SHARJAH // An orphanage re-opened yesterday after being renovated by students from the American University of Sharjah.
The work was done by 70 students, who each put in two hours a day for six weeks, doing jobs from painting to cleaning.
The university said such volunteer projects were intended to connect its students to the real world and keep them in touch with those less fortunate than them.
"It helps them as individuals and will help them when they graduate to deal with all kinds of people," said Munketh Taha, the director of student development and organisation. He said one of the university's goals was to produce responsible individuals with a sense of community and leadership.
"Part of this is teaching them what the real world is like outside," he said. "They learn about society, the real society."
The university set up its volunteer office six years ago and now has more than 500 student volunteers who work on projects from visiting old people's homes to maintenance.
Nameer Falah Mehdi, an electrical engineering student, relished the satisfaction of seeing how happy the children were. "They had such big smiles on their faces," the 21-year-old student said. "They loved us being there and you could see we were making a difference. There was one small boy in particular, he was so innocent and loved it when we played with him.
"It makes me see how I can help people. Life isn't just about playing or studying. You see how people who are poor are coping and it makes you appreciate the life we are living."
The project is part of an agreement between the university and the Sharjah Empowerment Foundation, which has humanitarian projects in several emirates.
AUS is just one of the many universities around the country doing philanthropic work.
The American University of Dubai (AUD) also has volunteers doing projects through its International Aid Society. Its president, Urshida Lele, 20, said it too, aimed to "connect students to the outside world".
"As students, we're very protected in an environment where you don't know what's going on outside," she said.
"It's important especially for students to see that their little help can make a difference, it can put a smile on someone's face."
AUD's projects are both local and international, including building a school in Cameroon and teaching English to labourers in Dubai to help them find better jobs.