Towards A Better World

by BTM

Tue, 02 June 2020

Towards A Better World

Founding member of the Bahrain Association for Parents and Friends of the Disabled (BAPFD), Sahar Al Ajjawi, spoke to Behnaz Sanjana about the organisation’s two-pronged solution to plastic waste.

When a friend who had a differently abled child floated the idea of having a formal community for the disabled in Bahrain, Sahar was on board with heart and soul. That was 2003, and the BAPFD began with 50 members. “We are now 200 strong, with the purpose of helping the disabled in whatever capacity we can,” says Sahar, who is the group’s financial controller. “We welcome people across all nationalities with all kinds of disability, their families and friends.”

Members have a full year of activities planned. Sahar says: “Every two weeks we have a programme, gathering or seminar. We invite guests and those from within our organisation to speak on relevant topics for the disabled and their caregivers.”

When schools are out for summer, the BAPFD runs a summer camp at its space in Salmaniya, where children stay engaged with fun activities and field trips. “We have had 10 successful years of summer camps and, two years ago, BAPFD was proud to be invited to participate at the Bahrain Summer Festival’s Nakhool tent, hosted by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities,” says Sahar. “Also, during Ramadan we have Gergaoun and Hiya Biya activities for these children. Besides teaching them about our traditional customs, this is also a way for the general public to accept the differently abled as a part of society and involve them in community living.”

Amongst the BAPFD’s most successful endeavours is the plastic project, which started in 2011 when members discussed their concerns about the increase in plastic waste in Bahrain. Brainstorming led to a win-win concept, whereby the association would collect plastic refuse and sell it to a recycling factory. The money accrued would be used to fund customised wheelchairs for the deserving. “We started off on a small scale, collecting whatever plastic waste members brought at our head office in Adliya,” recalls Sahar. Word about the initiative spread quickly and more people started bringing in redundant plastic.  “Some members require custom-made wheelchairs, designed to certain specifications. These cost anywhere between BD1,500 to BD4,000,” she says. “The money we earn from selling plastic for recycling is utilised towards funding such wheelchairs. Our mobility unit and professionally qualified social workers collaborate to identify deserving cases. On an average, we can provide around 18 such wheelchairs in a year.”

With the support of governmental and private entities, collection points have been set up at Enma and Wadi Al Sail malls, Isa Town, Dohat Arad park and Adliya’s Block 338 amongst others. The challenges, however, are mounting, like logistics and falling prices for plastic. “We require a more sophisticated way of handling the waste, and to make the operation of shredding and compressing it more feasible and profitable. Also, we are eager to have our centre in Salmaniya open all year round for disabled children to go to every day, for which we need financial support. That’s what we are working on for the future.”

Contribute towards this cause by adding your plastic waste to the container outside the BAPFD  headquarters in Adliya. 
Check out @bapf_disabled on Instagram