AN initiative to boost the morale of Bahrain’s low-paid expat workers saw almost 1,000 come together for an action-packed day of activities yesterday. The ICRF Workers Day – Autumn Fest, organised by the Indian Community Relief Fund (ICRF), was held at the Indian School grounds, Isa Town.
Those celebrating birthdays were congratulated during a cake cutting and events included tug-of-war, races, karaoke, a quiz and cinematic dance. Winners received prizes and all participants received a gift hamper before departing after dinner. “The aim of the event is to make them feel included and assure them that they are part of our society,” ICRF chairman Aruldas Thomas told the GDN. “We don’t want them to feel out of place or lonely. This is our effort to help them feel happy in a place far from home.” It was the second such event organised by the ICRF and was supported by the Indian Embassy. The first, a Summer Fest, was held in June and the plan is to organise similar events every season – with a Winter Fest and Spring Fest to follow. “The first event was a success and we could see that the men left happy, asking for the dates of the next such event,” said Mr Thomas. “These men are in labour camps, far from families, and such events of togetherness will definitely give them happiness. “Moreover, this will boost their morale and also create awareness about support systems available to them, so that they know who to approach in a time of need.” Among officials who attended were Indian Embassy second secretary P K Chowdhury and Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) chief executive Ausamah Al Absi. “We are thankful to the Indian Embassy, LMRA officials and VIVA, our annual sponsor for the events, for helping us organise these fests,” added Mr Thomas. “We sent invitations to at least five labour camps and arranged transportation for them, while we also announced through various media that the event was free for all to attend.” Flyers with suicide prevention hotline numbers were also distributed to participants. The GDN previously reported that the ICRF – through its Listen, Involve, Foster, Engage (LIFE) initiative – had stepped up outreach efforts following an alarming increase in expat suicides over the past two years
Of the 30 reported suicides this year, 28 involved expats. The ICRF has trained over 200 gatekeepers, or first responders, who are ready to support people who contact its two suicide prevention hotlines (38415171 and 35990990). ICRF representatives can also be reached for assistance on 39461746 or 39682974. The ICRF has also distributed 10,000 anti-suicide posters and flyers since Ramadan last year. In addition, a sub-committee – the ICRF Regional Forum – consisting of around 40 members from different Indian states has been formed. The aim is to expand the ICRF’s reach into different Indian communities in Bahrain.