Philanthropy is a common theme associated with the rich, with those of high social status that seek to repay the community. Whether they are genuine about said acts of kindness or simply performing a PR stunt, is a topic for another day.
But let’s wait a minute and ask ourselves: does it only have to be associated with the rich?
Over the course of the winter holiday, three of our students, Yara el Masry, Alaa Boushehri and Khaled Ahmed, went to Thailand to help and to give back to the community, while experiencing a distinct new culture. What followed was a grueling yet gratifying week filled with labor-intensive community service.
Hold on a minute..? Hard labor? Who said the only way to help was through donating money?
Encompassing this mission, were three distinct ideas, each different yet tied to the same principle.
Our education is of the highest standard, duly provided by the New English School, yet how does it compare globally? Spending the day in a local school, teaching Thai kids how to speak English – ranging from the human anatomy to simple familial relationships such as a mother and her daughter – is an experience I’ll never forget. They knew all this of course, but to teach them in a foreign language proved quite difficult yet fulfilling as they started to memorize and learn. The Thai students had barely anything compared to what our school offered, with little resources and facilities, yet they all shared the same thing: a passion for learning and a child-like curiosity for the unknown that was demonstrated by their enthusiasm to learn what we had to offer.
On the other side of the spectrum, we were tasked with helping an elderly couple that was on the verge of their 65th anniversary together. Meet Chayond and Kannika. What astounded us was the fact they were active farmers at the age of eighty-one and eighty-three! They lived a simple and fruitful life. With old age, however, comes physical hardship, and no longer could they pick and choose when to harvest their crops.
That’s where we came in.
To protect the crops from predation and weathering, we built a roof, sturdy and strong. It took two days, and a lot of sweat, but the look on their faces, knowing that we helped them, made it all worth it.
Somewhere in between the youth and the elderly, was a single mother around forty years old with two kids. They lived in a humble shack. The mother, Kim Sook, would go hunting for Thai delicacies such as frogs and crabs, each morning, for little over ten dinars a month. The idea of supporting herself with such a measly amount is incomprehensible let alone her two kids. We were to continue an ongoing six-month project. Toiling with sweat, we had to make cement, and then build layer upon layer of bricks, slowly turning into fully fledged walls. Progress for the house as a whole was undoubtedly slow, yet we did not want to leave her empty-handed. We were a group of twenty people, each bringing with them a five times what she earned in a month, for a week. The math is self-explanatory. If we all gave a little back to the community, the total will most certainly be anything but little.
Now I ask you this dear reader, what is it that ties these three ideas together?
It is the fact that they were all brought to life by us. Normal people. In some ways, the trip to Thailand was philanthropic, yet I do not see any of us with vast swathes of wealth nor a national reputation that requires constant maintenance. The idea is simple, if you want something done, do it yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to start, or someone older, or someone with better social status or more money. If not now, then when? If not me, then who? You just have to do it yourself, and you will be surprised how one idea can make a big impact.