On its 15th anniversary, Woman This Month spoke to The Palm Association, a charitable endeavour that enables Bahrain’s economically disadvantaged to live with dignity and hope.
Imagine the smile on an ill child’s face when she is gifted a bag of new winter clothes or the relief that washes over a widow when she receives monthly provisions to feed her children, thanks to Bahrain’s Palm Association.
Aimed at giving back to the Bahraini community, the association was started in the year 2000 by two good Samaritans, expats Jennifer Sale and Kirsti Shaheen, with the help of Shaikha Lulwa bint Mohammed Al Khalifa. It has grown to become a well-established charitable organisation with a sustainable business plan, constitution and website.
We met with chairwoman Karen Tennant and Maria Sorger as the Palm Association celebrates 15 years of leaving footprints of kindness and compassion all over the island.
Karen says: “The principal project of the Palm Association is ‘Feed a Family’. Currently, 155 destitute Bahraini families are provided with necessary rations every month, each packet costing BD20.” The families are audited every year; those whose fortunes take a turn for the better are removed from the list and other deserving families are added.
The Association is also involved in Project Rebuild, which helps renovate the homes of poor families. Maria says: “Corporates come forth to donate goods like appliances or furniture and rebuild run-down homes, but it’s getting difficult to convince organisations in Bahrain to give something to the community. The concept of corporate social responsibility has caught on in Bahrain, but not as much as in multinational companies.”
The Palm Association’s Adopt-A-Family initiative will soon be launched, wherein one can ‘adopt’ a family for a month, a few months or a year by sponsoring their monthly rations for that period of time.
The Palm Association also goes that extra mile to foster the spirit of giving in school children through its School Outreach Programmes. Karen says: “It is so important for children to get involved in charity right from an early age.”
In keeping with the adage ‘teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’, the Palm Association helps Bahraini youth get education or vocational training. As part of a five-year endeavour, it has enabled a number of deserving students to study medicine and nursing at the RCSI Bahrain. “The students who have completed their degrees are working in Bahrain’s hospitals, supporting their own families and, in turn, offering their services to the whole community,” says Karen. “This ripple effect is our true reward.”
Raising funds and getting individuals to be involved in their projects has become an uphill task, given the global economy. “Many of those we help have nothing in their houses; just a piece of cardboard for a bed and a small stove to cook on,” says Maria.
The duo tell us how heartbreaking their work can be. “Sometimes we have to turn down some families, just because we don’t have the funds.” They are urging people to step up and help the needy. A sum of BD20 may sound paltry, but for some it can be a ray of hope to tide them through the month. The association also encourages those with vocational skills to get involved and volunteer with ongoing projects.