When Sheryll Mairza founded Operation HOPE in 2005, there was little desire beyond just simply helping people. In a letter on her website that clearly documents her own struggle of how best to come to terms with being a “have” in a world that is increasingly populated by growing swaths of “have not’s,” she began in an earnest attempt to rectify these two worlds (the website is worth a visit to read the letter alone, if nothing else). But by such humble thoughts are new beginnings built—and with the support of her family and friends in that early year, she began putting together the building blocks of a charity that is committed to helping people in ways both big and small.
For them, the story is in the name, with the acronym itself meaning Helping Others Practically & Everyday, without discrimination or disrespect to anyone. A grassroots humanitarian outreach campaign that is motivated by compassion to alleviate suffering in Kuwait, this non-profit is able to serve those in the greatest of need through the support of the local and international community. Since 2005, more than 30,000 bags of winter clothing have been distributed to impoverished third country nationals working locally here in Kuwait.
However, in the years following their first, the outreach of OH Kuwait has grown to include tangible support including toiletries, blankets, bedrolls, and foodstuff to embassy shelters; visits to farmhands in need of shoes, blankets, and food at Kuwait’s borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia; visits to local jails to deliver blankets and toiletries for detainees; to being the “soil” for start-up outreaches such as Trash to Treasure and Broken to Beautiful, which offer training for shelter wards in embassies to learn new skills in order to become self-sufficient upon repatriation. Both of these visionary outreaches are now autonomous, having been launched with the support they needed from OH – Kuwait.
Additionally, as an organization that recognizes the importance and value of community service, they have developed a program for local students called “Schools in Action for HOPE”, which encourages students involvement through organizing and participating in collection drives for non-perishable foods, clothing, blankets, and shoes. Students, under the direction of their teachers and administrations, may engage at any level with serving Kuwait’s neediest through this comprehensive program. Many of them learn to appreciate what they have been blessed with and begin to contemplate their civic responsibilities with fresh eyes. This 360 approach to the act of giving only further helps their goals in the long run as more members of our society become educated and engaged in helping those in need.
During the first six years of serving Kuwait’s neediest, OH Kuwait has been humbly based in a tent located in the founder’s yard—a testament, no doubt, to how passionately they believe in their cause. With the recent blessing, however, of a magnanimous father-in-law, as well as added help from Betsy Roose, Becky Peacock, Laurie Williams, Teresa Al Alban, and the British Ladies Society of Kuwait, they have since been able to build HOPE house as their new all-purpose facility, complete with adequate storage for all donations received, an area for volunteers to sort and label all bins holding their donations, as well as a bathroom facility for their volunteers to access when necessary. While these may seem like basic necessities for any organization to operate, it is at least notable that they managed to serve more than 26,000 needy men, women, and children out of the tent before even getting to their new building.
Their newest initiative, Esther’s Attic, is a re-use project meant to further their ability to help others. As donations are sorted, volunteers identify high-end items, which can be used more efficiently through funds raised by their change of ownership through donations to the community. Cash donations received through Esther’s Attic, located within the newly built HOPE House, are then channeled into the ongoing initiatives of Operation HOPE – Kuwait.
It should also be mentioned that Operation HOPE has helped families who have encountered temporary financial difficulties, delivered food and clothing to farm workers in remote desert areas, and supplied airfare home to third country nationals recovering from tuberculosis. This willingness to recognize the many disparate causes of true need, and the ability to adapt solutions as needed, seems to be at the heart of an organization that is truly committed to the goals they have stated, and recognize that at times, the answer can be difficult, or less than straight forward.
As for how people can get involved and lend a helping hand, there are several ways, and they are open to your involvement. If you are able to make a financial contribution, volunteer a few hours of your time, or donate gently used clothing or household items please reach out to them—it will truly be appreciated!
You can find more information online at http://www.ohkuwait.orgor reach them via email at hope@ohKuwait.org or volunteer@ohKuwait.org. You can also drop off donations at: Rumaithiya, Block 9, Street 92, House 23 on Saturdays 7am – 9am and Tuesdays 8am – 10am and 5pm – 7pm. Reach them by phone at 9937 5613 for more information.