It is said that happiness begins with contentment. Perhaps those less fortunate have mastered this tactic – the very same tactic that the privileged seem to find nearly impossible. All that glitters is gold in our town, and less is definitely not more. More is the only way in most people’s eyes. It is a harsh reality, but it is true.
When is the last time you did something for the first time? When did you last stare into a sunset as opposed to a luminous screen, or found yourself beaming at a child’s laughter? Have you ever worn the same clothes for three days without a shower, and thought that you were lucky? Lucky, because the situation was not your everyday reality, but rather a trial of your willpower that eventually had an exit route back to your comfort zone? OXadventure volunteers do so on every trip, and although the projects change, the volunteers are strangers and the countries vary – the lessons learned are valuable and irreplaceable and everyone goes home with a new family, broadened mind and newfound appreciation for simplicity.
A glimpse of a starving African child on television may happen to catch a viewer’s eyes and even their emotions for a few minutes, but as quickly as it enters the mind, as quickly as it usually exits. The dollar that was requested to make a difference will most likely not be sent, and even if it is, one can never know where that dollar went – whose mouth it fed. Feeling sorry for a brief moment in time that somewhere very far away from one’s existence is a child, who hasn’t had a proper meal in their entire life, is not the same as seeing it first hand. Then there are those who see it first hand in their own backyard (such as Kuwait) yet turn a blind eye, allowing the vicious cycle of poverty to florish without even a flicker of disapproval.
Despite the denial and the hush-hush attitude commonly exhibited about the way in which domestic, service and labor workers are treated in Kuwait, it does not make the problem non-existent. While slavery is illegal, the modern day slavery that occurs in Kuwait today is ever prevalent and swept under the rug. Our silence is not changing these victims’ lives for the better and without action from each individual, justice cannot be brought to this inhumane situation.
OXadventure is a Kuwaiti based non-profit company, which was started by the youth, for the youth, and takes participants out of their comfort zones to travel and explore atypical countries while giving back to the impoverished communities through education, sustainable development and income-generating activities.
OXadventure volunteers do their best to build the bridges between international borders and to repair international relations, and though their efforts might still occur on a small scale, it is with deep passion. As much as is it our desire to help others around the world simply for the sake of giving others a better chance at living a sustainable lifestyle, this desire to elicit change also stems from a deep-rooted embarrassment, a generation that is tired of accepting a stigma about how we’ve come to accept the condition of laborers in our country. A large majority of youth recognizes that laborers, who make up 70 percent of our country, essentially represent our economic backbone. They leave what is considered as an already painstakingly difficult lifestyle in their home countries to come serve us, leaving their loved ones behind just to put a small bit of food on the table. Whenever anyone says the typical, “They have better lives and make more money living here, so we are doing them a favor,” I beg, ask yourself if you could leave your families to be someone’s slave/worker/nanny/maid for a little bit comfier of a bed, simple food and hopefully extra money. That is, if your employer actually pays you. I have witnessed housekeepers survive off of nothing but white rice, seen elderly women be forced to give massages until arthritis is developed in their hands and fingers, salaries withheld because the children of the household broke a plate and the maids were blamed, passports confiscated and cell-phones taken away. If this isn’t bad enough, some undergo sexual abuse and extreme neglect. To state that suffering and pain reflects in their eyes, is an understatement. These humans have lived through hell and have no one to seek help, love or support from. If this is not a form of slavery, then what is?
The youth of Kuwait are not satisfied with the backwards attitude that our society has adopted with regards to this sensitive issue, and because of this, are traveling to countries to improve the livelihood of others, setting positive examples for their peers and families in Kuwait. They are adapting humanitarian practices in their homes and in the Kuwaiti community when they return, and they are leaders and fine examples of what we would like to see future Kuwait become. Since its inception, OXadventure has completed a project in India, Rwanda and Nepal in 2014.
OXRwanda consisted of a restoration project in collaboration with Survivors Fund (SURF) in Rwanda. The restoration was for four houses of the survivors of the 1994 genocide, which left 1 million massacred in only 100 days. The homes were set for demolition, but the volunteers spent their time and hard work to paint, cement, reconstruct the walls that were falling over, plaster and give hope to the families who were about to give up. They also put together a bookstore with Q8 Books donating over 100 books – fiction and non-fiction, as well as educational material for the teachers. We were able to sponsor one primary school girl’s school tuition and one Master’s student’s tuition, furbish a woman’s home, deliver 22 used laptops that were collected and repaired in Kuwait, and enjoyed hearing the rich history of Rwanda, and the country’s miraculous recovery from the genocide to becoming the country with the safest and cleanest capital in Africa.
During their OXNepal project, OXadventure teamed up with Partnership for Sustainable Development (PSD) to complete their charity work. Over the course of 10 days, the team experienced Nepal and all its beauty by trekking and camping in Pokhara for 5 days, and then the team of 17 youth made their way to Kathmandu. The team restored Garma Sudhar School in Kathmandu Valley and built a basketball court to encourage the children to play sports and be active and healthy while keeping them off of the streets. In collaboration with Q8 Books, a non-profit library in Kuwait, the team arranged a library for the children to engage in leisurely or studious reading. Also they provided textbooks for all ages. In collaboration with Teacher’s Cellar, a teachers resource supply company in Kuwait, the team was able to donate teacher’s resources to help aid the teachers in educating the students as efficiently as possible. A cement pathway was created to prevent the school from flooding and cancelling classes during the monsoon season. The artists in the group gathered together to paint murals on the classroom walls and repair the chalkboards, providing a more inspiring and pleasant educational ambiance.
As for the smiles that we see along our journey, one can only imagine that although they are poverty-stricken and lacking in basic amenities, they stay true to their customs, their belief systems and their families. They know the value of everything in life, including education, food and livelihood. They know what a hard day’s work feels like and how it pays off to provide every bit they can for their families. They stay close to the earth and they respect it, in turn the earth respects them. If only we could say the same about our own country and our own people, what a different world we might live in. I can only hope that the youth of today will lead to a new Kuwait tomorrow. One in which we respect others equally as citizens of the world, which accepts differences as a learning experience and a world which learns to appreciate and to have strong work ethics as opposed to self-entitlement and being stagnant.
OXadventure strives to fulfill their premise of making sustainable development a viable option for all, helping others around the world help themselves. It is the organization’s firm belief that education is a key player in eradicating poverty and that sustainable development projects and volunteerism are not options, they are necessities. Modern day slavery, and while the modern sense of the term might vary on a technicality, is inhumane and unacceptable and the youth are doing their part to actively challenge what has become a norm and break the cycle. They are becoming the voice for those that are too afraid or incapable. All are citizens of the world and some are more fortunate than others. Sharing, educating and cross-cultural exchange are elements in life that can inspire and change an individual in ways they may never expect. No one can tell you the exact journey you will have…instead you must take the opportunity and write your own story…exactly the way you want it to be written. By the end of an OXadventure trip, one thing is promised though – the soul will appreciate the simple joys and life and the secret to happiness will be that much closer.