As one of the founders of volunteer group Hand4handbn, Iqbal Damit has initiated charity projects from Aceh to Cambodia. He has actively participated in building homes and providing aid to vulnerable communities in Brunei and the region. Last October, he travelled to Bangladesh with a group of volunteers to help displaced Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh.

What motivated you to start being involved in volunteerism?

When I joined SSEAYP (Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth) in 2009, I was given the opportunity to participate in social contribution activities within the programme. We stopped at five countries altogether and in each of those countries, I had the chance to visit underprivileged families and communities. After coming back to Brunei, I looked around for associations and groups that were doing charity work.

I kept on with this pace of charity work and grew it using my existing network which I had as an entrepreneur.

Tell us more about Hand4handbn, the volunteer group that you started.

Hand4hand is a group of young Bruneians who want to help people. The group is the brainchild of four people from different backgrounds but who shared the same interest — lending a hand to anyone who needs help.
The team has done volunteer work in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, with the latest one in Bangladesh. Hand4hand’s strategy is to work with a local NGO in the host country. In Bangladesh, the team did some work at the Rohingya refugee Camp in Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar.
To date, Hand4hand had clocked over 2000 volunteer hours in the past six months. Some of the projects we have been involved in include building an orphanage in Aceh for children affected by the 2004 tsunami; building a tahfiz school in Cambodia and distributing food during Ramadhan; and distributing food packs, building shelters, tube wells, a community centre and musollah (open space outside mosque for praying) for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

You organised two humanitarian missions to Bangladesh to help distribute aid to Rohingya refugees. What compelled you to go there in the first place?

I simply decided that I wanted to go there and help. The first trip was initially just to go there and get information on the conditions in the camp. Alhamdulillah, when close family and friends heard that I was going, they wanted to help.
The main challenge was dealing with some resistance from people telling me how hard it will be and how dangerous it will be there. We still went ahead with the plan and it worked out because the intention is to help the refugees.

What’s your advice on young Bruneians who want to make a positive impact in their community?

Find your interest and connect with people who share that interest. There’s a lot of platforms in Brunei for you to start from. There’s too much negativity already out there so its best to take your own energy to make a positive impact be it with your own family, village, community, country, and eventually the world.

Whatever you do, particularly in charity or humanitarian context, take it step-by-step. Do it slowly and consistently. But dream big! Then plan how to achieve the dream.

Follow @hand4handbn on Instagram for more updates on their charity missions locally and regionally.

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