Hasan al Lawati reports on how Omani goodwill changed the life of an orphan Sudanese boy.
As we grow up, we look up to our fathers. We bring home our football trophies to show Dad, seeking his approval.
And for good or ill, fathers lead us through our first steps to manhood. His acceptance means the world to us.
But Abu Ubaida missed out on all that as he had to bury his own dad at the age of 13.
It was 2007, when the little Sudanese boy washed his dad’s body and carried him to his final resting place; a graveyard in Abu Dhabi.
On the very same evening, Abu Ubaida and his mum sat beside the grave for untold hours, staring at the darkening skies, uncertain about the clouds gathering over their future.
“He had called us at 4am to tell us how much he missed us. We discussed the plans and the trips we were going to make when we met again.
“At 11.30am we received a call from Abu Dhabi – where he worked – that Dad had been in a car accident, and that he was not going to make it,” says Abu Ubaida.
“It felt like I was in a nightmare. Nothing sounded real.”
He was hit by the inescapable reality that he and his widowed mother would now have to get by on their own.
In her small house in Ruwi, the grieving mum struggled to feed her four children. She worked day and night at a grocery store, and Abu Ubaida had to grow up very quickly. He simply had little time to grieve properly.
“I used to walk with Mum from her workplace every night because I was worried about her safety,” he says.
“The Omani community supported us in an exceptional way. People cared about our wellbeing in every aspect and they went the extra mile to help us emotionally and financially throughout our ordeal,” Abu Ubaida says.
But he could not enjoy a normal childhood, such as going to the movies with his friends.
Abu Ubaida, being the eldest of his siblings, had to support his mum, who was left with little option but to sell the family’s apartment in Sudan.
But his school grades nosedived. Abu Ubaida failed to get a scholarship to complete his higher studies and to achieve his dream to become an engineer.
But local company W J Towell brought some colour back to Abu Ubaida’s life.
As a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, W J Towell supported the family, granting Abu Ubaida a full cost-free scholarship to China to study petroleum engineering.
The young man has just come back to Oman with a bachelor’s degree and limitless hope.
“I am indebted to the people of Oman and W J Towell for being there for me and my family. My dream will finally come true when I land on a job to give back to Mum and compensate her for all the agony she went through to raise us,” Abu Ubaida says.
“I never felt like a stranger here. Oman is my home,” he says.
Abu Ubaida is one of 50 other college graduates who have recently graduated under the company’s sponsorship.
The company held a party on Monday at Towell Knowledge Institute in Al Rumays to celebrate the graduation of 51 Omanis and expatriates of different nationalities.
“It is our moral responsibility to help the ones in need. Companies CSR programs are designed to give back to society. Some do it by protecting the environment, others by building schools. And our vision is to support the less fortunate to lead a better life,” Ali Shaban, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer said.