When Bibi Kulsum Lipi got chance in Dhaka University last year, her first concern was to find a volunteer scribe during her exams throughout the semester.
Although the visually-impaired girl managed to find a writing volunteer during her admission test, managing a permanent scribe for the rest of her studies was difficult.
Coming from a poor family in Noakhali, Lipi's journey to DU was filled with hurdles, and she was determined not to give up.
She eventually found her saviours in the form of volunteers at the university.
“I was worried I might not find a volunteer scribe. But thankfully, I met some volunteers who willingly work as scribes for persons like me,” said Lipi, a student of Social Welfare department.
“Now I call them before exams and someone from their team volunteers for me as per availability,” she said.
The volunteers are from Writers' Bank, a university volunteer wing under Physically-challenged Development Foundation (PDF), which provides scribes for visually-impaired students.
There are a large number of volunteers working across the country formally or informally, to help in education, community building, healthcare, environment and more.
The United Nations in 1985 declared December 5 (today) as International Volunteer Day (IVD). This year's theme for the day is “Volunteers Build Resilient Communities”. UN Volunteer Bangladesh observes the day in the country, said Head of UNV Bangladesh Aktar Uddin. According to UN Volunteers' Report-2018, the worldwide volunteer workforce is nearly 109 million. However, no exact data on volunteers in Bangladesh is available, said Aktar.
Writers' Bank coordinator of DU, Maliha Chowdhury, said, “I try to manage time out of my class time; such voluntary work gives me immense satisfaction.”
Maliha coordinates students interested to volunteer for some 80 visually-impaired students at DU.
“I post in our Facebook group looking for volunteer scribes. If someone responds, we direct them what to do,” said Maliha about their activities. Another DU student Stanly Dango, a member of Bangladesh National Cadet Corps at DU, volunteers on different occasions including national days and DU admission tests.
“I love volunteering because it teaches me how to work in a group and helps me communicate with people,” said Dango.
The assistance of the volunteers goes a long way for those who wouldn't otherwise have access to many necessities of life.
“I wanted to discontinue my daughter Jannat's education due to financial crisis, but volunteers of Alor Khojey group helped my daughter continue studies,” said bus helper Maksudur Rahman, father of a sixth-grader.
Amit Kar Joy started the initiative in 2016 when he was a private university student. The group provides free tutoring facilities for disadvantaged children in Mirpur.
“It is always great to see them smile. University students and my friends volunteer to teach these children,” said Amit, who runs a small business now, and still finds time to volunteer for the group.