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Amal Alhazemi, Kate Debenedetti, Mohammed Malkawi, Momn Telfah and Ali Alsaffar volunteered at Habitat for Humanity through UMKC’s ALI. (Clint Hughes)

Students at UMKC’s Applied Language Institute (ALI) got their hands dirty as part of their day of service. 

Despite past setbacks from the global pandemic shutdown, two groups of students volunteered in early November at ReStore and Habitat for Humanity locations in Lenexa, KS and Martin City, MO. 

“There are about 30 of us, and all were excited about working in the community,” said student volunteer Khaled Alduai. “American people are very friendly.”

ALI students are international and local students that are learning English as a Second Language (ESL). After their time at the ALI, many students go into other academic departments at UMKC. The day of service gave them the chance to practice communication in a work environment while also connecting with the community.

Sounds of shifting and lifting echoed throughout an enormous warehouse as volunteers and staff shuffled quickly in preparation for the grand opening happening the very next day. 

Student volunteers and employees stacked giant shelves with goods ready to go into local homes, and everyone did their part to make sure the process happened smoothly and on time.

“It’s a huge store,” said student volunteer Aziz Darweesh. “I got a chance to practice communication, and it’s an awesome experience.”

Aldui and Darweesh are both from Kuwait and had been looking forward to volunteering ever since professors first mentioned a service opportunity. They lugged around stock and freight while their classmates finished painting a wall from floor to ceiling.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores are home improvement and furniture stores that sell new and used building materials, furniture and appliances. Proceeds from each store’s sales go directly into Habitat for Humanity, which helps build affordable housing.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” said Brook McPhail, manager at ReStore. “Everything that they do goes into building houses.”

Everyone at ReStore made their appreciation known, and there were high spirits and banter in the air as the first snow of the year fell outside. 

UMKC also has a campus-wide service day, but many international students miss it due to being out of the country. Community service is an impactful way for international students to experience American culture while actively improving lives in a variety of ways. 

From left to right: Jasem Alostath, Sarah Alqarni, Lojain Abunasser, Daniela Gajardo Azocar, Munkhjin Erdenebat, Abdulmajeed Almutairi, Melany Mireles Medina, and Michael Turner. (Chelsey Butts)

“It was a great day,” said student volunteer Sarah Alqarni. “I feel satisfied knowing that someone’s life may be a little better because of what I’ve done.”

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