These days it’s not uncommon for female expats to travel to the island for work alone or for wives, accompanying their spouses, to continue with their careers once they get here.
But for others, a husband’s overseas posting can mean isolation and loneliness. A long way from home, often unable to work due to visa issues or young children, women’s associations can be a real lifeline and sanity saver and a great way to make friends when they first arrive.
Proving the efficacy of these groups, the American Women’s Association has just celebrated its 38th year in the kingdom and it’s not just for Americans, the group is currently 200-plus members strong comprised of ladies from 41 different countries.
Its aims and objectives have always been to serve the community, promote understanding among women of different nationalities, enhance the cultural and social communication between members and their families and unite women in Bahrain in friendship and co-operation.
From small beginnings, it had just seven founding members when it was established in 1974, the association has gone on to become a real force and now supports more than 35 different charities.
Among these are the Special Olympics, the RIA Centre, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Bahrain Child Care Home, Bahrain Mobility International, Bahrain Red Crescent Society, the Aisha Yateem Centre for Family Counselling and the Mother and Child Welfare Society to name but a few.
The AWA also provides help to needy individuals and smaller organisations.
There are regular meetings for members and guests, social events, such as the AWA Spring Ball, which is always a highlight on the island’s social calendar, an annual costume parade and lots of fundraising events which, over the years, have also become Bahrain institutions.
The biggest fundraiser is the bi-annual Cherry Tree Trot (CTT) which has been running since 1981. Starting as a fun day out for people from various homes, it has since grown into fundraising event to support those who are in need. The goal of CTT has always been to raise money for charity while having a fun with a race for both physically and mentally challenged and able-bodied people. More than 400 people from 18 different homes and schools took part in the last event, plus 500 able runners.
This year’s CTT will be held on November 30 at the BIC, which will be a great family fun day as it falls on a Friday. CTT raised more than BD52,000 in 2010 and the aim this year is to top BD60,000!
And what’s really nice about it is that it’s so far the only event that not only raises money for the disabled but also includes and encourages them to take part.
Another huge favourite is the AWA annual craft fair which, this year will be named the Snowflake Craft Fair and will take place in November. It attracts a huge range of products from handmade jewellery and pottery to Christmas decorations and art works. The fair also provides tables for different charities such as the Dogfather’s animal rescue, rehoming and rehabilitation centre and local women’s and welfare organisations to raise cash for their causes.
The first craft fair was held more than 30 years ago and it’s constantly evolving. In response to requests from local artists, this year organisers have decided to more formally integrate the arts and crafts aspects hoping to provide a recognised platform for Bahrain’s artistic community.
AWA president Tosin Arowojolu says: “The American Women’s Association (AWA) was started in 1974 by seven ladies who came together with three goals in mind: charity, friendship and cultural understanding.
Today, the AWA is 200-plus members strong with ladies of 41 nationalities. Our goals continue to be the same. We currently support 37 local charities and we hope to be able to increase that number in the future. “In addition, we are approached by individuals in need and are able to provide assistance when appropriate. This year we have the Cherry Tree Trot,which is our bi-annual fundraising event through which we will raise funds to continue our work for the next two years.Our target is BD60,000.
“We are also in the process of launching our own in-house outreach by which we would enhance our community service.
In the coming year we will also have several events which will be social as well as fundraising such as a craft fair, fashion show, international parade, a formal ball and art exhibition. Through these events we come together to celebrate our diversity while sharing our talents, skills and expertise.” For more information or to become a member visit www.awabahrain.org
A whole world of women’s groups Alliance Francaise call (17 683 295) Awali Ladies Association call (17 678 947) Bahrain Women’s Society call (17 826 777) Bahrain Young Ladies Society call (17 273 508) Indian Ladies Association call (36 310 050) International Ladies Group call (17 729 128) Pakistani Women’s Association call (17 710 944) Palm Association call (39 967 896) Bahrain Young Ladies Society’s Toastmasters Club call (17 626 237)