Students combat climate change

June 14, 2022
Northwestern Qatar students have traveled to Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, Kenya, and Zambia in the past to participate in service-learning trips that focus on global issues and provide opportunities for students to gain a deeper understanding of societal issues. This year students traveled to Malaysia to learn more about that country’s efforts to curb deforestation through agroforestry.
“Service-learning programs,” Marwan M. Kraidy, dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar, noted, “help students increase their understanding of civic engagement while they continue their studies in the classroom. This integration of service-learning with their academic program promotes a deeper involvement in intellectual growth, leadership development, and personal and social growth.”
Indeewaree Thotawattage, assistant director of the student experience, has led several of these trips for Northwestern Qatar. She said that the trip to Malaysia offered students the opportunity to learn more about the environment while contributing to the local community.  “Students delved into issues surrounding climate change: understanding their carbon footprints, learning about food security, environmental degradation, palm oil’s environmental impact, and consumer responsibility,” she said, “and contributed to the rehabilitation efforts of the Malaysian rainforests by replanting over 300 saplings and planting nearly 100 trees during our visit.”
Among the 19 students participating in this year’s program was Chadi Lasri, who said the trip helped him grow as a storyteller who is passionate about the environment. “I initially thought, why plant trees in a country full of trees,” said Lasri, “but then I learned that deforestation in Malaysia is a serious global issue that is often underreported.”
By helping local communities in Malaysia’s rural town of Gua Musang mitigate the impact of deforestation, Lasri said he also learned the importance of civic engagement and community service. “This trip was a very humbling experience,” said Lasri. “We saw people working for the benefit of their communities without government help and with limited resources, and this left me more committed as a media student to use my storytelling skills and platforms in the service of disadvantaged communities.”
Previous service-learning trips continue to have an impact on Northwestern Qatar students.  Mohamed Eltayeb ‘21 was part of the service trip to Kenya in 2019 and said the lessons he learned from working in the construction of water tanks for communities in rural Kenya helped shape his growth as a journalist. Inspired to maximize his positive impact in the East African country, Eltayeb went back to Kenya a year after the trip to complete his journalism residency requirement with AfricaUncensored, which allowed him to participate in several projects.
Engaging with local communities and being exposed to the historical and socio-political roots of the issue of access to clean water, Eltayeb said, helped him understand his own privileges and biases. “It made me, as a global citizen, connect to the needs of the larger worldwide community. As a journalist and humanitarian,” he said, “the trip helped me build a strong sense of global citizenship and a commitment to creating a positive impact on our shared global community.”
Habibah Abass is another Northwestern Qatar alum who continues to be inspired by the lessons she learned during a service-learning trip to Cambodia, where she was part of a student group that built and renovated climate-resilient homes for local families suffering from the impact of climate change. “Service-learning begins in our immediate localities, but its impact extends around the world,” said Abbass.
Now an educator and program coordinator at the U.S.-based social organization Literacy New Jersey, Abass remains connected to the leadership and service lessons she learned as an undergraduate at Northwestern Qatar. “After the trip,” noted Abass, “service became an integral part of my life—it has helped me become more self-aware, appreciative of diversity, and an agent of social change.”