Muscat: Children from the orphan care centre in Al Khoud had a fun day out at Qurum Park last Thursday, thanks to an initiative undertaken by some warm-hearted Omani youth.
About 40 of the orphans, aged 9 to 15 years, spent the afternoon and evening jumping on a bouncy castle, playing a life-sized Snakes and Ladders game, getting their faces painted, and watching live music and plays. The event was hosted by alumni of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme, which is funded by the United States Department of State and provides scholarships for secondary school students to spend a year studying in the US.
The students are selected by Amideast, the American organisation that supports educational activities in the Middle East.
"When we were in the States, we noticed the youth are very involved in serving their community. We wanted to apply that in Oman in a way that fits our society," said Has'san Al Busaidi, the vice-president of the YES alumni campaign working with the orphans.
Al Busaidi and other YES alumni approached the orphanage about doing a one-day event for the children, but instead it turned into a big campaign with members of the alumni spending a few hours each week doing activities at the orphanage.
"They need good influence from youth in their lives. They need someone to educate and interact with them. We play with them and teach them some basic English," he explained. He said being able to volunteer at the orphanage is overwhelming. "Doing good is always good for the heart. When you give back it feels good that you can draw a smile on someone's face. That's exactly what we want to do today," he said.
There were about 20 YES alumni at the event, and a lot of volunteers from the Amideast Access Programme, which provides English classes to Omani high school students from underprivileged families. American exchange students who are part of the YES programme here in Oman also volunteered their time.
Dylan Hoey, from Wisconsin (United States), said he and the other American exchange students were very keen to do volunteer activities in Oman.
Even American Ambassador Greta Holtz came out to the park to spend time with the orphans. She said the US embassy is very supportive of Amideast's events.