Liz O’Reilly chatted to Lynne Al-Wazzan, proud mum and grandma, baker extraordinaire and tireless charity volunteer about what makes giving back to the community so important.
Lynne arrived in Bahrain 40 years ago after meeting Intercol director Abdurrahman Al-Wazzan in England, and marrying soon after. They have three children – Ali, 37, Mahin, 34, and Hassan 32, and have been blessed with five grandchildren, four boys ranging from two to 11 years old, and their first granddaughter, who is just seven months.
Hailing from Newcastle upon Tyne, in the north of England, she still considers herself to be a true Geordie girl, despite four decades in the desert. Both her parents, Joan and Bob, spent the last 15 years of their lives in Bahrain, her father passing away in 2011 and her mother two years ago. She says: “It was they who introduced myself and my sister, Norma, at the young age of nine and 10, respectively, to charity work, mainly with the Salvation Army and other charities within Newcastle.”
She has been involved in charity work throughout her life and will be celebrating her 66th birthday this month, marking more than 55 years of dedication to her communities.
She adds: “Fortunately for me, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, the late Ali Al-Wazzan, former director of Intercol and former President of The Chamber of Commerce, and his wife Asma Khalil Al-Moayed, were great charity supporters leaving a legacy for the next generation to continue.”
For the past 38 years, Lynne has supported HRH Shaikha Lulwa’s Mother and Child Welfare Society, under the guidance of the Shaikha until her passing. And with 35 years under her belt, she is the longest lasting member of the American Women’s Association. She says: “I initially joined to meet other women from different backgrounds and nationalities, to immerse myself in different cultures and habits. The AWA is a melting pot from all over the globe with members aged from as young as 20 and the oldest being 70.”
During her time with the AWA, Lynne has served on each of the association’s committees and received many awards for her work – so much so that there is now a Lynne Al-Wazzan Award named after her, which is presented to new members who have been particularly active.
The AWA is a strong supporter all local charities in Bahrain, the main fundraising event being The Cherry Tree Trot (CTT), which is held every two years in support of charities and societies that help the disabled, adults and children alike. Lynne says her family has been her biggest support in her charity work and her children have helped her with the CTT for the past 20 years.
One of the other charities she considers close to her heart is the Indian Ladies Association and its Sneha organisation, which helps educate special needs children. She has been working with them for the past 18 years and is very keen to point out the benefit of Sneha to those who might not otherwise be able to access learning.
As well as her charity work, Lynne says her time in Bahrain has afforded her many opportunities for growth, never more evident than when she and friend Jo Karimi open the very first tearoom on the island, outside of a hotel, in a villa in Adiliya 25 years ago. The doors to the tearoom unfortunately closed in 2011 due to familial commitments, but this is another area in which Lynne pays tribute to her parents saying: “My father was a wonderful baker, he was renowned for his scones, that’s where I got it from.”
As she marks 40 years in the Kingdom, Lynne says: “All in all, I’ve had a wonderfully exciting life in Bahrain, a beautiful country which I have seen steadfastly develop under the guidance and patronage of its leaders, the late Emir, His Majesty Shaikh Isa bin Salman AL Khalifa, his wife, Her Royal Highness Sheikha Hessa, and currently His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa AL Khalifa and his wife Her Royal Highness Shaikha Sabika. They are guiding the way for Bahrain as a shining beacon for education, medical institutions, housing and women’s rights. Which in turn reflects on their people who are kind, hardworking and loyal to their country.”
For 42 years, the ladies in the American Women’s Association (AWA) have been volunteering their time and talents in charities throughout Bahrain. The AWA’s mission has always been, and remains, to promote charity, friendship, and cultural understanding in the Kingdom. AWA members donate thousands of volunteer hours and work to raise tens of thousands dinars for charities every year.
The biggest event supporting AWA is its biennial Cherry Tree Trot (CTT). The event’s name is based on a legend that George Washington, the first President of the USA, cut down his father’s beloved cherry tree as a youngster and demonstrated his honesty when his father asked who was responsible for felling it. The first CTT in 1981 took place in the desert as a fun day out.
The event is held every two years and will take place on Saturday, February 25, 2017. The event is one of the largest fundraising and highest profile events in Bahrain. The AWA expects more than 2,000 people, along with over 30 of its charities, to participate in this charity run/walk to help the physically and mentally challenged.
The primary event is a 2K race for mentally and physically challenged children and adults who will be supported by students from the leading private schools and adult volunteers. There are also 2k, 3K, 5K and 8K runs for able-bodied participants. A 3K walkathon is an option for those who like to take things a little easier and those in wheelchairs. The trot takes place at the BIC and is a fun day out for the whole family!
For more information visit http://awabahrain.org/events/cherry-tree-trot/