Volunteer Spotlight with Omar Abuellel

Published By: Shafiqul Bhuiya

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What does it mean to volunteer? The answer to that will be different depending on who you ask. Here at Project Downtown Orlando (PDO), we want to find out who our volunteers are; For example, why do our volunteers do what they do, what inspires them, and what keeps them moving forward. This piece is the start of a new series, where we follow one of our volunteers for a day and ask them a variety of relevant questions. With this series, we are hoping to find a little more about what makes our volunteers unique and what they bring, as well as, what they gain from volunteering here at PDO.

I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Omar Abuellel. He has been volunteering with PDO regularly since January 2020. He has recently become a member of the management division of PDO. Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Q: What drove you to want to volunteer here at PDO?

A: I felt a moral obligation to do something good, especially with the homeless population. It’s one thing to hear about homelessness, but another thing to see it firsthand. It really gives you a new perspective. Helping the homeless community has always been a passion of mine.

Q: What does it mean for you to volunteer?

A: Particularly with homelessness, I want to believe that anyone who has ran into obstacles has a way to overcome them. I didn’t want to accept the notion that a homeless individual’s situation is hopeless. Society is generally unwilling to give the homeless population a second chance. To me, it means a lot to be able to contribute to a solution and help them find a place in society.

Q: What are some of the highlights of volunteering here at PDO?

A: A highlight of volunteering with PDO is how interactive and hands-on it is. Unlike many other organizations, PDO allows you to connect on a much more personal level with the members of the community we are working with. Personally, one of the most rewarding things in life is to connect with people who have gone through homelessness, to be a real person with them, and have a genuine conversation.

Q: What misconceptions do you think many people have about homelessness? What have you learned from volunteering?

A: The impression that homelessness is generally a product of irresponsibility, laziness, and drug abuse. I think its inaccurate. There is a much bigger picture, especially when you talk to them and hear their individual stories. A lot of times, the reason people are homeless is varied. It is an unforeseeable circumstance, a lack of support, or some sort of trauma that doesn’t allow them to integrate into society. Every person is different, everyone has a story to tell. This experience taught me to not neglect the wide variety of circumstances that cause homelessness.

Q: What have you learned about volunteering?

A: Generally, in life one of the best things you can give is not money, but positivity. To give somebody a good conversation, a compliment, a reason to smile. To try and make each other laugh, to share cool stories, and to just listen. That’s what volunteering is to me.

Omar is an example of who volunteers at PDO. They are passionate and driven members of the community, connecting with those most vulnerable among us. He is one of the many varied individuals who make PDO what it is.

About the author
Shafiqul Bhuiya
Shafiqul Bhuiya is a Bangladeshi-American from Bronx, New York. He has graduated with a Masters in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida and aspires to become a Physician Assistant. He is currently working as a Molecular Technologist in Infectious Disease testing. Shafiqul enjoys exercising, playing video games, and volunteering with Project Downtown Orlando during his free time. He believes in the power of proper healthcare and the hope it can bring to people in need.

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