Across the globe, dedicated Islamic Relief volunteers are essential in supporting our fight against poverty and suffering. Here, we meet a volunteer that is making a real difference in one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

Sohel Rana, 21, lives in north-east Bangladesh. Growing up in the crowded Mendibag area in the municipality of Sylhet City Corporation, he was – like many other local people – unaware that he lived in one of the country’s most earthquake-prone zones.

Sohel – an enthusiastic volunteer – took part in a range of community events fit volunteering for numerous NGOs around his education. As a community volunteer, he learned about the vulnerability of Sylhet City through an Islamic Relief awareness programme. Participating in our training programmes, he realized that unplanned urbanization and rapid population growth was increasing the risk presented by earthquakes.

Determined to contribute to make a difference and help families to better prepare for disasters, he became closely involved with a local group of volunteers. The group, which was formed by the Ward Councilor under Islamic Relief’s DIPECHO project, was one of six groups operating in Sylhet City Corporation.

Sohel developed his skills as an urban volunteer under the project – receiving training from the Fire Service & Civil Defence on fire-fighting and search and rescue. He took part in various other training sessions, which gave him aptitude in community mobilisation, first aid, urban risk assessment and disaster risk management.

Some of his knowledge was put to the test during a small incident in his area. During a football match, a player was injured and required prompt medical attention. Sohel and another volunteer put their first aid training into practice, providing the player with primary aid and taking him safely to the nearest hospital. That was the day Sohel understood how skilled volunteers can serve their community in many ways – a belief that was strengthened when many supported search and rescue operations in the wake of the Rana Plaza catastrophe, which claimed over 1,100 lives.

Currently Sohel is an official urban volunteer for both the Fire Service and Sylhet City Corporation. In this role, he works in his local communities to facilitate awareness sessions on disaster risk reduction. He also visits schools across the city to arrange classroom sessions with students – determined to drive a long-term culture of safety by raising awareness in families around the area.

The energetic volunteer also led the risk reduction action planning process in his ward, and supports a group of volunteers to carry out activities designed to improve resilience to disasters. This includes fire-fighting drills, and going door to door to talk to local people about earthquake and fire safety.

“It gives me a lot of pleasure meeting new people and talking to them,” said Sohel “A good number of people in Sylhet City now recognize me as a community volunteer. Most importantly, people value my efforts – that is the greatest satisfaction for me. What we are is God’s gift to us, and what we become is our gift to God in return.”