Opening New Vistas

A new volunteering initiative by a team of young Bahrainis aims to open up learning opportunities for underprivileged children.

Flagged off in February this year, Project 616 is a volunteering network that offers children a chance to pick up skills they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The project is run by six Bahrainis, who coordinate with a host of volunteers to design six-week training sessions in specific skills.

“Our main goal is to connect. We believe that we’re all connected to each other and what we do affects one other. Volunteers who share their time, skills and knowledge connect with the community and help inspire young minds,” says Kanwal Hameed, co-founder.

The 616 team works with NGOs to identify underprivileged children, who lack the experience and opportunities enjoyed by the more affluent. It is this access and opportunity that she wants to share.

“Children are a lot more open minded than adults. We want to expose them to alternate ways of learning that are fun and don’t exactly feel like learning,” she notes.

The idea is to motivate children and make them realise that they’re capable of making their dreams come true. Two programmes in spring and summer this year have offered courses in playing the guitar, speaking English, healthy cooking, mixed media art and critical thinking in addition to workshops in drama and recycled arts.

The sessions held at various venues in Bahrain saw participation from around 100 children in the seven to 18 age group. Cooking sessions and English-language classes for girls have proved especially popular. Classes are offered in weekly sessions that range from 60 minutes up to three hours.

Kanwal’s previous volunteer stints were as a relief worker for families affected by the 33-day war in Lebanon and at a youth centre in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, where she ran programmes at the youth centre.

The team has receved interest from volunteers to run the English as Second Language (ESL) course alongside the health and fitness programme for the third programme later this year.

“A number of children are eager to learn and are hungry for the exposure. Some want to return to these sessions after the course is over, which is a testament to the commitment of our volunteers. We’ll add more courses depending on what the children want to learn and the skills our volunteers want to share,” Kanwal adds.

Over time, the team hopes to see the project expand into a club, offering direct membership.

“We’d like to broaden our network so that we can reach more children. This will also put us in direct contact with their families rather than working through NGOs,” she says.

Those who wish to volunteer as instructors can visit the project616 page on Facebook.

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