The Kingdom of Bahrain, along with other countries in the region, have developed consistently over the years. There’s no denying that Bahrain has gone from strength to strength with plenty of notable achievements, despite the challenges that this past year might have thrown our way. That being said, it’s easy for the community to overlook a very crucial part of our society, which has played a significant role in these developments – migrant workers. This segment of society is often overlooked and faces several hardships, sometimes involving access to basic necessities. Charity groups like OneHeartBahrain – founded by Birthe van der Heijden – are often a saving grace for these workers. Here’s what Birthe had to say when we had a chat this month.
Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I am originally from The Netherlands and spent half my life in UK aside from a couple of years in Italy. I consider myself to be from nowhere, but my home is Bahrain after living here for almost seven years now. I wish for my life to be about others and not about me. With a background in marketing communications, business management, strategy and development, I am now focused on using these abilities towards creating a more united world.
When did you start OneHeartBahrain? What are its key initiatives?
I started OneHeartBahrain two years ago just as a personal endeavour to shine a light on the plight of migrant workers in the Kingdom. I just wished for them to be seen and accepted as equal members of society doing a very noble job, often in harsh conditions, in supporting the economic growth of this country. Then, over time, others joined the efforts and it became a goodwill community initiative towards unity.
We are currently going through a stage of development as we are preparing to incorporate as an NGO. There will be three main strands of activity to support socio-economic well-being of this beautiful nation: food, jobs and second-hand goods.
What are your on-going initiatives?
Our current initiatives are centered around food and goods distribution, and we also offer goodwill meditation. We are in the process of creating a platform for the exchange of goods to support redistribution of wealth within this country. We will soon share our new Instagram page for OneHeartBahrain Loved Goods. Around 30% or more – depending on available donations - of goods will be distributed for free directly to those in need through our volunteers, especially items for immediate survival such as clothing and beds. This is the start of a secondhand goods market which encourages people to either fully donate, or part-sell/part-donate goods with 50% profits going towards donations of food, which the OneHeartBahrain volunteer force will then distribute to those in need. In other words, financial proceeds from the Loved Goods exchange process will support the food charity aspect.
Which groups of people do you usually help?
We wish to help everyone. We are about unity - One Humanity - there is no difference for us between nations, races, cultures and beliefs.
How has COVID-19 impacted the target groups that you usually help out? What can the public do to help?
COVID-19 has increased the hunger situation in this country. Many have been left jobless and without money. And on a wider societal scale there is less disposable income which is why secondhand goods and redistribution of goods to those left destitute is now more in demand.
Do you have any stats on how many individuals you might have helped to date?
Our intention is to help those that reach out to us in whatever capacity we are able to. We have supported thousands of people but we don’t keep score. It is important that we focus on quality and not on quantity, and that we teach people about coming together in unity by doing good and being there for one another. This is what is important. We don’t want to show off and stay focused on being humble and selfless instead.
Could you tell us a bit about your volunteers? How many people work collectively to keep your initiative going?
We have volunteers from all corners of the globe including many from South Asian country. Even those that are struggling themselves are still there to serve others. We often join forces with Bangladesh Society of Bahrain. Our workforce across the different activities is pushing towards one hundred people. Together with Bangladesh Society we have a massive workforce that we can put to great work for a better future of this wonderful nation.
What has been your most fulfilling experience yet?
No one particular experience, but what has been most humbling is the never-ending supply of goodwill from residents within this country in support of our charitable causes. We are so grateful.
If you’d like to reach out to OneHeartBahrain, follow @oneheartbahrain on Instagram or Facebook and drop them a message. Alternatively, you can WhatsApp 33872346 or email [email protected]