Monday, April 04, 2011

I did do other things in DWG, but the most interesting & the most fun were the 5 years I spent as the Welfare Chairman. In this article I will mention some names of women who worked with me, but please realize, that I, having left Saudi almost 20 years ago, and Dhahran for RT before then, I simply don't remember all the names of people who worked so well with us. Several names have reappeared as I've been working on this, but not nearly all.

We organized people to run clothing drives for refugees, and supported women's nursing scholarships in the Middle East. Once I had 10,000 blankets to give away! In the place where the blankets were stored, many Saudi men worked. It was fun visiting with them and talking about their villages. Many were in the village charitable societies, so we arranged blankets to go to these societies. Many went out of the country to refugees.

We really loved cooperating with various women's charitable societies. We had an Arab cooking class at their place and they came to our place for an American cooking class. We were invited to homes. We went to oasis villages to give educational aids and show their use. Once we had a nursery school workshop in Dhahran. Many ideas were presented by Welfare Committee members and by nursery school teachers who joined us for this special day. Women from the Al Khobar nursery school who had more resources, afterwards themselves helped village societies with their nursery schools.

However it was amazing to see how those village women had worked to fix their schools and to prepare themselves to lead. Many got books from the boys' schools, studying at home, and going back eventually to take the exams for their high school degrees. I was so impressed that some of the grandmothers had encouraged this program.

Western women thanked me, too, for the treasuring those contacts.

Students had opportunities to work on clothing drives! This was not volunteer work - I drafted Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and returning students and some others. Well, they needed service hours.... Of course, DWG members helped, too. Art Kelberer facilitated the movement of the clothes up the Tapline. Recently one of our daughters asked if those big boxes we'd had in the hallway were for clothing drives. Yes, they were. We once took clothes to Greece; people going on a trip to Pakistan took some suitcases. In the papers of the Welfare Committee I found a wonderful little note. Someone asked Tom Barger for help for people in terrible floods in Italy. He'd written on that paper - 'try the women's group'. Kathleen took hold, sending many tons of clothing.

Ruth Edmondson, living down the alley from me was DWG president. She said one day," Barbara, now you are the Welfare Committee chairman." I wasn't certain I loved this information. What should I do? There were almost no references to find. Kate Crawford wrote letters, having them translated as needed, and had checks issued for the charities we supported. People told me to talk with Ellen Speers, but Ellen was in Houston for a year. The Speers did come back to Dhahran later, and Ellen was very helpful. Someone found the files for me.

Some letters with checks were taken to Qatif and Hofuf by a DWG member in a taxi. This is how the visits to the societies began. We were sometimes asked for further assistance. Soon, we expanded the project. Margaret Woodhams, a school music teacher, threw herself into this. Drawing lessons, help for the nursery schools, the cooking lessons mentioned already, private visits. Once my friend, Karen Irwin who speaks Arabic, and I, with our daughters Chandra and Alice, went to Tarut Island Charitable Society. It was a lovely morning. Of course, the girls wouldn't talk, but we made up for that!

One very helpful person in making contacts with the Arab women was Mr. Nawab, the head of Public Relations. He was very much in favor of our programs and helped facilitate some of them.

When Mary Eddy lived in Dhahran she was one of three women who really got the welfare program off the ground. When Norah Barger visited she said that Mary Eddy's family had made her move from New Hampshire to New Jersey [I think NJ], because, in her 80's, she was still skiing the NH hills! Do you still send scholarships to the Mary Eddy nursing program at the American University of Beruit?

Now I will tell you more about Norah Barger's visit. She was working with Catholic Near East Welfare in Jordan, came to visit her sister, Annie Hebert. I asked her to speak to the welfare committee, as well as some visiting vice-presidents' wives. Of course it was interesting, and wonderful to have someone directly working with one of our charities speaking to us.

One woman who worked on some of our programs, Louel Larkin, is betterknown for her work in organizing the hospital volunteer program. When she finally stepped down, perhaps when they were leaving. the program was very well staffed, and running like clockwork. Probably Louel would disput this last. Of course, DWG members were in the program, as well as a number of Saudi women.