Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building

The club has organized various projects including delivering essential food items to more than 200 people across Jeddah, as well as Eid clothing drives. (Supplied)
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The club has organized various projects including delivering essential food items to more than 200 people across Jeddah, as well as Eid clothing drives. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Eid Drive in collaboration with Keswat Alsayida Aisha. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Ramadan Middle School Iftar at AISJ. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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AISJ clothes donation bin in partnership with Kiswat Alsayida Aisha. Pictured: Ms. Kelsey Bull, principal of AISJ Middle School alongside Happiness Club founder Aya Shata. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Ramadan Food Drive. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Aya Shata volunteering with AlOula. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Eid Drive in collaboration with Keswat Alsayida Aisha. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Eid clothing drive with AlOula. (Supplied)
Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
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Eid drive with AlOula. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building

Student club brings smiles with charity and community-building
  • “Our activities have already had a significant impact,” Shata told Arab News

RIYADH: Aya Shata, 13, was on a mission to enhance mental well-being and school spirit when she started the Middle School Happiness Club at the American International School in Jeddah.

Engaging in charitable acts with her family, like distributing food packages or taking part in the Iftar Saem program during Ramadan, has been an important part of her life growing up.

By championing charitable and community growth initiatives within the learning institution, Happiness Club has quickly become an integral part of the school’s fabric to nurture social responsibility and personal development.




The club has organized various projects including delivering essential food items to more than 200 people across Jeddah, as well as Eid clothing drives. (Supplied)

The club was established recently but has quickly grown to include 30 members from various middle school grades. It is open to any student who wants to make a difference in the community. “Our activities have already had a significant impact,” Shata told Arab News.

The club has organized various projects so far, including a Ramadan food drive, where students delivered essential food items to more than 200 people across Jeddah, as well as multiple Eid clothing drives.

Shata, who is an accomplished athlete and an ambassador for the Saudi Gymnastics Federation, said: “Middle school is a time when many teens struggle with the stress of academic classes, making friends and loneliness. The Happiness Club can help us connect through acts of kindness and shared activities.




Aya Shata, American International School student

“I thought this club would be a great way to bring us all together, do good things for our community, and help us to balance school life with personal growth and community service.”

In the first Eid drive, the club organized a clothing collection across the school in partnership with Kiswat Al-Sayida Aisha. The young philanthropists gathered used clothes for all ages, which were then sorted and organized at Kiswat Al-Sayida Aisha’s facility. They also installed a donation bin in partnership with the organization at their school to collect clothes year-round.

Middle school is a time when many teens struggle with the stress of academic classes, making friends and loneliness. The Happiness Club can help us connect through acts of kindness and shared activities.

Aya Shata, American International School student

The club hascollaborated with AlOula, one of the Kingdom’s leading nonprofits, to distribute Eid clothing and iftar meals to orphans and other children in need. This is Shata’s third year working with AlOula and the club’s first. In the third drive, they visited families in Bahra to deliver toys, Eidiyat (or Eid money), and candy to children in need.

Egyptian student Amina Mohamed, 14, said that the club “is engaging in activities that promote positivity … we can put smiles on people’s faces, whether it’s seeing orphans, volunteering to donate clothes, or simply spreading kindness in our daily routine, I saw the Happiness Club as a platform to help make a difference in people’s lives and that’s why I joined it.”

The program has taught students of all ages and backgrounds about the power of community. “If we do this when we’re younger it grants us a better tomorrow and also because you get a good feeling when you’re giving to charity,” said 11-year-old Lebanese Moroccan student Rahaf Ibrahim.

At school, the club organized a Mother’s Day event in March in celebration of the dedicated caretakers of their community, as well as a middle school iftar during Ramadan.

The events brought together students, staff and families of various backgrounds, celebrating diversity as they all gathered around one table to share a meal and their collective experiences.

“It was a perfect example of how our club aims to bring happiness and unity to our community, fostering stronger connections and understanding among all participants,” Shata said.

Mahdiya Elegbede, a 13-year-old American student, said her biggest takeaways from joining the Happiness Club are learning the importance of kindness and creating significant impact on others’ lives.

