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Raaida Mannaa

A unique experience in an astonishing country: Saudi Arabia and its commitment to volunteering

Por: Raaida Mannaa

For 10 days, invited by Warif, Princess Al-Anood Center for Youth Development, the National Representative of IAVE in Saudi Arabia, I had the extraordinary opportunity to tour the Kingdom, sharing a series of speeches and conferences on youth volunteering global networks and the work we are developing with our Global Youth Volunteers Initiative and our RED2021 Campaign.

Along with Sam Johnson, Founder of the Student Volunteer Army in New Zealand, and Issa Nesheiwat, Coordinator of Volunteers Programs at the Madrasati Initiative in Jordan, and guided by the leadership of Hammam AlJuraied, Manager of the Warif Center, and the enthusiasm of the committed members of his staff, we visited different Universities around the country, where we shared our experiences and also heard from the students and leaders of volunteer clubs and the numerous of impressive social-based projects they are working on.

West to East: From Jeddah to Dammam 

Our trip began in the city of Jeddah, where Othman AlHuzaim, Coordinator of Public Relations of Warif, welcomed us. In Jeddah, the largest seaport on the Red Sea, we visited Dar Al-Hekma College and King Abdulaziz University and spend some quality time with a group of women students, all developing a series of projects that use the power and dynamism of young volunteers to tackle different social issues in the city.

From the western coast we moved to Dammam, the capital of the eastern province and the most oil-rich region in the world, where we had the chance to visit Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University and share a dialogue with a group of volunteer leaders and social entrepreneurs of the area at the Al-Turki Group Business Tower, located in Khobar. It was fascinating to learn about their work, their plans and the different struggles they have to face, but most of all, understanding how their social consciousness is an inherent part of who they are.

The beauty of Saudi Arabia captured in some images.

The beauty of Saudi Arabia captured in some images.

Riyadh, the growing capital

The last stop of our journey took us to Riyadh, the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia, located in the center of the Arabian Peninsula; a place that has transformed itself into a leading metropolis in less than 80 years. In Riyadh, not only we had the opportunity to speak at Al-Faisal and King Saud Universities, both leading higher education Institutions in the country, but we were also coaches of a training program coordinated by Warif and the General Presidency for Youth Welfare.

The main goal of the program was to train 25 females and 25 males from all the regions of the Kingdom on a week forum, addressing topics such as volunteering, creativity, innovation and global networking. The group of trainees who completed the program have to go back to their communities and train 100 person each, multiplying the impact of the opportunity they got and spreading the message of volunteering and its importance for the development of society. The team of Warif, which celebrated their first anniversary on March 17th, will keep track of their work and provide a series of tools that will enable the growth of each of the trainees and the expansion of the Center all around the country.

With one of the posters promoting our conference at Al-Faisal University, in Riyadh.

With one of the posters promoting our conference at Al-Faisal University, in Riyadh.

Warif, volunteering and the Saudi society

Warif’s existence emerged as a result of Princess Al-Anood Charitable Foundation’s commitment to the needs of the Saudi society, and to keep up with development and cultural movement in the Kingdom. According to the Ministry of Economy and Planning last statistics, youth between 15 and 24 make up nearly 21% of the Kingdom’s population. Therefore, the importance of youth’s role in the society became the Foundation’s absolute concern. Warif focuses in the development of youth, encouraging their participation in voluntary work and offering funds for voluntary qualitative youth initiatives. In addition, the Center offers training and creates awareness using both traditional and social media. In just a year, Warif has build itself as recognized Center in the Kingdom with strong international partners and wide-reaching presence, launching a good number of initiatives that serve young people and aim at raising the knowledge about the concept of volunteering.

During our stay in Riyadh, we also had the opportunity to meet with Prince Nawaf bin Faisal Al Saud, President of the General Presidency for Youth Welfare; Mr. Mohammed Saleh Al Grnass, Vice President of Youth Welfare; Prince Saud bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Princess Al-Anood Philanthropic Foundation and Dr. Yousif AlHuzaim, Secretary General of the Foundation and CEO at Al-Anood for investment. As leaders, they all share the concern of the citizens and are engage in a continuous search for innovative ways to use the energy that people have to volunteer, knowing that the country is rapidly understanding the true meaning volunteering and the impact it has in building a more tolerant society.

Sharing a traditional meal with the team. From left to right, Othman, Sam, Issa, myself, Hammam and Muradi.

Sharing a traditional meal with the team. From left to right, Othman, Sam, Issa, myself, Hammam and Muradi.

Having the opportunity to see Saudi Arabia with my own eyes and getting to experience its culture and traditions for the first time was, definitely, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I left inspired by the commitment of its people, their understanding of the impact of social work, and their eagerness to learn from others and share their experiences. I left moved by their stories and encouraged by the importance they placed on training and studying what the world of volunteering worldwide has to offer. I left with many lessons learnt, a group of new good friends, and the message of a country that is taking huge steps in order to be the best they can be, knowing that serving others is the greatest way to build a harmonious community.

The welcoming spirit of the Saudi people, their concern to do good for their society and their awareness on the positive impact that volunteering has in their country, made the journey a unique experience full of stimulating stories, long-term connections and a series of new ideas to collaborate in the near future. Shokran kteer Warif team and see you soon Inshallah!

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ni dictadura de votos ni democracia de botas

27 marzo 2013 a las 3:35

I can’t help wondering what a person with a non-Arabic background and no otherwise committed to the Saudi propaganda would be writing about an absolutist monarchy in which the people completely lack any rights and everything they have is provided by the royal family; everything but the ability to chose their own laws and government. Cultural and historical treasures? without a doubt. But is there any social evolution or development aside of a paternalist monarchy that “shares” a minute part of their enormous wealth with the their subjects???

    Opinión por:


    27 marzo 2013 a las 4:11

    The idea of this post is not to discuss the political issues of a country like Saudi Arabia. This text seeks to narrate some details about my personal impressions when sharing our experiences on international volunteering with different groups of students, volunteers and young social leaders around the Kingdom. You may say we were lucky, and indeed we were; we got to see an optimistic face of the country, one that is trying to find its way by spreading the message of a possible and doable positive social transformation among the new generations. It doesn’t matter where I am from or what my background is, I can assure you that anyone would be impressed with the incredible hard work that the Saudi youth are doing for the good of their society. Do they face struggles? Many, of course, and of many kinds, not only political, governmental and/or religious-based issues, but they do not let struggles define them. In fact, Saudi youth are tired of being categorised by the outside world only for their believes. They are committed to show the impact they can have and eager to explore new opportunities, create strong international partnerships and seek for innovative and creative ways to serve others. Again, all this is based on personal impressions, that’s why I feel comfortable enough to share it in a blog post. Thank you for your comment!

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