Salamat. Shukriya. Issthuuthi. Nandri. These were just a few of the different languages in which our community said “Thank you” through this year’s NYU Abu Dhabi Holiday Drive to share our gratitude this December.
Whilst we often associate the holiday season as a time to spend with family, many workers in the region are a long way away from their loved ones. For this reason, the Office of Community Life and the Office of Community Outreach organized a holiday gift drive for 330 women from a local labor camp who often spend long periods of time away from their families. The drive consisted of in kind gifts such as non-perishable food items, chocolates, and items of daily necessity which were contributed by NYUAD students, faculty, staff and community members.
This holiday campaign was designed to include the whole campus community, with three holiday service events in addition to the gift drive: a family card making session; the care packing of the gift bags; and the dinner itself.
At the card-making event on Dec 9th, over 50 NYUAD family members joined in to create personalized gift cards to include along with the care packs. Children of staff and faculty colored in camels and palm trees, writing words on the cards such as ‘thank you’ and ‘joy’ in a variety of languages commonly spoken by the women; including Tagalog, Nepali, Sinhalese, Amharic and Malayalam. NYUAD community member Deb Waldman attended the card-making event with her two children. “We loved participating in the card making workshop—we benefit from the effort of so many who work so hard in Abu Dhabi. We also want our girls to be aware of the efforts of these workers, and to say thank you. It was tremendous fun and we all loved making the cards,” she said.
The care packing session was held during the lunch break on the following day Dec 10th with 35 students, staff and faculty stopping by during their working day to help package the gift bags. The student band ‘The 10th of December’ celebrated their four-year anniversary by playing live music to get people in a festive spirit.
"In this season of love and thanksgiving, it's always humbling to be a part of a movement that gives back to the people who give so much."
December 12th was the service finale holiday dinner and distribution event at the camp residences where 19 staff, faculty and community members joined ADvocacy student volunteers to serve dinner and home baked goods, organize activities such as bracelet making, and zumba dancing, as well as distribute the holiday gift bags. Faculty member Craig Protzel who joined the event with his spouse said, “It was a unique experience to share food, joy, and laughter with the women at their camp. The event provided a great opportunity to give back to a community of people who give so much of themselves to Abu Dhabi. I was amazed by the energy, commitment, and dedication of the students and staff and proud to be a part of the team.”
"Every bag was put together with love — from staff and faculty's donations to children's handmade cards to students' packaging efforts and delivery. The sense of community and unity is why I enjoyed my NYUAD experience so much."
The Holiday Drive is the culmination of student service efforts to help provide the women with social spaces through interactive workshops, including Fitness with a Mission and Livin La Vida Healthy nutrition programs. The women have long and tiring work days, and the Holiday dinner and care packs were organized to thank them for all they do for the Abu Dhabi community.
NYUAD faculty Goffredo Puccetti who supported the drive and also attended the dinner commented, “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to connect with people with stories so different from mine. My new year’s resolution is to be more proactive to get more involvement from my colleagues. And of, course, next time I am bringing the faculty band with me and we are going to rock the place!”
With the formation of a new NYUAD community service working group named NYUAD Heart, the Holiday Drive promises to grow as an annual community tradition, and students that volunteer through either ADvocacy or the Office of Community Outreach will continue to offer a diverse range of workshops to the women in the new year, in order to spread NYU Abu Dhabi’s mission of global education to as diverse a range of residents as possible.