Noor Al-Obaid: Paying it Forward is my Motto in Life
Noor Al-Obaid turned savior to a group of around 72 Indian workers that were living out in the open beside a building in Farwaniya. Noor, a young Kuwaiti human rights activist, popularly known by her social media handle @noorthatbakes, found out about them through an Instagram contact.
The group of workers, hoping to get deported, went to the amnesty center but did not have the necessary clearance to leave the country due to missing paperwork. Having left their accommodation, they were stranded with no place to stay – homeless and hopeless.
Noor explains “There were about 40 workers in the beginning and then they slowly increased. I am guessing as they realized we were there just to help, and we were offering a helping hand, they saw what we could do and realized we could be trusted. So, a lot more started to come forward and the numbers just kept increasing. In the three days that we were in touch with them it went from 40 to 50 to 60 and then 72. And I am pretty sure there are some more that are too scared to step forward.”
The diverse group of workers coming from different parts of India and different companies managed to survive without a roof over their heads, surviving on the generosity of a nearby restaurant and building dwellers.
Noor and her team of volunteers – Hanson Aranha, Jithin Jacob, Dominque Dias, Kidwai Ahmad, Faraz Riaz and Sammar Hussein, reached out to them and first supplied them with meals. She also helped one of the restaurants that was feeding these workers for free, despite incurring losses, by paying them for the meals to support their endeavors.
By approaching different sources like the Indian Embassy, the Ministry of Interior and media outlets, Noor kept pushing for a solution. Her online plea for assistance went viral.
Finally, 6 of the workers had their amnesty approved and made it to a deportation center. All thanks to Noor who cared enough and fought hard enough with her team to make a difference. The rest are now waiting by the Indian Embassy for a solution to their situation.
Noor is not giving up and is continuing to do her best by pursuing the Indian Embassy and several other government entities. She also has a whole team of lawyers and social workers driving efforts to help find a solution. But finding a way out is extremely challenging.
The worker’s sponsors are corporations that are withholding their papers which is against the law. They are going to fined and the person in charge will be tried with jail time, according to Noor.
“Doing what I do, it is not easy to balance everything. I have like 12 things to do daily. But I always feel like it is such a priority for me to give back, speak up for those that cannot and to be the voice for those whose voices aren’t heard.
It’s honestly something that I have learnt growing up because my mother has always taught us that you have to give back to be a productive member of society and to be a productive member of society doesn’t mean that you are just sitting here making your money.
At the end of the day you are not taking your money to the grave. You are here to make a difference to the world and that is what I constantly preach and tell people. You need to have a little bit of humanity.”
This is not the first time that Noor, who introduces herself on Instagram as “a small but fierce human rights activist with an appetite, food and beverage consultant and future UN ambassador” has pulled off something like this.
Noor started her community service efforts at the tender age of 14 with “Bake and Educate”, a non-profit organization that aims to educate children via food. She was the youngest Kuwaiti to start a non-profit organization. Due to her age, she struggled to find the right partners at first but with persistence, her efforts paid off and in 2014 “Bake and Educate” was recognized by the UNDP. Till date, the initiative has helped close to 500 students cover tuition fees.
Noor highlights “You are brought into this world to make a difference and you want to know that you have done something that has helped someone life be better. If you are blessed even a little more than them then why not help them. For me that’s my logic. Even if you don’t have much always pay it forward. Paying it forward is my motto in life.”
Since March 17, 2020, Noor and her team of volunteers kicked off food and grocery distributions to those in need. In 63 days since, partnering with local restaurants, businesses and generous donors, they have successfully managed to distribute 6,325 meals and provision packs for 90 families and groups in need across Kuwait.
Noor does not want to rest here. “Hopefully we will be able to find more (workers) and help as many as possible but the problem is with the lockdown it is a little difficult as it is very difficult to get permits but I am still working on it.”
The team did not get much help from the government because they go through channels like the Red Crescent or government based initiatives and all of them were focused on Mahboula and Jleeb Al Shyoukh which were under complete lockdown.
However, she did get some help from a friend in the Ministry of Interior who supported by helping distribute a few of the meals when they didn’t have enough time or bandwidth. Also, there were occasions when police cars would stop and help volunteers organize and distribute. “They came out to help on their own knowing that we were doing something good.” Noor explained.
She is extremely grateful to the volunteers and businesses that supported the team’s efforts by donating such a large number of meals, some at short notice and often providing extra meals that they could spare. Some of the generous restaurants included Singapura, Nomou, On the Roto and China Metro.
When speaking about her predictions for the months to come she says “I honestly don’t know how the situation is going to be in the upcoming months or the year. Because I don’t know how long its going to last. And not knowing is going to leave everyone in a state of shock I feel. And coming out of it, everyone is going to be scrambling for a job.
And most people are going to try and save or scrounge as much money as they possibly can because they took such intense losses during this crisis. I don’t really know but it feels like its going to take us months to get back to normal post-Covid just because we don’t really know how to react and how to deal with our daily lives again because we have been out of it for so long.”
Noor is a great example of how a small movement can bring about a huge change. Hats off to this spunky young lady!
By Nita Bhatkar Chogle
Special to The Times, Kuwait
Also read http://220.127.116.11/~timesku1/news/noor-al-obaid-baking-for-a-cause/