Netrokona has a humanitarian known as "Dendrophile Abdul Hamid", who is the first one to rush to a place in need. He tours the towns and announces the warnings about any upcoming disaster.
Abdul Hamid, 65, provides medical treatment and food for the sick and homeless people. He even takes care of sick and injured animals.
He has been planting thousands of palm trees beside the roads of lightning-prone areas. He also volunteered his time and effort to distribute medicinal plants and herbal medicines among school students and locals.
Abdul Hamid hails from Kendua upazila's village Dolpa-Rampur. He has been living in a rented house at Netrokona's Newajnagar area for 20 years. He does not own any land or earthly possessions apart from his selfless humanitarian nature.
Hamid used to be a rickshaw-puller to support his family. Now he is a full-time volunteer.
When Hamid was just a teenager, his mother and younger sister died of a complex disease. They were treated by Jagadish Kabiraj, a Unani doctor from Nandigram.
Abdul Hamid started to realize and learn the benefits of medicinal plants from Jagadish. At first, he started about one hundred and fifty species of medicinal plants in an abandoned place of his village (Dalparampur). In 2002, he came to Netrokona with a capital of 150 and started selling juice of various medicinal plants along with aloe vera and gradually increased its demand. To fulfill its demand, he cultivated various types of medicinal plants i.e, aloevera, tulsi (Holy bassle), nishinda (Chinese chastetree), Berilica, Amloki (Indian gooseberry), Arjun, horitoki (Black Myrobalan) etc. in the abandoned places of different government offices. In 2012, he rented a room on hospital road and set a herbal medicine shop named "Elifa Medicine Shop". It sells around one thousand and five hundred taka daily. His two sons take care of the shop and he spends all day in voluntary works and medicinal plants gardening.
Recently he has fifteen thousands aloevera and other types of herbs in his garden. He uses some of them to make medicine and distributes the rest. He had been distributing thirty thousand medicinal plants each year from 2006 to 2018.
Pallab Chakrabarty, a local man of Boalingua area of the town, said, "Abdul Hamid educated the locals about the benefits of aloe vera and other plants."
Every year he collects lots of palm seeds from garbage around the town and plants them at lightning prone haor areas.
He said, "I have planted 30 thousand palm trees in the haor areas since 2014 and an NGO named Barsik has helped to do so."
Besides, he also promoted environment awareness messages including tree plantation, water pollution, and waste management among the locals.
He has been promoting his awareness campaign on Covid pandemic every morning on bicycle or van till evening from Netrokona to Dhaka since the beginning.
He has disbrituted food, maintaining privacy in someone's need. Recently, he has also run an awareness campaign on lightning and dengue.
In May 2016, a tornado caused a severe drinking water crisis in Netrokona. Abdul Hamid provided thousands of liters of safe water for four days in a row.
He also stood by the people during the devastating tornado of Kanchanpur in 2004.
During the Rohingya crisis, Abdul Hamid went to mosques with some volunteers and collected around Tk8 lakh. Later he bought food with that money and went to Teknaf and distributed it among the Rohingyas.
He goes to bus stands and other crowded places to spread regular health awareness messages and road accident prevention campaigns.
Once Abdul Hamid's father, Sirajul Islam, lost his mental balance in his old age and went missing for six days. Later he was found on the street. Since then, Hamid has developed a special affection for old, homeless and marginalised people.
From then on, he started providing various services to the homeless, mentally unbalanced, sick and helpless people. He picks them up from the road and feeds them, bathes them. He collected old clothes and gave them something to wear. Hamid cuts their tangled hair. Even he takes them to the hospital for treatment. Hamid collects donations from people and buys medicine for those people.
When an unknown person dies, Hamid arranges their funeral. He has already arranged wheelchairs for 18 disabled people.
Abdul Hamid uses Facebook regularly. On his Facebook page, he spreads pictures of street vagrants, mentally unbalanced, sick and lost people. Many find their lost relatives through his page.
People inform Abdul Hamid whenever they see a helpless or endangered person lying on the street. The old man often has to spend nights in the hospital to get treatment for these people without identity and relatives. He also assists the medical staff of the hospital in case of emergency.
Already 22 young people have joined him. One such volunteer is Khalil Ahmed, 29, a member of the Ansar working in the office of the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Netrokona Sadar. In his spare time after service, he assisted Abdul Hamid in his social work.
Khalil and three other volunteers, Najma, Mitu and Rubina, said, "When Uncle Hamid goes on a campaign, we also participate. We like doing these things."
Hamid's wife and daughters also volunteer with him.
Earlier, Abdul Hamid had to do everything at his own expense. Now some people support him financially. Netrokona Deputy Commissioner, Kazi Md Abdur Rahman, recently assisted him with Tk10,000. Netrokona Model Police Station's OC, Tajul Islam, bought a van at spending Tk18,000. An organisation named "Roktodane Netrakona" repaired Hamid's old bicycle. Barcik brought him a hand-mic.
Barcik's coordinator, Ahidur Rahman, said, "He does not spend a single penny for himself from the money given by people. He stands by the endangered ones without eating. Giving him money is not an abuse."
Shyamlendu Pal, president of Netrokona's civic organisation 'Citizens for Good Governance' (Sujan), said, "He is found in all the good deeds of society. Human service is like a vow of his life. He should be given state patronage. If he is encouraged, many more will be encouraged in such service work."
Netrokona Deputy Commissioner, Kazi Md Abdur Rahman, said, "Abdul Hamid is a selfless volunteer. He does not want anything for himself. He thinks of others all the time. People like him are rare in society. We have associated him with many of our activities, including the promotion of coronavirus pandemic. We are thinking of giving him a monthly allowance from the district administration."
Habiba Rahman Khan Shefali, Member of Parliament for the reserved women's seat, said, "Abdul Hamid is a servant of humanity. In addition to humanity, he is also playing an important role in creating environmental awareness. I will also cooperate with him."
Abdul Hamid said, "I don't want anything for myself. But when I stand by a helpless person or want to spread some important information, there are some costs involved. I can't always afford it due to lack of capacity. I would be happy if the wealthy or humanitarian people of the society would respond at that time."
He also wants to plant a medicinal plant there if he gets permanent vacant land.