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Small acts of kindness from students draw smiles on citizens’ faces

By Camille Dupire - Sep 09,2018 - Last updated at Sep 09,2018

Student volunteers take part in community service activities during the LOYAC Open Day in Amman on Saturday (Photo courtesy of LOYAC Facebook page)

AMMAN — On the occasion of its 10 year anniversary, the Lothan Youth Achievement Centre (LOYAC) on Saturday organised a community service Open Day across the Kingdom, which saw the participation of over 430 young student volunteers.

A non-profit organisation established in 2008 in Jordan, LOYAC aims to encourage active citizenship in Jordan’s youth by providing them with opportunities to improve their personal skills and careers, by developing a culture of volunteerism, according to its website.

“To celebrate this very special date, we gathered over 436 student volunteers who took part in a variety of initiatives around the country, with the aim of spreading the culture of helping and feeling with others,” LOYAC Jordan project manager Hiba Hamaideh told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

For 21-year-old volunteer Asma’ Al Masaeed, this event was a game changer. “We as young people have an idea according to which you cannot give without money. But, after this Open Day, the volunteers and I realised that making a kid smile and happy costs nothing. Yet, the impact of that smile will last forever,” she told The Jordan Times after the event. 

She was part of the two activities implemented in Irbid Governorate, which happened in parallel with a number of events across Tafileh, Maan, Amman and Karak, among other governorates.

In Amman, hundreds of student volunteers gathered in Jabal Luweibdeh’s National Gallery of Fine Arts’ park, where they were briefed on the aims and vision of community service, before being dispatched in groups of 20 to 30 students across the capital.

“Every Jordanian student has to complete at least 16 hours of community service in order to graduate and LOYAC strives to accompany them in this journey, by giving them opportunities to give back to their community, without expecting anything in return,” Hamaideh explained.

Among the Open Day activities was the “An Apple for A Smile” initiative, which saw around 30 volunteers tour Jabal Luweibdeh’s public spaces, with the aim of making pedestrians laugh and smile before handing them out an apple.

“Through the ‘Apple for a Smile’ activity, we wished to spread the happiness in the community and encourage people to stay healthy by linking their smile with an apple,” volunteer Monther Sanwar, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student, highlighted.

A volunteering with LOYAC for more than four years, Sanwar said that “more and more people are getting involved in the voluntary work each year”.

“This Open Day was about serving LOYAC’s main goal, which is establishing and spreading the culture of voluntary work in the community and I am very happy and lucky to have participated in what I think was a great success,” he told The Jordan Times.

“This ‘Apple for A Smile’ is a simple act that draws smiles on people’s faces, as randomly as one can do. Nowadays, people tend not to laugh or smile anymore and our activity sought to reinstill that habit,” Hamaideh pointed out, noting that, despite some initial reluctance, citizens all “gladly engaged” with the volunteers.

“We had some ladies refuse to take part in the activity at first, because the volunteers who approached them were only male. But, as soon as we brought other female volunteers, they happily tried the activity,” she remembered.

Meanwhile, another group of students came up to customers sitting in cafes and restaurants, offering them the chance to experience their meal as blind people.

“We asked them to close their eyes and taste their food without using their eyesight. Then, we asked them to reflect on their experience. This way, they learned how to feel with visually impaired people,” Hamaideh explained, stressing how such activities help people “feel with others, whatever their abilities are”.

The Open Day also included cleaning the Eshta fina forest in Ajloun through waste recycling, beautifying the Talal Al Ali school for girls and visiting an elderly home, among others.

In Irbid, Al Masaeed took part in two of the Open Day activities: the blood donation event and the SOS children’s village play day.

“Supervising and playing with the children from the SOS children’s village Irbid was the most beautiful giving feeling I ever had. We took them to Galaxy Park where we played with them, drew Batman and butterflies on their faces and started a party contest for some of the children,” the finance graduate said, stressing that knowing she made at least one kid happy means she reached her goal.

“All these initiatives seek to make young students learn how to be kind and feel with others, whether the elderly, the blind or other groups, and make them do selfless acts, without expecting financial or other kind of retribution,” Hamaideh concluded, noting that, as of the end of 2017, LOYAC reached over 13,179 student volunteers around the Kingdom.

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