Kuwait philanthropist on mission to 'Draw a Smile' |
Kuwait Times - 12 July, 2012
It is a bit after 11.30am in the parking lot near McDonald’s in Rawda. Under the scorching furnace, a convoy of trucks unloads a flock of workers at the end of their work day.
Dressed in blue overalls, in a nanosecond the 300 men form a meandering line around a pile of boxes with food, juice and water. On the other side of the line is Bibi Al-Ayoub, an inspirational Kuwaiti woman who raises money for disadvantaged people living in Kuwait.
Al-Ayoub grabs a bag with a meal and drink and distributes it to the workers, one by one. Beside her stand two other Kuwaiti women, Khawla and Aisha, who had donated the money to pay for the food drive that day. “All donors are involved with our “Draw a Smile” campaign.
I want them to feel what we feel when we help out those less privileged than us. That is why they are here today,” said Al-Ayoub, handing a meal to Aneeth, a twenty-something boy from India.
Khawla, a mechanical engineer, said she feels appreciative that she could help people in need. After she spotted a Twitter announcement about the campaign she immediately became involved.
“Being charitable is an important tenet of our religion. It is about helping people and about humanity,” Khawla said, while handing out meals to the workers.
Al-Ayoub, a computer science teacher and a mother of two grown children, initiated the “Draw a Smile” campaign last August when she realized she wanted to contribute her time and energy to a social cause.
“I wanted to do things for others,” she recalled. Every two months Al-Ayoub has a different humanitarian mission and helps take care of different categories of people in need. For the past three months, low-wage workers taking care of the trees and greenery around Kuwait have been the focus of her campaign.
The initiative, however, is not only about putting a smile on someone’s face, but about giving hope to those less privileged who live far from home. “It is the feeling that somebody cares for us that makes us happy every day,” said Saathi, a worker from India.
Holding the bag of food before boarding the bus that would take him to his accommodation on the outskirts of Kuwait, Saathi turns around with a smile and says: “I feel happy… Every day the food is different.”
At this point, Al-Ayoub’s task is partly completed because she has also taken up the responsibility to show teenagers about “the hell” these workers live in. To fulfill this part of her mission, on different donation days Al-Ayoub takes children of friends or relatives to help out and learn about life on the other side of the social spectrum. Her brother’s children, Jassem and Lateefa, are tirelessly helping with the food distribution.
“I learn how to give smiles to others,” Jassem says. For Lateefa, being there for another human-being is “a blessing.” On the other hand, Saleh, 17, whose mother is one of the campaign’s donors, agrees that being part of “Draw a Smile” has been an eye-opener for him. “I learnt that helping these people is the best thing I have ever done. It is very hot, but when I see them smile I feel good,” he said, brushing sweat from his forehead.
On a different day, a local restaurant delivered the food for the workers in a co-venture with “Draw a Smile”. Hashtag restaurant has started their Plus One order initiative, meaning that KD 1 will be added to a customer’s bill and with each Plus One a meal will be provided to a low-paid worker. Once the restaurant collects a large number of meals, they deliver them to Al-Ayoub, who distributes them.
Hashtag is contributing to each Plus One donation as well, said Dari Alhuwail, co-owner of Hashtag. For him, being part of the campaign and giving out the meals to the workers “was a great feeling.” He said, “You strive to make a difference in society. When you stand in the hot sun you put yourself in their shoes. Then, just seeing them thanking you is an extraordinary feeling.”
Stressing that in Kuwait nobody dies of hunger, Dari says that the campaign helps “draw a smile on their face.” Doing good makes all of those involved return day after day. After embarking on the charity project, Al-Ayoub finds it hard to stay away, even for a day.
“I go to collect the food at 8am and come to deliver it. I am inspired by all of them. I want to help them with all my heart,” the philanthropist, Al-Ayoub, says and adds: “Those who would like to help can find me here,” she says, and waves goodbye after making sure that every worker has received their meal. “I will be here every day.”