Normalization deals offer growing economic, security, and political ties beyond relations with Israel or even the United States.
Asked to describe Feedwise’s mission in a sentence, one of the organization’s founders, Taibah Al Mansour, says, “We nourish society.” Made up of a core group of 25 Kuwaiti youth, including Taibah and her co-founders Ali Burhaama and Shahad Al-Busairi, Feedwise is attempting to tackle a variety of issues, from feeding the hungry to addressing environmentally stressed areas to raising mental health awareness. Feedwise began by organizing food drives for migrant workers earlier in 2016. While this is still its main focus, Feedwise’s efforts have expanded to support and guide the many projects its volunteers bring to the table. The group’s work is mindful and community sensitive; before embarking on a project, volunteers conduct extensive research to identify key problems and how they can help in the most critical way. Speaking with AGSIW, Taibah discussed what inspired her to start a group focused on the most vulnerable in Kuwait and the uniqueness of her generation of Gulf youth who share a common desire to give back to their communities.
AGSIW: What inspired you to start Feedwise?
Taibah: I had attended a CSR [corporate social responsibility] conference and I was so inspired by all the NGOs and initiatives. The story behind all of them was simply that the person behind them wanted to give. I had felt that way for a really long time but didn’t know where to start. I wanted to work on the issues that mattered to me the most and that was migrant workers’ situation. [Their situation] is so inhumane here and I wanted to make a difference without getting political. I wanted to make a positive difference in their lives regardless of labor laws. I wanted to focus on what I could do now. So I, along with a couple of friends, just started passing out food and it became more and more uniform as we kept doing it. People started to ask, does your group have a name or an Instagram account? So I thought it was time we made things more concrete and that is how Feedwise started.
AGSIW: What was the initial process like and how has the group’s work transformed?
Taibah: We started out by doing our research; we wanted to see which category of people really needed our help the most. That was the migrant workers in the yellow suits – they clean up the roads. We spent a month holding meetings, talking about how we planned to help in the best way possible. We started in Ramadan, in the beginning of June of this year. The first time we went out to give food it was a disaster. We didn’t know what we were doing; we were late and the migrants had left on their buses and we couldn’t find anyone. It was a mess. We learned from our mistakes and the second time we went out it became a flow, a pattern. And now when we pack the bags it’s like an assembly line. We got the hang of it fairly quickly. Afterward, we started to look for volunteers and branch out. We thought if we can make an impact on migrant workers’ lives, why can’t we impact other causes? We began interviewing people to be volunteers and found that they all had particular causes on their minds so now we are working on a few different things.
AGSIW: It is common during Ramadan for a lot of groups to do charity work and donate meals, but it’s often a one-time occurrence and only during that month. How is Feedwise creating something more sustainable for the hungry?
Taibah: We have thought about this. We noticed that a lot of people who donate to migrant workers donate cooked food or one meal. We know that throughout the year there are some efforts to give migrant workers meals, but what use is it to have 10 cooked meals not knowing where to put them and the next day having to throw food away because it couldn’t be finished? What we do is give uncooked food that mainly only needs water to be cooked like lentils or noodles, and the workers can use them as needed. Our donations also won’t conflict with other donations the migrants receive because ours are long term, not a here and now. We also do the food drives monthly and rotate the areas, so we try to cover as much of Kuwait as possible. We’ve done about 11 areas in Kuwait so far.
AGSIW: What is it about Feedwise that is unique and different than other groups doing charity work and raising awareness?
Taibah: We try to establish a relationship with the receiving party or the community we are working with. We don’t want a lot of media commotion; we want it to be between us and them. We call it an event to make it open to anyone who wants to volunteer or join for the day. Instead of fancy awareness events we actually really want to leave a lasting impact. We are currently taking a course that teaches how to visit autism centers. It is enriching for us because we learn that there are so many sides to society that we need to be aware of. In the future we want to do more of that – to reach out to communities that are not being tapped into. We think our volunteers are our ambassadors and we are there to help them. Even when it comes to our leadership structure, we are there to help the volunteers and guide them, not lead them.
AGSIW: You’ve stressed that Feedwise wants to avoid getting political. Why?
Taibah: I think the world has enough politics these days. We need to focus on giving. A lot of people want to be political and opinionated about things. With the internet, everyone has something to say about everything, but instead of doing that we are focused on giving. The day that I see Feedwise’s impact is sustainable is the day I will have peace of mind. You can create awareness but if there is nothing to back it up, no giving to back it up, I don’t think the awareness is sustainable. There is so much going on in the Middle East and we need to up our game when it comes to giving. Politics is an aggressive way of going about things. We want to do this in the most love-infused way. Plus, it’s so easy here in Kuwait to be able to help. Giving is so accessible and we should take advantage of opportunities to give as much as we can. People are finding ways to give back. The amount of initiatives here, not just charity groups but also those initiatives that help grow the mind and benefit humans, are countless. Five, 10 years ago it was sparse. I think we are going to be the generation that changes it all.
AGSIW: Why do you believe that about your generation – that change will come through your efforts?
Taibah: I think we are the enlightened generation, not just in Kuwait but globally. We are the generation that believes we are citizens of the world and we don’t hide under the light of patriotism as people used to. We don’t say, “I am a different human because I am from a different country.” We are realizing that we are all the same [globally] and we all want food, shelter, and love. When I was doing interviews for volunteers, I was stunned by the testimonials I heard for why they wanted to give. I thought some would come for a certificate or an add-on to their CV but they were all really passionate about giving back to society and it’s these initiatives that give them the doorway to do so. In Saudi and the UAE, they have a similar outlook to us in Kuwait. These are the areas that have so many initiatives coming up and it is because the people want to resolve misunderstandings amongst each other and in the world. In the Middle East, we have the most underground initiatives happening now and they are so creative and innovative.
New talks reflect a broad range of regional and international developments in recent years.
Robert Mogielnicki discusses the centralization of economic policymaking and the consolidation of power amid the fast pace of new initiatives in the kingdom since the launch of Vision 2030.
Through its careful examination of the forces shaping the evolution of Gulf societies and the new generation of emerging leaders, AGSIW facilitates a richer understanding of the role the countries in this key geostrategic region can be expected to play in the 21st century.Learn More