| August 14th, 2007

* volunteerism

From Our Archive:

“Volunteerism is the willingness of people to work on behalf of others without the expectation of pay or other tangible gain¦ the vast majority work on an impromptu basis, recognising a need and filling it, whether it be the dramatic search for a lost child or the mundane giving of directions to a lost visitor.“ a definition of Volunteerism by Wikipedia is the closest to the meaning I was looking for that I came across when I searched the net.

During my short visit to ˜home sweet home” in summer 2006, I was told repeatedly Volunteerism is a luxury for the people around here, when I was trying to recruit volunteers for Adhunika.  Yet, I found the same old norms and values of immediate and the extended family (which often includes friends) to be there in time of crisis.

When everything fell apart from the moment I arrived in Dhaka “ from lost luggage to unprofessional services of the people at the airport I found what it meant to be back home and back with the family, it took me a day or two to change my mode and let the elders take care of things. I saw my family stopped their daily routine just to take care of things for me, even the friends whom I don’t see for years volunteered their time to baby-sit so I could keep my official appointments, and few designated themselves to be a chauffer when I needed to commute in the busy road in Dhaka.

Even though until the last minute I was told numerous times that volunteerism is a luxury for the people in Bangladesh, I was relieved to find the busy schedule, the chaos, the energy,  the unpredictable things in life hasn’t change a bit the way we go out of our way to help\volunteer to help ˜the family” in Bangladesh.

If you are wondering what that has to do with Adhunika or why I chose to write about volunteerism today? Because the other day someone told me in US Bangladeshis don’t volunteer for good cause, but I have yet to find a Bangladeshi family who doesn’t go out of the way for the family“ be that close or distant, and provide the energy or resources when the occasion arises. Although we take things for granted in Bangladesh, and don’t necessarily name it volunteerism, nonetheless it is ingrained in our culture to do things for others.

So, what that means to you – especially when you are  in a foreign land by yourself, in a totally different environment and culture, what do you do with yourself, with your values and support system of the extended family? Especially if you were working in Bangladesh or have a degree, and now sitting home not doing anything fulfilling (emotional, financial) it is understandable to feel the void in your life, and this is why I decided to write about what worked for me over the years, and maybe inspire few of you to take a leap of faith.

I come from a close-knit family, we could talk about everything with our parents, and although I am the youngest in the family I consider my siblings to be my friends. So when I decided to come and study in the US, I chose to be away from all that support and love, I didn’t realize it then but  now that I look back I can see why I hardly felt that void (missing ˜the family” was/is irreplaceable ).  When I first moved to the States as a student, within a month I signed up with various school organizations, and as time went by I started volunteering with the local shelters for women and children. I found I enjoyed being involved with those organizations; I soon gained the support system I used to get from my family and didn’t feel so out of place in a foreign land. I think it was a natural extension of me; I was used to seeing my parents being social and caring in the affairs of others.

When I got married I continued my volunteerism with selective organizations, and after I graduated I kept in touch with organization I volunteered over the years. I strongly believe my involvement with the organization gave me the support I would have gotten from my family, and I gained the professionalism one can get from volunteering in an organization over here. When I relocated to a new State, left all the family and the support system, Internet became my savior, ˜Adhunika” took shape, and it was few of the friends who started supporting the web portal on leisurely basis. Slowly that became a tool to bridge the gap from my home to my other home“ Bangladesh.

In four years the number of friends/volunteers increased, and look where we are at right now? We have a  web portal dedicated to the women of Bangladesh, we have a strong network of people who supports a school in Dhaka where girls can afford to get information technology training, and we have this blog where you can get information on how to get admitted to the US Schools to how to balance your life and your relationship with your family. And if you didn’t know, all this is done because people like you and me decided to volunteer their time for a good cause; many of whom has fulltime job, has family and other social commitments. I don’t know what others have gained being involved with Adhunika, as a volunteer I have gained many good friends who questions me, makes me wonder about life, and always make me thrive for more.

So, if you are like me, if you come from a family who was always there for you, and you are sitting here and moping how wonderful it was in Bangladesh I would suggest “ don’t waste your energy on trivial things, go out, ask around, ask your friends, your relatives, ask us – where you can use your talent, your skill and gain that support system you miss so much. The magic word is “volunteer”, if you don’t or can’t work without proper training or papers, just volunteer with the organization you think fits your need, and soon you will find it has changed your life for better.

~ Shahnaz S. Yousuf, Founder adhunika


About this blog

Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more



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