Over spring break 2019, a total of 30 students from Ajman University (AU) traveled to Zanzibar, Tanzania on a mission to serve some of the island nation’s most vulnerable children. Known as the “Zanzibar 30,” the all-expenses-paid initiative also served to commemorate AU’s 30thanniversary.

“Social responsibility has been part of the campus DNA since our institution was established in 1988,” explained AU Chancellor Karim Seghir. “In honor of this history, we decided to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would empower young people to help shape the world’s future with compassion.”

The Zanzibar 30 worked hand-in-hand with the Creative Education Foundation (CEF) – an organization that provides free education and social services to orphaned children – to make an impact. They constructed a stone pathway to ease passage between CEF facilities; and, led a day of inspirational learning activities on nearby Bwejuu Beach. 

“We are so grateful for Ajman University’s commitment to the children here,” said Judi Palmer, CEF founder. “They came ready to work, with positive attitudes and a lot of energy. They made a real difference on our compound and brought great joy to the kids.”

Ajman University selected the Zanzibar 30 through an essay contest open to all sophomore, junior and senior students. In less than 300 words, applicants had to explain why they wanted to be part of the meaningful trip and momentous occasion. The final roster of participants represented more than 20 nationalities and most of AU’s 9 colleges.

“Being part of the lucky 30 students who were picked to be in Zanzibar was soul-enriching.  Traveling is the antidote of ignorance,” explained Fatima Mahdi, a fourth-year Pharmacy major from Sudan. “We helped pave a path in an orphanage where they struggled to walk from one class to another. It was heartwarming how the kids were happy with the simplest acts of kindness. Such experience humbled me and made me appreciate the simplest pleasures in life.”

On the last evening of their visit, the Zanzibar 30 were treated to a concert at the Dhow Countries Music Academy, which promotes and preserves the musical heritage of the "dhow region" that runs from the Arabian Gulf to the shores of the Indian Ocean. The Arabian Peninsula has a rich maritime history of trade and cultural exchange with East African coast. A significant fraction of the Swahili language is derived from Arabic.

Bilal Maher, a third-year Dentistry student from Jordan, said that the entire Ajman to Zanzibar experience will remain with him forever. “There is nothing worth more than seeing those smiles after hard work; nothing worth more than making someone smile,” he explained.  “We learned about the world and about our place in it.  I could have never wished for a better group of friends to travel with or a better trip.”