The Palestinian Cultural Club, the Freedom Club, the Debate Club, the Human Rights and Peace Club, the Environmental Club, and the Agriculture and Landscape Society regularly participate in community service. Students organize Ramadan iftars for the elderly, athletic and game days on campus for orphans, clothing drives for the needy and victims of specific catastrophes. Following the 1996 Qana massacre and during the 2006 July war, students gathered clothing and household items for Qana residents and were among the first to help refugees find shelter.
Two longstanding student groups that remain strong today are the AUB Red Cross Club and the Civic Welfare League. The Civic Welfare League has been functioning as a student service group since 1924, seeking to improve the lives of the poor both in the city and in remote villages. Long anticipating the current aims of the CCECS, in 1936 the League worked out a “Plan for a Civic Course Laboratory for the Freshman Class.” Freshmen would “be required to put in ten hours,” providing “about a thousand hours for social service work.”
In the 1930s a brochure prepared by West Hall, the Athletics Department, and the Civic Welfare League, “A Message to the AUB Student on Preparing for Citizenship in his Country” said West Hall was not simply a building, but also “the symbol of character, co-operation and real manhood and citizenship. . . [Reflecting] the spiritual, the deeper meaning of the term.”
The CWL, fostered community service through the Village Welfare Service. Men and women students and teachers spent their summers in camps in various country districts. Each morning they went into the villages “to teach people to read, to dig latrines, to enjoy athletic sports, to care for their babies and homes in better ways, and, under the direction of trained specialists, show the fellahin how to improve their agricultural and hygienic conditions.” A corresponding City Welfare Service combined existing service organizations and offered volunteers the opportunity to deal with problems of city life: “to conduct a night school for about 100 working young men and boys, help in the work for homeless basket-boys [porters] in the city, conduct wholesome playground activities for street children, organize classes for mothers and girls, and develop other projects in hygiene, recreation, and education.”
For the past three summers the Civil Engineering Society has organized summer camps for students to bring their engineering skills to the aid of villages in the south. A mini-camp for six students was held in early summer 2009. Last April 16 the Red Cross Club sponsored an exceptional Awareness Day campaign in front of West Hall. Ambulance stretchers, bandaged students, wrecked cars, and “a seat belt convincer,” made vivid the consequences of reckless driving with grim authenticity. And in April and May members of the CWL resumed its traditional English Language courses on campus for AUB staff members and began teaching computer literacy in the south.
Community service—helping others, begun so long ago, remains today an enduring, constantly revitalized AUB tradition.
With thanks to Cynthia Myntti and the Jafet Library Archives.