“I hope to spread more charity and good in this school because I think it is a useful and nice thing to do. In the end, doing something good makes us feel good, as well as others, and that itself is wonderful. I am so grateful to join the MS Happiness Club this year, and I hope others will be inspired and will be more giving and kind, too,” Elegbede told Arab News.

Saudi student Hamza Al-Tayyar, 11, joined the club to give back to “my beautiful city of Jeddah,” while Aseel Al-Horaibi, 13, wanted to show how little things can impact others and spread positivity. “It taught me to be grateful for everything I have and never take anything for granted,” she said.

“I learned so much from all the activities we did, such as event planning and time management. One of the most important things is teamwork, and resolving conflicts as they arise,” 11-year-old Zuhair Al-Marzouki said. But ultimately, the true prize is what they can bring to others: “What is there better to give than happiness?

“I love to be in this group to share my ideas and time, and all resources possible to add one extra smile into this world,” Meral Noor, 12, said.

With immense support from the school administration, the club has many more plans underway to continue making a positive difference both inside and outside the school in Jeddah.

 


No normalization with Israel without Palestinian state, Saudi ambassador to UK says

No normalization with Israel without Palestinian state, Saudi ambassador to UK says
Updated 20 June 2024
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No normalization with Israel without Palestinian state, Saudi ambassador to UK says

No normalization with Israel without Palestinian state, Saudi ambassador to UK says
  • Prince Khalid bin Bandar was speaking at Chatham House’s London Conference
  • Said Kingdom’s position on Arab-Israeli conflict has never changed

LONDON: Saudi Arabia will not normalize ties with Israel at the expense of Palestinian statehood, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the UK said on Thursday.

Speaking at Chatham House’s London Conference, Prince Khalid bin Bandar said that normalization remained important to Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region because it would ensure peace, stability and security.
He admitted that “compromises would have to be made” to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, which he said affected the world in a way other conflicts did not.

“If what is happening (in Gaza) keeps happening, we are going to go down a path that is irreversible,” Prince Khalid said. 



“The further we get away from finding a solution, the more people lose hope, the more we’re at that point, it’s going to spread to a regional conflict. It’s important for everyone to recognisze the danger of what lies ahead. The conflict will not remain regional, it will become international very quickly,” he said.

But Prince Khalid said that normalization would be “irrelevant” until the plight of Palestinians was resolved.

“We believe in the creation of a Palestinian state and a solution to the conflict,” he said. “If it was easy, we’d have done it by now but without that, normalization is irrelevant. There is no point having normalization because we would still have conflict and conflict is the problem, not normalization.

“There is no point in discussing everything else until we find a solution. Once we do that, everything is on the table.”

Prince Khalid said that the Kingdom was “one of the most important countries in the region,” which had “leverage” in opening up the Arab and Muslim world to Israel and for it not to play a role in brokering a solution would be “silly.” 



But he added for that to happen, Israel “needs to play ball as well,” adding that the price for finding a solution was an independent Palestinian state.

The ambassador bemoaned how little global coverage the Saudi position on the crisis received, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent Hajj address, in which he reiterated calls for an immediate halt to attacks in Gaza.

“It’s important to recognize our position, which has never changed, despite people never listening to us,” Prince Khalid said.

“The crown prince’s positon, Saudi Arabia’s position, his majesty (King Salman)’s position, the government’s position and the will of almost every Saudi I know is we need a Palestinian state.



“The offer was made in the Arab Peace Initiative; on 1967 borders, a Palestinian state, a two-state solution and everyone lives happily ever after. It goes back to 1982, King Fahd presented the same offer, it has not been taken up, I find it mystifying.

“The crown prince stated very clearly, we need a ceasefire, an irreversible solution for the Palestinians and then there’s peace everywhere, it wasn’t even reported.

“It’s annoying and frustrating for us because the world assumes something totally different and that’s not helping the situation,” he said.


Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum

Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum
Updated 20 June 2024
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Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum

Specialist hospital organizes Advanced Therapies Forum
  • Event in Riyadh will bring together 30 representatives from various government organizations and academic institutions alongside advanced therapy manufacturing companies
  • Forum’s agenda seeks to build bridges between academic healthcare institutions, industry stakeholders, funding agencies, investors, regulators, and government agencies

RIYADH: The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center is set to host the Advanced Therapies Forum which will take place from June 23-24, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event in Riyadh will bring together 30 representatives from various government organizations and academic institutions alongside advanced therapy manufacturing companies. It will aim to foster a collaborative environment where industrial partners can showcase their research and forge strategic alliances with healthcare institutions.

