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OXadventure LIFTS THE HEAVY WORK OF CARING

“WE want to inspire the youth to be global citizens to enrich their minds, to be future leaders, and to defeat racism in Kuwait by showing them what the lives back home, of the people who come here to help us are like, and how they come from hardship. Hopefully that’ll make them appreciate more how much we have and how much we’re given and not take for granted the things that we have and just to start living differently.” Says Nora Al Ruwaished, co-founder of the recently established OXadventure, an organization based in Kuwait to provide means for students, and now the general public, to travel to less fortunate countries as a volunteer, and experience the culture and learn about the heritage while helping others. Al Ruwaished and her partner, Saud Al-Juwaiyan have collaborated their passions to create OXadvanture, a platform they hope will provide unforgettable experiences and change the perspective of the Kuwaiti youth.

Question: What is OXadventure?
 Answer: OXadventure is a venture we decided to take on that basically provides the youth of Kuwait an opportunity to begin to make positive changes in the world and in their own country changing their attitudes to be stand up citizens and globalized citizens. We organize trips where volunteers can sign up and go to various parts of the world and help out. This could be through building a library or teaching someone how to read and write, or anything that would help the people of that country out. It’s not just about the charity work; volunteers learn the history of the places they work in and can experience what the people they are helping are going through and that way, they understand better why what they’re doing is important.

Q: What was the story behind starting up OXadventure?
A: Saud and I were in Kenya and we were thinking ‘this is very fun, we want to do this all the time. I want this to be my job. How can it be my job?’ There’s all these NGOs around the world and it’s normal for people to go abroad and do some charity work in other countries but we don’t have that platform in Kuwait. We thought ‘lets make the citizens of Kuwait a year-round opportunity to do charity work and travel and live outside their comfort zone with other people.” and we decided to implement the idea as an internship so that students can use the skills that they’ve learned to help people overseas, instead of just sitting in an office in Kuwait and probably not doing anything.
When they come back to Kuwait they have a different mindset and they would hopefully appreciate more and respect people more and start to do away with racism. So that’s how the idea started, and then after that it was just madness. Every day we met with new professors, businessmen, and the Ministry of Youth. Just anyone who would talk to us.

Q: How did you get OXadventure up and running?
A: We didn’t know what to do. It’s hard to start an NGO in Kuwait so we basically had a plan that we wanted to work in the universities and that’s pretty much where we started. When we approached the universities, they were happy we were doing something but there wasn’t anything to back it up. We had a plan that if we pilot a project and we bring them an entire safety packet, itinerary, budget, project background, why it’s important, and show it to them, then they can decide if they want to work with us or not. So Gulf University of Science and Technology (GUST) agreed and that meant that now we had a goal; to do the pilot project and come back and show it to them, so that’s what we did. In between, we were meeting with the Ministry of Youth, and we got a booth at Al Kout Market and P2BK. A lot of people supported the cause but weren’t sure of us because we were still young and didn’t have that much to start with. We started meeting new people and piloting other projects. We piloted Sri Lanka, India, and then Rwanda, and we also piloted Nepal recently. GUST accepted the India project and then we opened Rwanda up to the public, because we didn’t want to make it just for university students because it takes more time that way; it has to first go through the process of approval before being accepted. The Rwanda project, which is in August, is with many of our Instagram followers. We interviewed them and we set everything up, booked the tickets, got the visas and everything, and now we’re just waiting to go!

Q: How do you organize the trips?
A:  For the Rwanda trip we actually went to the places and met with NGOs, we figured out which hotel we were going to stay at, which village we were going to build in. We met with the people and talked to them, and designed the project background that gives you the history of the country and why it is so important to do the work. We organized the shots that everyone needs to get, and put together a package with emergency numbers, where we’re going to stay, embassy numbers and all that. Once we have all those, we have a plan. That’s basically how we do things for all the trips but with the ones open to the public, people have to apply for the trip through our website.
So far Rwanda is the only one for the public, but it is actually accredited as a 3-credit summer internship in the American University of Kuwait (AUK). India is for GUST, and we’re planning on open Nepal some time in the future, also for the public. The American International School of Kuwait (AIS) has also been working with us, because they want to do a mini charity trip so we’re working on that too.

Q: What kind of reaction is OXadventure receiving?
A: People are really responding well to it. Ooredoo is now sponsoring us annually. URC and some others sponsored the OXRwanda trip. We’ve been getting emails from China and other places. Big companies are supporting us and now, even the Ministry of Youth is with us. We’ve been in a few publications too now. We were in Bazaar and Habayibna magazine. The public really support us. Even if they can’t go they follow and comment on our Instagram and ask ‘if I can’t go how else can I help?’ and though we don’t have anything to offer them yet we’re working on having things done locally in Kuwait, so hopefully the people that can’t travel will be involved somehow. It grew so fast. It was just the two of us and we weren’t expecting it to take off like that, but we’re really happy.

Q: What’s the story behind calling your organisation OXadventure?
A: When I said ‘I want to start an NGO’ he said ‘I want to start a travel adventure company’ we thought, why not combine the two together and make the adventure and the travel part of the charity. Saud was saying he has this blog and this instagram account and he already had a lot of followers because he used to do hiking in the Himalayas. I saw his blog, and it needed a lot of work, but it was already up and running. He called his blog OXadventure because while hiking in the Himalayas he saw an ox, and oxen transport people and are globally respected and they’re labor workers and it fits what we’re trying to represent. Plus it looks cool on hats.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: We’re going to try to put four projects on the map per year. We’ll try to do them basically when there’s a holiday. We’re going to do a local program, and at the end of the year we’re going to have an event. We’ve been working with media companies in Kuwait so they’ll either come with us on the trips, or we’ll shoot the footage there and we work with them to do a documentary. Basically, the documentaries are either to capture the experience and highlight what was done on the trip or to tell the story or history of the place. We’re trying to change the mentality of Kuwaitis. We’re going to have a display of the photography we take and the documentaries will be available on our website too to watch. It’ll be open to the public and we’re planning on making it pretty big.

Biography

Nora Al Ruwaished, 26, was born on November 12, 1987, in Pomona, California. She lived in Kuwait on and off for the majority of her life, but returned to obtain her Bachelors in Mass Communication in 2011, and has since immersed herself in volunteer work and other projects around Kuwait. Nora has been a part of building projects in India and Kenya, and participated in leadership programs in Italy and Thailand. Nora has dreamt of becoming a travel writer since childhood.

By Dina Naser
Arab Times Staff


By: Dina Naser

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