Expanded teen center opens in NSA Bahrain
Capt. David Meron, commander of Naval Support Activity Bahrain, speaks during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new base teen center Aug. 22, 2013. He explained to teenagers and parents on base that the new teen center is temporary for one year, as the base looks for space to accommodate an expanding community. Hendrick Simoes/Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes
MANAMA, Bahrain — It took some pull from the base commander and some push from the growing community of military families in Bahrain. But just two weeks after the modest teen center on base was threatened with closure to make room for more child care, a new facility opened that is larger than its predecessor.
At issue is space, which is at a premium on Naval Support Activity Bahrain. Over the past two years, the population of dependent family members has expanded 40 percent, exceeding the capacity of base family support services.
Most notable is the bottleneck for the school-age care program for children ages 5 through 12; there are 30 children on a waiting list for 30 spots already filled. Parents complained to the vice chief of Naval Operations during his visit to Bahrain in July, escalating the issue to a top priority for NSA Bahrain.
“The only choices we had was to shut down the teen center,” said Grace Purley, who runs the center. Closing the one-room teen center in the same building where the school-age care program is located would create an additional 26 slots for children, Purley said.
But leaving teens with nowhere to spend their free time was a concern.
“They’re not adults; they’re not children, ... if you don’t give them a place to hang out, they’re going to end up doing things that they shouldn’t be doing,” Purley said.
Kiera Lewis, 17, and a regular at the center, agreed.
“We can go sit on base all day, but we’re going to end up getting in trouble,” she said.
With a push to keep the center open, base officials were able to secure rooms used by base security to create a new and bigger teen center. Over the course of four days, Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff, junior sailors and even high-ranking unit commanders rolled up their sleeves to help refurbish the rooms and move furniture.
For Purley this was a victory.
“We fought really hard; the CO has been amazing,” Purley said of base commander Capt. David Meron.
Purley could not hold back the tears as about 50 teens rushed in to see the new center when it opened last week.
“Seeing their faces, seeing them screaming — to me it made it all worth it,” Purley said.
Minutes after the ribbon-cutting, the XBOX and pool table were in use, and there was even one teen contemplating doing homework.
“It’s amazing, I’m so excited. ... It’s so much more space,” Lewis said. “I know it’s a small base and I appreciate them giving us a little section.”
Meron emphasized at the opening that the space is temporary for one year. But base officials say they consider the growing family demands a “readiness issue” and are steadily working on long-term solutions, such as tentative plans to expand the child care development center and a new building for the school-age care program located at the site of the off-base school.