You’re paid in smiles.

Sulaiman Alharbi is always ready to help.
February 14, 2020

Sulaiman Alharbi is majoring in engineering technology. He is here on a government-funded project that has brought hundreds of students to UW-Stout from Saudi Arabia. A friend of Alharbi’s had been in the program and convinced him to come.

Sulaiman Alharbi at International Night, November 2019.
Sulaiman Alharbi at International Night, November 2019. / UW-Stout

He applied for the International Student Tuition Scholarship so he would be able to finish his degree at UW-Stout.

“All my life, I’ll be grateful for the scholarship,” Alharbi said. “My visa does not allow me to work while I’m here. I need the scholarship to pay for my schooling.”

Alharbi is used to being called on to volunteer. His home city has more than 5 million visitors every summer. So, the government asks for civilian volunteers to help tourists if they are lost, need help with the language, or just need a chair to rest. Civilian volunteers are there for tourists in any capacity needed.

“They know we are here to help,” Alharbi explained.

Alharbi is the social media marketer for UW-Stout’s International Club. He also volunteers at assisted living homes in Menomonie. He wants to provide social and emotional support to elderly community members who may have no one to visit them. He doesn’t want them to feel lonely.


Alharbi volunteering on campus. / Sulaiman Alharbi

“We want them to know, ‘We do not forget you.’ To visit them once a week, to talk or play cards or draw, it adds something exciting to their routine. It’s good to appreciate our elders, to uplift them, to give them hope,” Alharbi said.

“Volunteer work is not paid in money,” he added. “You’re paid in smiles by other people and the value you give to other people.”

Alharbi is recently engaged. He plans to return to Saudi Arabia at the end of the school year to celebrate his wedding before beginning his career as an electrical engineer.

But no matter where he is or what he’s doing, “I will always be volunteering,” he said.