The forum’s agenda seeks to build bridges between academic healthcare institutions, industry stakeholders, funding agencies, investors, regulators, and government agencies. It also strives to increase the number of clinical research studies in the fields of T-cell therapy and gene therapy.

Industrial partners, including pharmaceutical companies of all sizes, will have the opportunity to explore avenues for launching clinical research initiatives at KFSH&RC.

The forum will feature 15 keynote speeches, over 30 presentations on ongoing projects by industry leaders, five panel discussions, and numerous other sessions. The goal is to cultivate a shared vision for the future of advanced therapies in the Kingdom and to localize manufacturing technology for cellular and gene therapies.

In recent years, KFSH&RC has emerged as a beacon of hope for patients who faced limited treatment options, using genetically modified immune cells to successfully treat more than 120 individuals.

The journey began with a positive outcome for the first child from the region to be treated using T-cells. More recently, the hospital successfully applied advanced gene therapy to eight patients with hereditary hemophilia. The single-dose therapy effectively elevated levels of the missing clotting factor, empowering patients to reclaim their lives.

KFSH&RC has been ranked 20th among the top 250 academic healthcare institutions worldwide, according to SPA, and has held the top spot in the Middle East and Africa region for two consecutive years.

Currently, more than 30 gene and genetically modified cell therapies have been officially approved for clinical use. Experts predict that the global cell and gene therapy market is poised for exponential growth, outpacing the traditional pharmaceutical industry to surpass a staggering $50 billion annually by 2027.

It is estimated that more than 2 million patients will benefit from T-cell therapy within the next decade, with more than a thousand clinical research studies actively underway across the globe.


Award-winning Saudi film ‘Norah’ premieres in theaters across the Kingdom

A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”  was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema.
A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah” was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema.
Updated 20 June 2024
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Award-winning Saudi film ‘Norah’ premieres in theaters across the Kingdom

A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”  was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema.
  • “Norah” achieved great success at the 78th annual Cannes International Film Festival
  • Film was first screened last December at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it won the “Best Saudi Film” award

RIYADH: The award-winning Saudi film “Norah” made its premiere in the Kingdom on Thursday after its international success at the Cannes Film Festival.

A special screening was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema, where director Tawfik Al-Zaidi was in attendance alongside the film’s star, Maria Bahrawi, and her acclaimed co-stars Yaqoub Al-Farhan and Abdullah Al-Sadhan.

Al-Farhan told Arab News: “To be accepted in Cannes is an indication of how important this film is, and also an indication of how much progress the film industry (has made) here.

“Although it’s still the beginning of it, we’re starting to see the results of the huge work that’s happening right now.

“I’m very positive about the future. If this is the beginning, I think after five or 10 years, we’ll be seeing a lot of great films from Saudi.”

“Norah” achieved great success at the 78th annual Cannes International Film Festival, where it was the official selection for the “Un Certain Regard” competition, one of the most critical titles of the event. It also received the Special Mention from the jury, making it the most notably recognized Saudi film at Cannes.

The film takes place in a remote Saudi village in the 90s, where Norah (played by Bahrawi) dreams of seeing horizons beyond her small village. As a new teacher, Nader (played by Al-Farhan) makes his way to her hometown, and Norah’s world begins to open up through art, knowledge and creativity, leading her to discover more about her own family history.

“The fact that they chose me for the role only two weeks before production was a surprise for me. But, thankfully, my first role in a film was a success and reached international audiences. I’m very proud and happy that today it’ll be in cinemas and the world can see it, and I’m excited to see people’s reactions,” Bahrawi told Arab News.

While it was first screened last December at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it won the “Best Saudi Film” award, the nationwide cinema premiere is a culmination of the film’s journey to its intended audience: the Saudi public.

Bahrawi said: “The fact that they chose me for the role only two weeks before production was a surprise for me. But, thankfully, my first role in a film was a success and reached international audiences. I’m very proud and happy that today it’ll be in cinemas and the world can see it, and I’m excited to see people’s reactions.

