, Alejandro, and Ava, ninth graders Regan and Anna, and junior Avantika not only joined in but also set a goal to double the number of bags distributed by reaching out to the local community for support and donations.
Through social media and word of mouth, they explained their project to neighbors and friends. The boys went door to door, introducing themselves and their school, talking about the project and what items they needed to collect, and arranging when they would return to pick them up. They were still taking donations until the very last day when they were scheduled to bag up the items.
In the meantime, according to one proud mother, “The girls baked, marketed, and sold their hearts out all while doing classes and homework.” The orders coming in seemed overwhelming and, as a result, they baked late into the evening for weeks. They also held bake sales in front of their homes. The community stood behind the students’ project and, incredibly, the average price donated was USD 40 per baked good, with some giving up to USD 150 per baked good.
For three weeks, the students worked around the clock planning and baking, canvassing for and collecting donations. They categorized the items and organized the bagging area, far exceeding their goal as they spent five hours filling almost 400 bags. They distributed them the next day assisted by some young helpers. (Perhaps future TASIS boarders?) In the end, they had so much extra food, they were able to donate the leftover items to another employee group working on a similar project. And as well as collecting and bagging such a huge quantity of items, the students raised over SAR 15,000 (the equivalent of £2,900 or USD 4,000) with the generous support of the local community.
The project also proved to be a fine example of service leadership. Parents were keen to have their younger children learn about the project. When the boys returned to pick up the donated items, the youngsters were excited. A few wanted to participate, asking if they could help pass out donation bags. The boys promised they would drop off some bags so they could. Their mothers wrote back, saying it really taught their children about service, getting involved in their community, and empathy. In the words of the children, "It made my heart happy" and "It felt good to bring a smile to other people."
One mother in the community who makes soaps was preparing 50 bars for distribution. After hearing the TASIS boys talk about their project, her son was so happy to help her package them up, he put them into brown bags and added stickers before helping to pass them out.
You can see photos of the students in action in our Flickr album HERE.