Social media can be so much more than just a channel for frivolous pastime when it’s put to good use. The founder of a Facebook group that’s gone from virtual to actual tells us more.
Started by expat Anshu Adrekar in January of 2014, Facebook group MOMwise set out as a page for mums and the topics that concern them on a day-to-day basis.
Anshu’s vision was to create an online community for women to discuss and learn from certified professionals about food, health, fitness, child psychology, relationships, the arts, gardening, fashion and social service.
By 2015 this virtual hamlet had gained around 3,000 members, when Learn and Serve was born as a group initiative.
Anshu says: “One of the members of the MOMwise group suggested that we should start a MOMwise craft club, where we could all meet and share our knowledge and skills with each other.”
This sparked off an idea in her mind. “I thought, why not do this with the purpose of social service and give it a timeline. The idea was to learn a skill for the purpose of donating whatever is produced. Hence the name Learn and Serve. Since we were close to winter, we decided to knit or crochet woollen scarves to give away to the construction workers around the island.”
She continues: “We made two groups, one of ladies who could teach the skill, and the other of women who were ready to learn the technique for the purpose of donating it to the needy. As the administrator of the group, I carried out the coordination between the teachers and learners.” That year, the ladies came up with 65 scarves between five teachers and 60 students.”
She continues, “In the second year, our group grew bigger. As our numbers increased, someone suggested we make caps as well to distribute among cancer patients. We were more than 100 of us. In total, we made around 120 woollen scarves and 70 caps. They were distributed amongst construction workers and cancer patients [adults and children] at Salmaniya Hospital.”
The Learn and Serve initiative fell seamlessly into place by the will of women who wanted to make some sort of difference to those in need. The instructors donated their time to teach others, while the students spent from their own pockets to source the required materials for knitting and crochetwork. “Volunteers started coordinating among themselves to buy their materials in bulk, with the aim of making it more cost-effective,” Anshu indicates as another instance of teamwork for a good cause.
As ladies from various pockets of Bahrain stepped forth to teach these crafts, subgroups formed in Budaiya, Adliya, Juffair, Tubli, Manama, Hoora and Hamala for the convenience of the learners.
“Weekly sessions were conducted at these area-wise centres. We adhere to a time limit for the project and everyone usually completes their task within that period,” she explains.
Once the ladies have completed their handiworks, the project concludes with their collection at a central place, from where volunteers are happy to distribute them to previously decided locations.
Although Anshu has now moved on from Bahrain to live in Australia, she still maintains a strong connection with her online community here. She says, “I have been very lucky that I have so many friends in the group who genuinely feel for the cause and would like to continue to take it forward.
Prior to my leaving Bahrain, we had decided to carry on with this initiative, for the sake of seeing the happy faces of the children and the other patients at the Cancer Ward in Salmaniya Hospital, and also for how fulfilled we feel when the labourers at construction sites thank us for receiving something that they could really do with.”
Anshu gives credit for the continuation of this idea to the entire group of women who facilitate its logistics in her absence. “The actual work — teaching, learning and production, is done by them, while I coordinate the whole project online from Australia,” she says.
This year’s initiative has just started and, if you would like to get involved, check out the MOMwise page on Facebook.