“Since I was young, I’ve always dreamed of being an actress, and today I can say that I’ve reached that and acted in my first film as a lead role… AlUla was the city that made my first dream come true.”

Taking public participation even further, a competition was presented to the public last Thursday inviting all girls named Norah to play a part. About 500 girls took part, and two winners received tickets to the special pre-screening event.

“Norah” is the first Saudi feature to be filmed entirely in AlUla. “The city itself and its locations really complemented the film’s story, so that was a wonderful choice for the location,” Bahrawi said.

While the film is both Bahrawi’s debut on the big screen and Al-Zaidi’s first feature film, it was also a personal experience for Al-Farhan, who is widely known for his role in the TV mini series “Rashash.”

“There’s so many similarities between me and the character, which is why it’s a very personal project for me and it’s so dear to my heart, especially after the achievement of the Cannes Film Festival,” he said.

In preparation for the role, Al-Farhan spent time with a professional sketch artist in order to learn the craft for his role — even simple things like holding a pencil the right way.

He said that the beginning sketches featured in the film were his own work, but the final results were “by a real artist.”

Production was supported by the Film Commission through Daw, a national initiative to support and encourage Saudi filmmakers. The film also received support from Film AlUla, the Red Sea Film Fund and Generation 2030.

The inspiration for “Norah” came to Al-Zaidi in 2015 from his need to express something within him. In the same way that Al-Farhan’s character, Nader, portrays his feelings on sketchbooks and canvases, Al-Zaidi uses the big screen.

He told Arab News: “I’m a lover of art in all its forms, whether its music, drawing or visiting museums, cinema encapsulates all of these arts and shows them beautifully through a film’s crew.

“I wanted to create these emotions between two people who love art, Norah and Nader. Art is a means of communication between people, and a means of expression as well.”

As the Saudi film scene continues to develop and grow toward global horizons, Al-Zaidi is confident that the industry can overcome challenges.

“Challenges will always be there, but as they say, ‘success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan’ ... if you believe in yourself, you will get there,” he said.


Saudi pavilion at Beijing International Book Fair showcases KSA’s culture and history

Saudi pavilion at Beijing International Book Fair showcases KSA’s culture and history
Updated 20 June 2024
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Saudi pavilion at Beijing International Book Fair showcases KSA’s culture and history

Saudi pavilion at Beijing International Book Fair showcases KSA’s culture and history
  • Saudi Arabia was invited to participate at the event as guest of honor

BEIJING: Saudi Arabia, represented by its Heritage Commission, is taking part in the Beijing International Book Fair, which began on Wednesday and continues until Sunday. The Kingdom was invited to participate at the event as guest of honor.

The Saudi pavilion offers visitors a chance to learn more about the nation’s heritage, diverse culture, historical landmarks and overall historical significance, officials said. It includes displays featuring archaeological reproductions that illustrate the Kingdom’s rich culture and expansive history over thousands of years.

 

 


OIC marks World Refugee Day

OIC marks World Refugee Day
Updated 20 June 2024
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OIC marks World Refugee Day

OIC marks World Refugee Day
  • Hissein Brahim Taha called for prioritizing the humanitarian needs of vulnerable people forced to flee their homes due to wars, conflicts and natural disasters
  • Brahim Taha said that offering aid and protection to migrants is not only a humanitarian obligation, but also an Islamic duty

JEDDAH: Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha has reiterated the OIC’s support and solidarity with world refugees.

He called for prioritizing the humanitarian needs of vulnerable people forced to flee their homes due to wars, conflicts and natural disasters.

In a statement released on Thursday to mark World Refugee Day, observed annually on June 20, Taha expressed deep gratitude and admiration toward OIC member states for their efforts in providing refuge to displaced people.

He said that offering aid and protection to migrants is not only a humanitarian obligation, but also an Islamic duty.

Taha acknowledged that OIC member states shoulder the largest share of global responsibility in hosting more than half of the world’s refugees. He urged the international community to stand in support of the OIC member states and highlighted the importance of establishing equitable partnerships.

The secretary-general praised the pivotal role played by UNRWA in alleviating the suffering of Palestinian refugees.

He called on the international community to exert concerted efforts to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for its disregard of international laws.