Muscat: Hundreds of students from colleges and universities in Oman have stepped up to volunteer at various sites across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether required to provide assistance to people visiting vaccination sites, spread awareness about the importance of COVID protocols and vaccinations, or deliver essential supplies to those impacted by the disease, these student volunteers have not hesitated to step forward and help the nation when needed.
Among the volunteers are members of Oman’s Rovers and Rangers movement, the university extension of the global Scouts and Guides organisation.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Gulf College has taken it upon itself to join forces with the country’s efforts to confront and prevent this dangerous virus,” said Mohamed Fouad, head of the Student Activities Department at Gulf College.
“There are more than 500 student volunteers in Muscat Governorate alone,” he added. “From our side, we have contributed 63 volunteers - 58 students and five staff members.”
Students have been busy providing help where required during the coronavirus pandemic, selflessly dedicating themselves to their nation during these uncertain times.
From April 2021 onwards, they have been reporting to many vaccination sites in the country, including Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Boushar, Sablah Muttrah, the office of the Wali of Amerat, Al Nabha School for Basic Education in Maabela, and the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre in Madinat Al Irfan.
Rovers who selflessly volunteered at these sites dedicated themselves to implementing precautionary measures such as social distancing and mask wearing, organising people at these places to enable a smooth and uninterrupted vaccination process, and assisting the elderly and disabled in making sure they got the vaccines on time.
Those who volunteered also went door-to-door, asking people to come forward to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as they are able.
“Teams also went to the various wilayats in the country as part their responsibility towards spreading awareness and educating people about the pandemic, as well as help those affected by the virus,” explained Fouad.
Prior to turning out at the vaccination sites, they assisted the Oman Charity Organisation last year, providing much-needed supplies to residents in Wilayat Muttrah, which was under isolation at that time, as part of measures to stop the spread of the pandemic.
In April 2020, when Omani students who were studying overseas were sent back home as part of efforts to minimise the impact of the pandemic, Gulf College Rovers went to the airport to help them return to their homes in other governorates, once they had completed their isolation procedures in Muscat.
As part of Gulf College’s awareness campaign, the institute, under the Ministry of Health Nizwa Healthy Lifestyles Project, organised virtual seminars for people to help clear up rumours they might have about vaccines, and educate them about the benefits of being immunised against the coronavirus. Organised by Dr Zahir bin Ahmed Al Ankoudi, a senior consultant of family and community medicine, the session aimed at educating students and staff about vaccinations.
“We urged them to take the vaccine because this is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading, reproducing and mutating in societies,” said Mohamed Fouad
“It also keeps us safe from infection. If you look at areas around the world where immunisation numbers are high, it is also in these places where infections are low. Achieving collective immunity will help us return to normal life.”
Al Hassan Al Farei is one of seven Rovers from Middle East College, whose students did not think twice when their assistance was needed. More would have come, he added, but many of his fellow Rovers needed to return to their homes in the interior when educational institutions switched to remote learning because of the pandemic.
“We aim to provide assistance to good causes where required, be it inside our country or overseas,” he told the Times of Oman.
“With our work and determination today, we will make tomorrow a better day. It is important to volunteer, as it teaches us much about responsibility, and the need to work for a greater good.”
Al Farei joined the movement because he believed it would help him assist the community. So committed is he to volunteering that he spent much of his 23rd birthday on July 27 assisting people who had turned up for their COVID vaccinations at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.
During the holidays, he spends eight hours a day volunteering, but on other days, still manages to donate four to five hours of his time a day, despite juggling a job at a logistics firm and studying for his bachelor’s degree. Al Farei began volunteering in 2017, distributing breakfast to people fasting during Ramadan.
“I do not believe there are fixed hours for someone to volunteer, as when you do so, you are answering the call of your homeland,” he said. “My family and friends are very proud of my dedication, and I hope everyone finds within them this spirit of helping others.
Sports clubs in the country have also sent volunteers where and when required. Oman Club, one of the most well-known football clubs in the country, have sent 80 volunteers, led by Rover Mohammed Al Balushi.
“I joined up to actively participate in society – I believe what we do is public service to the community,” he explained. “Currently, we help facilitate the entry of citizens and residents at vaccination sites, as the Ministry of Health and other government agencies require our assistance there.
“There are of course challenges we face, but I believe that when it comes to serving my country and my brothers and sisters, we must work together,” added Al Balushi. “It is important that I be large hearted and welcoming to people. Yes, there might be those who treat us poorly, but we must take it in our stride and not deny anyone service if they need it.”
One of his main roles is to make sure the elderly who come to get vaccinated are provided proper care and attention. Al Balushi is quick to provide them a wheelchair, should they require one.
“Volunteering is a national duty…we must serve our country with love and sincerity,” he explained. “I advise everyone in this country to donate some of their spare time, so that they know how to contribute to society.”