The USSU Campus Group of the Year is thriving due to adaptability, community and kindness.
If you’ve ever walked through the Arts tunnel from Place Riel, you’ve likely noticed the huge photo board under Murray Library. This is where the USSU posts photos of the winners of their Experience in Excellence Awards. If you look up into the top right-hand corner, you’ll see the award for the 2021-2022 Campus Group of the Year attached to the logo for the Amal Humanitarian Club.
This club has taken the university by storm ever since it was founded in fall of 2021. The Amal Club (“Amal” meaning “Hope” in Arabic) can frequently be seen hosting all sorts of events across campus and the city, including charity fundraisers and social events. The club’s mandate is “to initiate, plan, organize, and lead fundraisers, charity, educational, and awareness projects that serve the community and provide students with opportunities to volunteer and lead.”
The Sheaf was able to get together with Abdullah Alras, the Amal club’s current president, to discuss its past, present and future.
The club was founded by Alras’ older brother, Abd Alfatah Alras, and Alex Andres. With volunteering opportunities diminishing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the duo found that many students were eager to get involved in extracurricular elements of campus life, but had nowhere to turn to. Abdullah became involved early on in the club’s creation. “We started small, 15 members, four executives,” he recalled.
Now, after only two years, the club sits at over 250 members, including an executive group of 15 people. While Alras admits having this many people in an executive group is a bit unique, it may also be one of the secrets to the club’s success.
“The benefits of having a big executive team is that we can split into groups where each group has a different event they work on,” Alras said.
By splitting into groups, it is easier for members to be more involved. If execs do all the planning and members only do the on-the-ground work, that’s something members can get anywhere. “That’s the special thing about the Amal club,” Alras says. “[Members] are involved in the planning and execution of the event.”
This division of labour has allowed the club to perform nearly an event per week over the course of the academic year. In the future, they plan to continue introducing new events every year to keep things fresh, but maintain the events that have had the highest impact or success. This way, the club can bring in new ideas while also learning ways to improve old ones.
For instance, last year the club facilitated a dental workshop event where members and execs went to elementary schools, gave out toothbrushes and other dental products and taught youth how to properly brush their teeth.
This year, the group was able to scale up, and brought in a larger number of supplies, as well as a hygienist and dentist to participate in the event with them.
Another example is the club’s food drive. Last year, they were able to donate around 600 food products to the Saskatoon Food Bank, as well as $300 in monetary donations. This year, they more than doubled that, providing 1200 food products and roughly $800 in donations.
“My house was full of these products for a week,” Alras laughed.
One of the new ideas the club tried out this year was the Sip of Culture event, which ended up being a massive success. The event was about people coming together to celebrate different cultures while raising funds for the homeless. A team of about 17 members, led by an executive, decorated and brought the event to life.
Beyond just volunteering opportunities, the club is also popular among its members because of the way it creates community.
“Not only are we doing something meaningful, where we help other people, and you feel positive when you do that,” Alras said. “[But] at the same time, [members] like the social aspect of the club. We have a high social index and people here meet friends and they make relationships.”
What the club is doing is obviously working. While the club raised a worthy $2,000 in charity last year, they were able to quintuple(!) that number to $10,000 this year.
Regarding allocation of those funds, the club decided to split them evenly. Half went towards homeless relief in Saskatoon, turning that money into over 200 care packages that included warm clothing and hygiene products. The club also provided free meals. Notably, the USask chapter of Islamic Relief donated an incredible $2,000 to the homeless relief fund.
The other half of the fundraised money went to humanitarian aid in Turkey and Syria following the devastating 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes that struck on Feb. 6 of this year. The countries are still dealing with subsequent earthquakes and aftershocks from the event.
“We didn’t expect [fundraising for Turkey and Syria] to go very well, but people here on campus were very generous,” Alras said.
When it comes to the future of the club, Alras said, “My hope is that in the future, maybe 5-10 years,we are able to increase the [club’s] impact.”
The club is also exploring expansion to other campuses, as well as the possibility of a non-profit branch that operates beyond the university campus. The priority would be for the Amal club on USask to remain the main focus, while the non-profit would be a complementary but separate entity.
For students who are interested in getting involved in the Amal community or its events, the best way is to reach out to the club through its Instagram page (@the.amal.club). Alras also mentioned they will likely be interviewing for new executive positions in the fall.
Given the final word for the interview, Alras, who will be stepping down from the club presidency after this year, went out on a selfless note: “I just want to thank the executive team and the members for their huge support throughout the year … I would say they actually built this. It’s not just me. It’s not just the executives. It’s everybody.”