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60 Volunteers Help to Clean Up Yard of a Cancer Patient

Photo Courtesy of SAY Detroit

Burhan Chowdhury loves his property, but it isn’t easy to care for the alleyway and backyard. It becomes overgrown with weeds quickly, especially during the rainy season. The garage has siding coming off the front, and everything seems to fall into disrepair quickly.

Chowdhury doesn’t speak a lot of English. He is also undergoing chemotherapy to treat lymphoma, which leaves his body weak. He received a cancer diagnosis in his lymph nodes in February 2019. He also has high blood pressure and a heart issue, creating additional difficulties for him to take care of their yard and alleyway.

His son, Shibbir, admits that the property needed some help. “I usually take care of those things, the backyard and everything, but at the time, I was out of the country,” he said. “That was a mistake. I should have taken care of that.”

The Chowdhury Family Immigrated in 2010

Burhan Chowdhury brought his family to the United States for the first time in 2010. After spending four years in various places, they eventually settled on Michigan as their full-time home. Only six years after being in the country, they were able to buy a property in Hamtramck, which is about six miles from downtown Detroit.

About 277,000 immigrants from Bangladeshi live in the United States, representing approximately 0.5% of the total population. Nearly half moved across the ocean during or after the year 2000. [[1]]

Michigan is one of the most popular destinations for Bangladeshi immigrants, along with California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey. According to NYS-IA, one of the top challenges they face today is a language barrier. [[2]]

SAY Detroit Organized Two Volunteer Teams

Before the cancer diagnosis, Burhan Chowdhury would work on the yard with his family. While he was in Bangladesh, his mother fell down the stairs. That left no one available to do the yard work until Shibbir returned home.

Although Shibbir says he cleaned up the yard himself, additional help was needed to beautify the property. That’s why SAY Detroit stepped up to help.

SAY Detroit was founded in 2006 by journalist and best-selling author Mitch Albom. Its mission is to better the lives of the neediest in the city, no matter their age.

“We are committed to working in our city’s neighborhoods, to providing opportunities where there are none, and to lifting our neediest when they stumble,” their website says. [[3]]

The organization organized 60 volunteers across two teams to work on beautifying the Chowdhury home in Hamtramck.

Richard Kelley is the Executive Director of SAY Detroit. “It means a lot to all our volunteers to be here… and make such a tremendous impact,” he told Fox 2 Detroit. The yard was in such bad shape that Chowdhury had to appear in court to speak about the matter, but the family and SAY Detroit volunteers quickly rectified that situation. [[4]]

SAY Detroit Volunteers happily being of service to their community. Photo Courtesy of SAY Detroit

Volunteers are always welcome at SAY Detroit. The organization manages about 200 monthly projects that range from delivering meals to hosting a Christmas party each year for women who escape unsafe relationships and need emergency shelter.

To donate to SAY Detroit and help further their mission to help others, please visit: https://saydetroit.org/donate/  Also, if you live in the Detroit area and have an idea for an upcoming project, you can contact the agency directly at [email protected].

What Are the Impacts of Volunteerism?

Volunteers with SAY Detroit and other organizations do more than help others and their community. They experience several personal benefits from their efforts.

For starters, volunteering connects you with other people. It’s easier to find friends and establish relationships when you’re working closely with others who want to make a difference in the community.

People who volunteer regularly experience more life satisfaction while countering the effects of depression. This effect is so profound that it can lessen chronic pain symptoms.

Anyone can volunteer, even with limited mobility. If you think this option is right for you, don't hesitate to contact a local agency that you like to ask what possibilities are available.

The Community Stepped Up Immediately

One of Michigan’s state representatives heard about the property issue and spoke about it at a city council meeting. The city’s mayor also brought attention to the situation to ensure the Chowdhury family had the resources they needed. [[5]]

These public efforts led to a GoFundMe that raised over $10,000 to help the Chowdhury family take care of their property. [[6]]

“This money will truly help him to maintain the backyard and surroundings [for several] upcoming years,” wrote Shibbir to those who donated. “This campaign proves how supportive the American population could be for immigrants.”

“The Chowdhury family loves you all.”

References:

[[1]] https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/RAD-Bangladesh.pdf; [[2]] https://nysiaf.org/the-8-biggest-challenges-facing-immigrants/; [[3]]https://saydetroit.org; [[4]] https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/good-news-positive-stories-for-your-weekend; [[5]]https://abc17news.com/news/2022/01/21/the-judge-who-shamed-a-cancer-patient-for-his-untidy-yard-says-shes-embarrassed-and-made-a-mistake/; [[6]]https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-70yo-cancer-patient-who-was-fined-for-weed

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