Giving Back Is Its Own Reward

Student volunteers Rabiya Imran and Sharif Ibrahim El Shishtawy Hassan make dinner preparations at Inaugural Service Day.

Collaborative. Memorable. Rewarding. Fun. NYU Abu Dhabi's Inaugural Service Day volunteer initiative, organized by the Office of Community Outreach and ADvocacy student interest group, was an amalgamation of all these emotions and experiences.

More than 50 student volunteers boarded buses for Abu Dhabi to meet with dozens of women who provide cleaning services in the city. Students arrived bearing gifts like clothing and handmade jewelry, and hosted activities and a dinner to bring everyone together.

"Even from behind the looking lens of the camera, I was able to capture the essence of emotion," said student photographer Gugandeep Banga (Class of 2019), "like a meaningful moment of a woman talking in her native language with someone who may have reminded her of a daughter, son, or friend. The outdoor courtyard was filled with an abundance of appreciation from the women and volunteers alike."

Being involved as a student, he added, is an experience that is rewarding and unforgettable. "Inaugural Service Day took only a few megabytes of my camera's memory card but will spend a lifetime in my own memory."

Event organizers collectively said they were moved by the "contagious passion and commitment" shown by the students. "The ladies’ faces lit up with every decorated photo frame, fun polaroid, colorful bracelet or origami made."

Inaugural Service Day is held every year in September and aims to connect NYUAD students with people in Abu Dhabi and the region who would benefit from an extra show of support. Additional volunteer events take place throughout the academic year, including weekly visits to this same group of women where students lead dance, music and well-being workshops.