Students take part in Generosity Day

On Feb. 14, in celebration of World Generosity Day, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Office of Community Outreach organized a visit to the West Coast Labor Camp in ...

Feb 15, 2014

On Feb. 14, in celebration of World Generosity Day, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Office of Community Outreach organized a visit to the West Coast Labor Camp in Mussafah, with more than 30 NYUAD students participating in the event.
Suparna Mathur, Assistant Director of Community Outreach at NYUAD, explained the idea behind World Generosity Day.
“World Generosity Day was founded by Acumen's Sasha Dichter as a global movement to ‘reclaim Valentine's Day’ for social good. Valentine's Day is a day to share joy with your loved ones, and this event was an opportunity to bring festive cheer through generosity and gratitude to women who are far away from their families and loved ones,” said Mathur.
The West Coast Labor Camp is home to about 130 women who currently work in the service sector, mostly in hotels and shopping malls. The majority come from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines. According to Mathur, West Coast is one of the smaller labor camps in Abu Dhabi, and its population is expected to increase by about 150 by March.
NYUAD students organized three activities at the labor camp. One group of students helped the residents write postcards to send home and took Polaroid pictures, which they could keep or choose to send home along with their cards. NYUAD agreed to help mail the cards after the event.
Another group enlivened the atmosphere with music and dance. The music selection included songs in English, Urdu, Hindi and Tagalog, aiming to make the residents of the camp feel more at home. Some students led dance workshops ranging from hip-hop and salsa to traditional Nepalese dance.
Outside, a third group of students worked together to paint a long stretch of wall. After three hours of work the wall’s original white color was transformed to a soft yellow shade, which helped brighten the women’s living space in the camp.
Students who visited the labor camp for the first time shared sentiments about the visit.
“I didn’t know what to expect about the labor camp or the living conditions of people there,” said freshman Sarah Hassan. “It was meaningful for me to meet the women laborers and see how they live, since they are very much parts of Abu Dhabi but are rarely acknowledged.”
Freshman Wafa Junaid cherished the opportunity to engage in conversations with the women in the camp.
“[The women] had many stories to tell and I was fortunate that they shared some of their lives with me,” said Junaid.
Others who have had previous experiences volunteering at labor camps also found the event meaningful.
“The energy and openness of the women [was] overwhelming in [a] beautiful sense,” said freshman Gabriel Figueroa Torres, who has been involved with teaching English in Abu Dhabi migrant communities.
"Two of the aspects I love the most about dancing were present: dancing as a way of learning from other cultures and dancing as a way to bridge and nurture cultural differences,” said Torres of his experience leading dance workshops at the West Coast camp.
Freshman Garreth Chan, however, felt that the volunteer program could have been improved to focus better on what the women needed instead of what students thought would be fun.
“I don’t think [the women] were getting much out of dancing and singing,” Chan said. “Many of them just wanted to have conversations. They wanted to know that somebody cared.”
The Office of Community Outreach believes that over time such initiatives will become more fruitful and have a more long-lasting impact on the community.
“This semester, we hope to continue adding color to our community by hosting similar events painting other labor camps and school classrooms in the UAE,” said Mathur.
 Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the population of West Coast Labor was expected to rise to 300 women in March. The population is expected to rise to about 280 women. 
Thinh Tran is a staff writer. Email her at 
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