A successful professional and a well-loved social worker who gave Bahrain the best years of his life, Robert Ainy, the twice-elected President of the Rotary Club of Manama, shares with BTW a slice of his life, worldview, dreams, missions and philosophy.
Tell us briefly about yourself: where you were born and raised, any special childhood memory?
I was born and raised in a small town with a population of less than 1,000 people in Pennsylvania in the United States. My favorite childhood memories were of the changing seasons that were very pronounced in that part of the country and of the holidays – both sacred such as Christmas and Easter and secular like Halloween, the 4th of July and Labor Day.
What has been your educational and professional background?
Fortunately at the beginning of secondary school my brain started to work, and I became an avid student finishing first in my graduating class. Especially coming from a working-class family, which is the American term for the British ‘lower class’, my prospects were rather dim until a local lawyer recognized my potential and helped me secure admission and a full academic scholarship to an Ivy League university. After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelors of Art degree in History, I subsequently studied Accounting, Information Technology, Law and numerous management courses. The greatest gift of my university education was probably that it taught me ‘how’ to learn, not ‘what’!
Was social work always a calling for you? Tell us how and when you got initiated into this.
Social work was not always a calling for me though I was an active member in the American Civil Liberties Union and a passionate anti-war activist .
Twice elected as the President of the Rotary Club does speak volumes about your dedicated work. Please tell us something about it.
Rather than talk about my leadership,
I prefer to talk about the efforts that the Boards I served on and lead during my time of 20 years in the Rotary
Club of Manama. To draw an apt
analogy, does the conductor of a symphony orchestra play a single note during a performance? No, absolutely not. He or she guides, instructs, promotes good fellowship, listens and, above all, serves as an inspiration for others to create and appreciate beautiful music.
Which Robert Ainey do you relate more to: the professional man or the social worker?
I relate far more to the social worker as I’ve grown older. The striving after fame and fortune (not that I have any!) wanes as one grows older. You come to realize and try to embody the principle that “To whom much has been given, much is owed” to ones fellow man and other living creatures on this planet.
What are the basic needs of the underprivileged people of Bahrain?
I believe that can be summed up in one word “opportunity”. They need the opportunity to have good medical treatment, good educational facilities and dedicated teachers, good employment at a fair wage, good care for those who can’t provide for themselves —the blind and deaf, those with mental and physical handicaps, children who have inherited a genetic disease or predisposition and the migrant laborer who had to abandon his family to come here but barely makes enough to feed them.
How can an individual contribute to society beyond his professional work?
It could not be simpler—join a social organization about whose cause you are passionate because of a family sufferer or from your reading, work hard for them, make it a fundamental part of your being—and see the joy that fills your heart when you see the improvement you can bring to another.
Any memorable incident as a social worker?
There are so many over the years that it’s very difficult to choose just one so I’ll select three that stick in my mind: 1) The day that Rotary International was able to certify that India was free from the polio virus; 2) Receiving an album of photographs from Sri Lanka for our donation to a prosthetic limb clinic showing victims of landmines who could walk or hold their child again and 3) Meeting every Friday morning with the Migrant Workers Protection Society for almost two years to go into areas where low-income workers or families lived – some six to a room – to install smoke alarms so that the residents
had a chance of escape in the event
of a fire.
What do you aim to accomplish in the next 5 years?
More of the same whether here or elsewhere until I draw my last breath. We have identified a pressing need this year to provide a device to diagnose leukemia in children for an early start to treatment which is the key to survival. We thank our partners on this project whose help means that it will be completed by March or April of this year. (Roaya Baqer, Director of Community Service, wrote about this in a previous edition of Bahrain This Week. And then we’ll identify the next pressing need for next year and just keep laboring on – need / solution, need / solution, etc.
What is your message to the youth of Bahrain?
Never, ever give up for you are the future of this country. When everything seems very dark, as it has for me at times since childhood, the thing to hold on to is to realize that the past is done and cannot be changed no matter how much you wish it would, the present will be over in 24 hours, but the future stretches out for the rest of your life. Work hard, play hard but dedicate a little bit of your time and effort for those who are less fortunate.