More than 50 enthusiastic volunteers joined Gazipur homeowners to build and renovate houses on Saturday the 5th of December, as part of Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh’s first ever OPEN BUILD event.
The one day build marked the United Nations International Day of the Volunteer, and hosted participants from Australia, The United States, The United Kingdom, India, Japan and Bangladesh. OPEN BUILD, held in the Kaliganj district which is northeast of Dhaka, focused on recognizing the basic right every person has to adequate shelter and sanitation.
The event is part of the International Volunteer Week Celebrations, coordinated by the United Nations Volunteers association under the theme of Volunteering for Our Planet. Other events focus on Climate Change action and AIDS awareness and prevention.
Each building site held an infusion of humanity, with volunteers, homeowners and Habitat staff learning from local masons, being assisted by a throng of curious children and people from the neighbourhood. One volunteer, Jeanie Manibusan, said she “really loved how the community came together and the children of the village tried to find a way to become a part of the project. It really made me happy to meet the family that would benefit from the build”.
A light-hearted day of heavy-lifting ensued, and while the weather was perfect for a relaxing Saturday, the dedicated volunteers quickly broke a sweat as they relentlessly worked through to the afternoon. Four teams renovated two houses and turned what began as unassuming mounds of dirt into the foundations for three new homes.
Shakil, the son of homeowner Ruby Akhter, proved to be an inspiration to volunteers at one building site. HFHI-B staff member Forkhan Uddin made a particular connection with Shakil. “I was so motivated seeing his smiling face. I can’t forget the words “Aktu Jiran” (regional Bangla phrase meaning “please take rest for a while”) which he mentioned several times to me. That was great assistance for me in my work,” Mr. Uddin said.
Volunteer Sarah Goulding reflected; “a woman and her child are being assisted to build a house, which will be a life-changing event for them. I think the community also benefited from seeing foreigners taking the time to help out.”
Volunteerism transforms the pace and nature of development and benefits both society at large and the individual. Events such as Open Build provide an invaluable opportunity to be reminded of the hopes and challenges that unite us all, despite cultural, language and socio-economic differences.