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Stronger together

February 12 - 18 , 2020
Gulf Weekly Stronger together

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

OneHeart-Bahrain, founded by Birthe van der Heijden, aims to unite the kingdom through acts of kindness from preparing meals for migrant workers to staging meditations to inspire like-minded individuals.

The community driven Instagram account started on Birthe’s vision of spreading awareness about the beauty of diversity and how we are all stronger together. She began to post her charitable food endeavours as well as hosting group meditations geared towards World Goodwill.

World Goodwill is an organisation founded in 1932 to apply the teachings of former Theosophist Alice A Bailey, specifically to improve human relations in the world. The energy of goodwill is potentially a powerful force for social change. The organisation supports the work of the United Nations and the people of goodwill are those who think and act with a measure of loving understanding and of concern for the well-being of all.

Birthe, who is a firm believer in World Goodwill, said: “We are stronger when we come together as one. We are all part of one global system and Bahrain has its own beautiful and diverse ecosystem made up of many nationalities.

“When we embrace this diversity whilst recognising and nurturing our shared humanity, it creates a more powerful nation, as the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Together everyone achieves more.

“My meditation group grew into more of a community service shortly after I started offering the Goodwill Meditations in which I was explaining to people about the general merits of doing service. To give people this experience, I started inviting them to join the food drives.

“The food effort then evolved. In the last two months, we have started cooking our own meals to offer both our volunteers a deeper and more meaningful experience of community service. Monica Fernandes, who has worked with us since we first came to Bahrain, loves to cook and as such is the natural choice to be in charge of the meal production. She has prior experience in catering and makes the most wonderful Indian food.”

The group of volunteers is made up of Bahrainis, British, Australian, Indian, Swedish, Irish, Russian, Dutch, South African, Canadian, Italian, German and Bangladeshi. Members from the multinational team prepare food together in Birthe’s kitchen in Saar.

She said: “We are very lucky to have a large ‘island’ in the centre of the kitchen which allows us to work well as a group, especially when it comes to parcelling up. We have bought special oversized cooking tools to accommodate the large quantities of food, but given the size of the pans and the restricted size of a ‘private-use’ cooker, we are still limited how fast and how much we can cook.

“We generally operate on a five mile radius around Saar to ensure the food is nice and warm when it reaches the workers. But sometimes a volunteer may request a different site with people that they wish to serve and whilst we are still small, we are able to accommodate this.”

Her mediation sessions are also held every Wednesday at noon from her house. She said: “I feel meditation is more meaningful when we use it to do good and expand our minds and hearts to embrace the whole human race as one great big family. We have found that the people who do these meditations become more influenced by this more inclusive way of thinking and start to incorporate goodwill practices into their daily routines and work life.

“We furthermore plan to offer the meditation every Saturday at noon and are looking for a good location where there may be relevant interest - if anyone wishes to host then please get in touch.” All Goodwill Meditations are free of charge.

The group has kept the volunteering involvement fairly small thus far, but there will come a point when they need to expand their operations.

“We have had both children and adults helping in the kitchen and with the distribution of the meals,” added Birthe. “The children are the future and they are naturally very caring and altruistic and as such we wish to encourage them to maintain that selfless outlook as they mature.

“I like to involve my children in our work so that they develop certain life skills as well as gain an understanding of what’s involved in doing ‘service’ from the ground up. They usually help to prepare the food and deliver to the workers and on a personal wellbeing level, practicing selflessness helps to expand their minds and hearts, teaches them humility and kindness.”

St Christopher’s School student Tabitha Moore, 12, loves the food initiative. She said: “It is good to give food because the workers often have families to support in their home country and they don’t always have much money to spend on themselves. So when we give them a healthy meal it helps.”

The group’s greater vision is to create a goodwill ecosystem in Bahrain that supports the development of human capital and as such the economic potential of the nation. “We hope to collaborate with the bright young minds of the academic community to develop an AI technology platform for this purpose, the full potential of which could be explored by means of an entrepreneurial academic incubator,” she explained. “This is something we are investigating at present and we would love to hear from interested parties who wish to contribute to the development of a Goodwill Shareconomy in Bahrain.”​​

People interested in participating can email or follow oneheartbahrain on Instagram and Facebook.

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