We go behind the scenes at the life-changing fundraising group
Time Out Bahrain staff
The Palm Association is the brainchild of two long-term resident expat women, who wanted to give back to the local community. And from humble beginnings in 2001 it’s grown into a well respected, not-for-profit, pro-active organisation, run by women, with the sole purpose of providing help and assistance to Bahraini families and individuals.
Over the past 11 years it has helped countless families through food parcels, sponsorship and home improvements.
Eibhlin said: “In the beginning 30 food parcels were distributed monthly, that’s now increased to 155.
“The ‘sponsor a family’ programme allows us to provide and distribute food boxes to the value of BD15 each every month to needy families. Each family has been identified by our trusted community contacts as facing a difficult financial situation. Lots are living on the bare minimum due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances such as the death of a spouse, accident or illness.
“Families are assessed regularly and any whose situation improves are removed from the programme and a new family is added. To date we’ve handed out more than 6,000 boxes to needy families with the annual cost of supporting a family running at BD180.”
The association also has strong ties with Salmaniya Medical Complex’s children’s cancer unit providing practical help in the form of shoes and clothes during the winter months.
Eibhlin explained: “Every year Sister Amal, who is the nursing supervisor of the paediatric oncology ward, asks us to find funds and to buy clothing for the poorer children under her care.
“She’s found over the years that when the winter months come, many of her patients get sick as their clothing and footwear is inadequate. This results in delays in their chemotherapy which can impact on their chances of recovery.
“This year’s recipients got clothing and footwear vouchers just before National Day, 2011.”
Other recent projects include erecting a warm weather shade over the children’s play area at the Friendship Society for the Blind at Isa Town and distributing two truckloads of goodies, from dry foods to bicycles, donated during a ‘Just Giving Day’ at Nadeen International School.
Ongoing, the association buys and distributes basic electrical goods such as washing machines, cookers, air-con units and fridges with more than 6,600 appliances being handed out so far. There is an annual Ramadan food drive, supported by local schools, and Eid vouchers for orphans.
And the help is not just practical, with an ongoing partnership with Esterad the association has underwritten a scholarship programme for a group of Bahrainis training to be doctors and nurses at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland Bahrain MUB.
It also sponsors six mentally and physically challenged young people to attend the Al Rahma Centre which provides health, social, psychological, vocational and rehabilitative care for young adults and children, as well as support for their families. The annual cost of sponsorship for each student is BD500.
An even more ambitious project involves actually helping to rebuild homes for those in need. Eibhlin explained: “Our home visits to families identified in need ensure we visit various villages around the island where we have come upon homes in the most unlivable and unsafe conditions.
“Despite their obvious hardships the owners are warm, friendly, hospitable and humble - classic qualities of the Bahraini people.
“We are currently working with our local contacts in targeting the direst of properties to further our rebuild projects this year.”
Of course, all this good work costs plenty of money and since its foundation The Palm Association has raised more than $1 million with funds coming in through events such as a golf day and the annual Palm Ball as well as individual efforts from the likes of ultra marathoner Mike McKinlay, who was sponsored to successfully complete the ‘world’s most demanding foot race’, the 2008 Marathon des Sables, TV personality Nadia Swann, who climbed Kilimanjaro, and Sami Kooheji who raised cash by sailing a laser to Dubai..
Volunteers are always welcome and the organisation is currently particularly seeking those with PR and IT skills. If you’d like to get involved call Eibhlin on 36343890 or drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org