Action:Piyaju-Beguni was initiated in 2009 by CommunityAction, a registered charity organization (registration No. 10268). The impact was significant for an event which was just in its first year. From the 4th to the 18th of September 2009, Actioneers (volunteers of CommunityAction) distributed iftaar (wholesome meal for breaking fast) to over 1,000 under-privileged individuals, especially children, in various areas within Dhaka. In 2010, the event got bigger as 3,300 individuals were benefited.
This year, the number of beneficiaries crossed 8770 individuals in just 24 days, spanning three cities – Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. On an average that’s an astounding 360 people per day – a number that becomes all the more significant when you understand there were no corporate sponsors to this event, no professional help – just your “average Bangladeshi students” deciding to stand up for their community.
But the real question is –
isn’t food distribution a very short term Action? How can an “ordinary” free food distribution/charity programs have long-term effects on the volunteers as well as on the society?
The answer to this question is what makes this particular student-run charity organization stand out. Through this event, CommunityAction provides training in the following areas, which will help the Actioneers in their professional as well as personal lives.
- Leadership: It is through this event that many of us realize the true essence of leadership. Leadership does not mean being bossy or shrugging off responsibilities. John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States of America, said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Leadership is about influencing others for the better. It is about doing the jobs which no one else is ready to undertake. It is about coordinating the entire event. Throughout this event, area leaders and Actioneers are responsible for encouraging others to participate, collecting funds, purchasing the necessary items, managing transport, ensuring the safety of all the volunteers, monitoring the performance of every participant, and distributing the food.Since this event involves journalism, photography, and the likes, it improves our leadership skills not just in social development and organizational tasks, but also in media outreach. Participating in this event is synonymous to enrolling oneself in an event management course, as the participants themselves are responsible for organizing and executing the event.
- Women Empowerment: Usually, community service projects witness a low presence of females. However, CommunityAction changes that typical scenario by involving females at various stages of this event. Starting from being area leaders to distributing food o n the streets, women are everywhere! This would not be possible without Com munityAction’s relentless efforts in arranging sufficient security measures for all the volunteers. In addition, CommunityAction frequently organizes training programs which emphasize on the active participation of women in the society.
- Team Spirit: This event is the exemplary demonstration of unity. Actioneers understand the importance of teamwork. Each individual becomes more efficient and responsible as he/she realizes the interdependence working within a team – if one person fails to carry out his/her duty properly, the whole event is affected adversely. However, keeping this team spirit in mind, all the members bear equal responsibility for achievements as well as failures. The team members in unison correct any flaw (if there is one in the first place). If there is any conflict in opinion, or misconception, the team members work together to resolve the issue.
- Professionalism: While working in a team, it is essential to maintain professionalism. We are trained to communicate and interact effectively with strangers, members of the opposite sex, and individuals whose approach and/or opinions may differ from ours. We are also trained to work under tight deadlines. Throughout this event, we are encouraged to engage in constructive criticism. Most importantly, we are trained to act with wisdom and dignity. We are also asked to carry out our duties with excellence and confidence.
- Moral Values: “Community service isn’t about padding one’s resume, it isn’t about doing things so that one might be proud and arrogant about it. But it is the dawning realization of to the greater understanding our humanity, our fragility and a greater appreciation of the great lives that so many of us lead and deem to be “normal” – when it pretty much is extraordinary in its own respect relative to many other individuals around the world.” – Alwyn Loh. This event teaches all the participants to have a common set of values based on empathy for others. The Actioneers and area leaders are motivated by their eagerness to become better human beings. After being exposed to people of various ages, backgrounds, religious beliefs, cultures, and even countries, we become more patient, loving, and culturally/religiously tolerant. This is also a great event for making productive friends and uniting with fellow citizens. Many participants have attested to the fact that they have become more humble and grateful for all the blessings after working for the poor through this event. On a more theological note, Ramadan is not just about abstaining from all that is evil, but also about increasing in all that is good!
Till next year, I will be implementing the lessons that I have learnt from this year’s Action: Piyaju Beguni event, and I will highly recommend everyone to make their vacation fun and productive by embarking on one of CommunityAction’s ongoing projects.