Way back in the Swingin’ Seventies, when shopping malls were undreamt of and there were very few brand-name outlets in Bahrain, the best place to snag a super bargain were the charity thrift shops.
The Awali Thrift Shop was particularly popular for its (what do they call it, these days?) ‘pre-loved clothes’ which put Bahrain youngsters on the edge of the bell-bottom and platform heels fashion scene.
These days there are many more charity thrift shops and I am particularly partial to the shelves of second-hand books at the BSPCA shop which is like a wall of best-sellers.
When I want to donate clothes, I prefer to directly gift them to organisations like the MWPS where the wonderful volunteers have the practice of filling old suitcases with good second-hand clothes for returning migrant workers who are left with nothing to show for their stay here.
Last year, the Southern Municipality launched a free service to remove old furniture and other bulky equipment from the homes of elderly people or those with special needs for donation to the needy. The idea is to stop furniture being dumped on the streets.
Just in time, authorities in Bahrain are waking up to the takeover of our pavements by well-meaning but completely inappropriate charity collection paraphernalia.
The concept of setting up containers in street corners for people to put their bundles of clothing donations sounds great but near our home, we have pavements that are unusable because at least five rival charities have lined up one container each.
As a result, we have to walk on the road when we go for our exercise or do a dangerous dash when crossing in traffic.
Whose idea was this clothing collection container in the first place? These unwieldy boxes are unsuitable for Bahrain’s weather because the clothes put inside them are collected only after weeks and may well be damaged by dust and mildew before they are processed by the charities.
In any case, I believe that they are sold in bulk to collection agencies which then ship them to aid organisations abroad since needy people in Bahrain prefer to buy their own clothes with the shopping vouchers that the charities give them from the sale money.
It all sounds unnecessarily elaborate and takes up precious common pavement space. If the core idea is to prevent people from dumping old clothes in the landfill, why not run continuous awareness campaigns about the need to segregate waste and have centralised drop-off points in the vast malls for old clothes?
And, clothes are not the only clutter on our streets. In some places, misguided people have apparently installed refrigerators on pavements but forgotten that they need to be maintained and hooked to electricity. As a result, the food kept inside for the needy to help themselves often goes rotten, leading to hygiene and rodent issues.
Want some more examples of charity gone wrong? Well, what about people who drive around with bags of pet food or meat and place them in neighbourhoods not their own, leaving packs of strays and street cats to fight for the choicest cuts?
Or shops and restaurants which dump old biryani and stale khubz on roundabouts for pigeons?
The resulting mess is smelly and attracts flies and rodents as well as squabbling stray cats.
Bahrain is a country with a heart of gold but I think its high time we put in place some firm rules about how we help each other. Otherwise, we may end up with ‘care’-diac arrest!