Hidden away in Hamad town lies the Aisha Yateem Family Counselling Centre
Time Out Bahrain staff
‘The centre opened in March 2007, after we outgrew the premises at the Bahrain Young Ladies’ Association, which was established by Aisha Yateem back in 1955,’ explains Layla Al Bassam, the centre’s manager. ‘To date we have helped over 524 families or cases to resolve their problems, protected individuals from violations within the home and assisted them to move their lives forward.’
The centre has eight full time staff consisting of fully trained social workers, a lawyer, counsellors, psychologists and trainers who provide advice on everything from the simple individual rights of family members, right through to those suffering both physical and mental abuse. Their primary aim is to help families resolve their issues and encourage them to live in harmony. However, if and when it becomes necessary for women and children to leave, the centre will assist them throughout the entire process in the strictest of confidence.
Funded partly by the Yateem family itself (who donated BD30,000 for the shelter and continually give BD10,000 a year), the centre also receives donations from BBK, National Bank of Bahrain, ALBA and the general public to enable it to continue functioning. ‘We have a volunteer committee of Arabic ladies who organise ladies’ lunches, charity bazaars and generally give their time to helping raise money for the centre,’ continues Layla.
In an initiative set up last year, the centre held the Al Nahda charity clothes exhibition, based within the Bahrain Young Ladies’ Association building. Ladies’, men’s and children’s clothing (often designer), accessories, homeware, and books were donated, priced by the committee members and volunteers, and sold with all the proceeds going to the running of the centre.
Layla also tells us of other initiatives: ‘We are going to publish a book by Aisha Yateem that depicts her life as a young woman in Bahrain many decades ago, and the Ministry of Development have an annual prize of BD10,000 for the best community project in Bahrain, which we won in 2010. In addition to this, one of our committee members, Fryal Aladami, has just designed a calendar that depicts images of lunches, events and lectures that have taken place at the centre for us to sell to the public and businesse.’
There are also some big plans for the centre over the next 12 months. Staff are currently undergoing training for a new telephone hotline that has just been installed, and will hopefully be activated this month. It is sponsored by the UNDP, who gave BD2,600 to cover the installation and training costs.
And an area of the centre is currently being renovated to provide a temporary (two-three weeks) shelter and safe refuge for women and children who have no alternative but to flee their family home. They will also have full access to the services and care that is currently available to ‘drop in’ clients. ‘We eventually want to build shops and apartments on some land that we have next door,’ says Layla. The intention is to rent these premises with the proceeds going to support the centre, as the running costs are inflating every year.
‘It is a real testament to the charitable spirit here in Bahrain that so many people have come together in a multitude of ways to keep the centre running all these years,’ Layla adds. For more info or to make a donation, contact the centre on 17 430 488
The following is a real life example of how the centre helps its clients This lady, now 26, was married at 20 and had four children – when her relationship became abusive she went to the centre for advice: ‘I knew that I had to find a way to protect my children, but I didn’t know how. I had never worked, had no qualifications and was scared. A friend told me about the centre, so I went there and that was a major turning point in my life and my children’s.
‘After spending some time with the counsellors there, I decided that things had gone too far and I wanted a divorce. The lawyer not only advised me about my rights, but accompanied me at every court hearing, and the centre covered all my costs as I was in no position to do so. They also trained me to use a computer and learn basic office skills, as well as giving me constant emotional support.
‘My children and I now have our own home, a monthly allowance from my ex-husband, and I have found employment – all of which would not have been possible if the centre did not exist.’