Cover Story

One heart, one Bahrain

February 12 - 18 , 2020
Gulf Weekly One heart, one Bahrain

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

What started as a personal Instagram account showcasing the life of Birthe van der Heijden in Bahrain, flourished into a community initiative in which she and big-hearted individuals cook up meals for migrant workers as well as spread the message of unity through kindness.

 OneHeartBahrain was launched in September of last year and has already garnered 165 members all working on the same vision – “to help people recognise that we are One World, One People and One Bahrain Community.”

The Dutch mother-of-three, who is a social strategist and teacher in meditation practice, said: “Goodwill is the simple mechanism by which we can achieve this state of oneness as it is the glue that unites people into right relationships promoting greater peace, harmony and potential value within our society.”

Birthe moved to the kingdom with her husband Simon Peters, director Middle East in Education Services, five-and-a-half years ago along with her children Darcey, 14, Caitlin, 12 and Sacha, 10, who study at St Christopher’s School. She immediately fell in love with the island’s “rich tapestry of nationalities”.

“I wanted to do something to support this diversity,” explained Birthe.

 “Everything I was doing just reflected my desire to promote oneness amongst people. I started to incorporate some posts about food charity, purely as a demonstration of our human connection with the migrant workers.

“I was also offering group meditation as a form of community service. Afterwards, I started to focus the group meditation specifically on World Goodwill. Then the three components came together – social media awareness about having one Bahrain community, a World Goodwill Meditation Group and the Food Initiative.”

They first started buying restaurant meals and distributing them to the workers but then felt they could create deeper and more meaningful experiences of doing good if they created the meals themselves.

Birthe teamed up with Monica Fernandes, who is originally from Goa, to be her right-hand woman and head chef of their food initiative.

Now, they produce a weekly batch of meals, ranging from 50 to 80 meals from a nonindustrial kitchen.

More on Cover Story