By Nourah Amer Al-Oseimi
Exclusive to The Times, Kuwait
I have always admired people that are comfortable in their own skin. Individuals that ooze confidence and self-assurance yet still manage to be very likeable and down-to-earth. It is a difficult balance to strike but Noor Al Obaid, 23, does it flawlessly.
Noor and I agreed to meet at Majnoon Qahwa, a place I have never been to before but was excited to try. Majnoon Qahwa’s aesthetic was minimalistic yet effortlessly chic – much like Noor herself. We greeted each other like old friends, despite the fact that this was our very first encounter.
I was not able to hide my shock upon learning that Noor started her charitable initiative ‘Bake and Educate’ at the young age of 14. A precocious young girl, Noor recollected her earlier days as a baker.
“I love food, I started baking relatively young, around the age of 10 or 11. I started baking really young because I was a chubby child. I was one of those sneaky little children trying to get their hands on desserts. I loved doing it not because I loved eating but because it was fun for me. I felt accomplished. It’s so precise, it’s so fascinating to see how creative you can be with such basic ingredients. With baking, you’re balancing flavors, acids, different favor profiles. It’s very scientific. But you can also get really creative with it. No matter what, something good comes out of it.”
So how does one transform their passion for baking towards a charitable initiative? Why not turn it into a business instead?
“My mother taught us the value of giving back, we are blessed but there are people who are not as blessed. My mother is big on education, she used to work to support tuition fees for students. That’s where the idea of Bake and Educate came.” Noor explained to me how much the political happenings of the Arab Springs impacted expatriates in Kuwait and their ability to afford basic things like rent and education. She wanted to get involved instantly. Noor thought of hosting a bake sale but given her young age at the time, she struggled to find partners who would take her seriously.
“I contacted every bakery in Kuwait. I would tell them don’t give me money, give me desserts. I contacted 22 bakeries, I only got a response from 4. I remember I contacted 1 that I knew personally, and they sent me 1 cake, because they thought it was just child’s play. That’s what really saddened me. But over time, it grew and grew, and I was so happy. I spent days and nights working on this. My life became Bake and Educate.”
Noor’s relentless efforts and hard work all paid off in 2014 when Bake and Educate was recognized by UNDP and Ministry of Youth in an awards ceremony. Noor proudly proclaimed that in 9 years since Bake and Educate’s inception, they have successfully covered the tuition fees of 482 students.
A big believer in synergy and team work, Noor collaborates with youth organizations like Equait who work on issues such as human rights and labor rights. “There was a nice common ground. I supported education and they supported human rights, and I support the right to education. We leaned on each other.”
At this point of our conversation, I wanted to learn more about Noor, the person, as opposed to Noor that bakes.
“I was always interested in politics. One thing that saddens me is that girls aren’t pushed towards politics or what could be considered controversial majors. I feel like we could do a lot better. Times are changing. I studied architecture, I hated it. I thought I wanted it, I really admire buildings and beautiful artwork but what I didn’t realize is that architecture isn’t what people think. People see the glory, but they don’t see the hard work. I realized it wasn’t for me. I want to do something I believe in, something I’m good at. I’m studying International Relations and a minor in Mass Communication. Politics is something I love. I love to really understand the story behind why people act the way they act. Politics isn’t just governmental, it’s human nature. You’re an ambassador for yourself, your family and your country. You can push for something better.”
Noor aspires to hold a senior position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs someday. “I want to push for the great name of Kuwait.”
As for Noor’s short-term plans and upcoming projects, “I’m in the process of working on an awareness program, it’s more health-related. Health has become a trend but unfortunately there’s a lot of people who don’t realize how detrimental their lifestyle is to their health. We’re working on a one-day campaign – a cycling marathon. It’s not even a race, it’s just an outing.” Noor hopes that the impact of this awareness program will be noticed across the entire GCC.
Noor explained to me her concerns about the deterioration of communal living and family togetherness. “Kids nowadays are attached to their iPads, there’s no family quality time and it baffles me because I’m a very family-oriented human being.”
As our conversation came to an end, I asked Noor on what her parting thoughts were and if she had any advice she wanted to share. “There’s no better feeling than giving back, to see that your contribution no matter how little has made a difference. There’s so much you can get involved in. It doesn’t hurt to get out of your house and give back. Your one action might change someone’s life. The more you give the more the world is going to give back to you.”
For more information on Noor Al Obaid, visit @noorthatbakes on Instagram
For more information on Bake and Educate visit @bakeandeducate on Instagram
Nourah Al-Oseimi is a 25-year-old Kuwaiti who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing writer to the Times Kuwait – Newsmagazine. Her column – Essentially Kuwaiti – will feature an in-depth look on exceptional young Kuwaitis and their efforts towards the realization of a New Kuwait.