An endearing, hopeful article for a change

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Feb 8 2008

For the past 28 years, Mrs Bala, now in her 70s, has been helping Bahrain's migrant labourers, most of whom come from the Indian subcontinent, in any way she can.

A practising lawyer, she has helped solve scores of labour disputes, talked dozens out of suicide, clothed and fed hundreds of workers too poor to buy adequate clothing or feed themselves, and provided much-needed kindness in a world that tends to ignore them.

Her friends refer to her as the 'Mother Teresa of Bahrain.'

And, to the 350,000 migrant labourers responsible for Bahrain's breakneck development Mrs Bala is seen as a surrogate mother.

'She is like a mother to us. She has adopted us,' said Mohammed Rashid, a 25-year-old labourer from Bangladesh.

He is wearing a thick sweater and two woolly hats given to him by Mrs Bala.

As he sets out from his labour camp for his evening job of washing cars, she cautions him to wrap up warm.

Mrs Bala does not have children, but likes to say that she has 'adopted the whole of Bahrain.'

Throughout the kingdom's labour camps she is a familiar figure. When she arrived in Bahrain from Hyderabad, India, in 1979, she started helping labourers with gifts of food and clothing.

'It was the Prophet's birthday and I wanted to do something to help people who had less than me,' she explains.

A devout Muslim, she began distributing food supplies and basic necessities. In winter she would bring warm clothes, bedding and heaters, and in the summer she would distribute water, air-conditioning units and cold drinks.

She also started making frequent visits to sick and injured labourers in Salmaniya Medical Complex.

'It was heart-warming and also eye-opening,' she explains. 'They were people who had nothing but were always so happy to have a visitor and they would have tears in their eyes because someone was kind to them.'

Read more of this wonderful and hopeful article here.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East