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Star of Queens: Mohammed Belayet Hossain, volunteer, Chhaya Community Development Corporation

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

BACKGROUND: Mohammed Belayet Hossain, 50, came to New York from Bangladesh in 1986. Since then, he has lived in Queens, first in Elmhurst and now with this wife and two children in Jackson Heights. He likes the fact that he is close to the Jackson Heights – Roosevelt Avenue subway stop, which acts as a main junction and makes it easy for him to commute to Manhattan for work.

OCCUPATION: Hossain is a catering associate in a firm in Manhattan.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Hossain first came to know about Chhaya CDC about three years ago when a few volunteers visited his apartment building. He had problems with his landlord and so he attended a few sessions about housing issues that Chhaya organized. He slowly became more interested in housing issues and started volunteering for Chhaya. He helped raise funds by selling raffle tickets at the Chatpati Mela the last two years. He also helps other tenants facing housing issues by facilitating their communication with Chhaya. He says he started volunteering because, “If I can help someone, then why not? It doesn’t cost me any money.”

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I have two best children. They are good students, never had a complaint about them. If they can do well in life, and they don’t have to go through what I have gone through with difficult jobs, then that’s my best achievement.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I used to work at the counter and answering phones at a catering company. I spoke English but with an accent. It was a real challenge to make people understand when I am saying ‘rice’ or ‘ice.’ Some people are nice and they try to understand, some don’t even want to try. Now [my accent] is much better.”

INSPIRATION: “My mother and my father. Here’s what they always said: ‘Whatever you do, do from your heart. When there’s a problem, solve it. What you want will come next.’”

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