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spirit of volunteerism

"I am up all night anyway, so that will not be a problem,” he said and then we hung up.

Interviewing someone at midnight is rather outrageous, but the word “outrageous” does not even start to describe the dynamism and passion many of these young volunteers of NGOs, youth organisations and not-for-profit ventures share.

“We are really busy about this current event we are working on,” Korvi Rakshand, the founder of Jaago Foundation, said with gusto. “But I will be free for some time after midnight. Can we talk then?” he suggested.

Several not-for-profit youth organisations have, in recent times, mushroomed in Dhaka city. The spirit of volunteerism has indeed gained currency with school, college and university students now more involved than ever before.

And there are various reasons why youngsters are joining such clubs. Apart from the philanthropic aspects, working for such organisations enriches your resume, gives you professional experience and opens the scope for networking.

Parents, too, have now come out of that shell where they used to measure the achievement of students only through grades. Parents now realise the enormous benefits of extracurricular activities.

Another factor that drives many young people into this is their friends and peers. “I first joined a club because a few friends of mine dragged me in with them. Now, I love the joy of meeting regularly with them, getting things done together and sometimes just hanging out. And now I have new friends here too. These organisations do bring a sense of belonging and participation among the members,” opined a student of Dhaka University who is also working for a youth organisation.

And this is a good thing indeed. Instead of sitting idly, it's always better to utilise your time (an idle mind is the devil's workshop), get things done and make some friends.

No matter how selfish the initial reasons are, there are many who later fall in love with volunteerism.

“There are many volunteers who first joined so that they can just write it on their CV, or because they just wanted to have fun with their friends, but later, once they experienced the satisfaction of helping others, they become serious about it,” Korvi said.

Indeed, the mental satisfaction a person derives from being a volunteer is priceless.

Samia, for example, volunteered for Community Action, a charity organisation. One of the organisation's activities is called Mehendi Magic, which occurs before Eid, where volunteers go to various places and apply mehendi on the hands of the poor, underprivileged children.

“When you see the smiles and joy on the faces of these poor, little kids, the feeling of satisfaction you get is invaluable,” she informed.

And of course there is a segment of volunteers who volunteer only for the sake and passion of helping others -- the true volunteers.

“A group of volunteers do see volunteerism in its true light. I hope this fragment will grow,” opined Nafiz Imtiaz, the President of UN Youth & Students Association of Bangladesh (UNYSAB).

Joining these clubs is usually quite simple and easy. When you stumble upon an organisation you are interested in, go to their website for contact information (even if a club doesn't have any website of their own, you will surely find them on Facebook). Then you might go through a recruitment process (this depends on the particular organisation you want to enrol in).

Juggling between volunteerism and studies may pose a problem for many. But even with academic pressure, students are not willing to quit these activities. “I have learned a lot from the organisations I work with. Although I study in a business school, I have never learned event management, stress and time management, leadership and team playing skills in the classrooms. These youth organisations are the platform to learn such essential skills,” says another volunteer.

However, students should not forget the main aim: helping others. And we should not see it as merely a phase of life to achieve something for ourselves.

Saima Hossain was found talking to a volunteer regarding their work. "This is a wonderful venture. It provides an opportunity for the youth to come close to the masses and understand their hardships. I do not think this will cause any hindrance to their studies because as a mother I feel it is equally important to show empathy for the less fortunate," said Saima.

"When we are approached by young people, barely in their teens and twenties smartly and politely seeking contributions, one cannot help but feel inclined to make an effort to help others. I hope my child, when she grows up, will find a way to associate herself with this wonderful effort," she further added.

Korvi says, “We believe that the work we do is not charity. It is responsibility; and once you see it as your responsibility, the whole thing has a higher meaning.”

Exactly! You should do it because it is your responsibility. Although the hype about volunteerism has reached a new level in Dhaka lately, it is nothing new in our country.

“You do not see most of the best and truest volunteers of our country. They are humble villagers. They are the people who are doing most of the work. Students studying in the village schools and colleges come forward and solve numerous problems and catastrophes our country faces every year. Volunteerism among today's urban youth is actually a tiny percentage that we so glamourise and talk about,” says UNYSAB leader Nafiz.

The hype about volunteerism that has sprung so much nowadays is great, but one may argue that there is still a tendency to focus on the urban areas. “A great amount of work lies in the rural areas, and we are yet to reach the grassroots level strongly enough to tackle these problems,” Nafiz added.

This current spirit of volunteerism, therefore, needs to move even further.

By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Jaago Foundation for allowing us to do the photoshoot.


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