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Turning Challenges into Opportunities – Kevin Mathew
October 14, 2017, 4:15 pm

Interning at a museum is the last thing you would expect from a fast-food fueled generation that lives and breathes online. But that is exactly what Kevin Mathew, a young Indian teenager, did two years back when he volunteered as a docent at the Dar al-Athar al- Islamiyyah (DAI), the Kuwait-based international cultural organization.

Kevin, the son of Soly Mathew, who works at Gulf Bank and Bency Mathew, a homemaker, hails from the south Indian state of Kerala, and moved to Kuwait with his family as a young boy. He is currently a student at the New English School, Kuwait.

As a teenager whose streaks of individuality were just beginning to emerge, the docent program at DAI helped him further explore and expand his passions and interests.

In a recent interview with The Times, Kevin detailed how interning as a docent was a rewarding experience that gave him the opportunity to learn so much more.

“The internship at DAI instilled in me a keen interest for the culture and history of the Middle-East and encouraged me to expand my knowledge and understanding of the field. I continued to intern as a docent in the museum for two years, and was then inspired to initiate a similar program, but one led by students, at the Tareq Rajab Museum in Jabriyah. This led to what has now become popular as the Tareq Rajab Docent Program (TRDP),” said Kevin.

The eponymous Tareq Rajab museum, founded by the late Tareq Rajab and his wife Jehan Rajab, houses over 30, 000 items, including rare manuscripts, miniatures, ceramics and other traditional artifacts. Working at the museum provided Kevin with close exposure to some of the most exquisite collections of Islamic culture from around the region and the Islamic world.

Elaborating on the TRDP initiative, Kevin said, “My internship with the DAI taught me a lot and I wanted to share the opportunity with other students who were interested in Middle Eastern art, culture and heritage, and were just as enthusiastic in learning and expanding their knowledge in these fields. I discussed the possibilities of starting TRDP with the present directors of the Tareq Rajab Museum, Dr. Ziad Rajab and Nur Rajab. They were fully supportive and it was their trust and guidance that enabled me to take the idea forward and turn it into reality.

“The extensive process of recruiting and training new docents, and getting them enthusiastically engaged through various workshops and games, helped build up to the first event we held at the Tareq Rajab Museum earlier this year. Along with the rest of our docent team, I spent hours of my free time dedicated to ensuring the success of the event, which was attended among others by the ambassadors of several countries, including that of Australia, India, Kenya, Malaysia and Turkey,” said a visibly excited Kevin.

He proudly described the impact that nurturing other docents had on him, “Watching the students we train grow into knowledgeable young adults is an experience I will always remember. We kept our initial group small, which brought us closer, encouraged us to share our ideas and passions and created a circle of like-minded people who continue to grow together, constantly supporting each other in our collective and individual endeavors. This collaborative work has pushed us to keep the program growing, including more students in the future and exposing them to the same experience we were lucky enough to enjoy.”

“The TRDP is important in that it not only exposes young students to Middle Eastern history and culture, and trains them to disseminate this knowledge among visitors to the museum; it also helps revitalize the museum through promoting it among citizens and residents in Kuwait. The TRDP is slowly expanding into more museums and is slated to begin at the Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy in the upcoming year,” Kevin clarified.

An avid volunteer deeply interested in social work, Kevin has also been actively engaged in student empowerment projects back home in India. During his holidays, he volunteers with the Vidya Foundation, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) that promotes quality education among economically disadvantaged children in India. Lack of quality education is a significant social issue that challenges India’s growth and development. After his first experience interacting with the children at these schools, Kevin says he is determined to remain a lifelong volunteer with the foundation.

Recently, Kevin was given the opportunity to present a talk at the TEDx Shuwaikh event held at the Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center on the topic of ‘How Challenges Turn into Opportunities’. “The TEDx talk allowed me describe my journey with the TRDP and my exposure to Middle-Eastern culture and heritage, through the museums in Kuwait,” said Kevin, who incidentally was the youngest speaker to present at a TEDx event, held in Kuwait.

Currently, Kevin is focusing more on his passion for the sciences. An aspiring mechanical engineer, he finds himself occupied with exams and university applications. In spite of his busy scholastic schedules Kevin continues to balance his various interests and exams with the excitement for what the future holds.


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