USA based 501(c)3 OBAT Helpers, has been working since 2004 to serve an unfortunate forgotten group of people commonly known as stranded Pakistanis or Urdu Speaking, who are living in makeshift camps throughout Bangladesh since 1971. More than three generations continue to live in 8 ft. x 10 ft. spaces, suffer in abject poverty with no access to basic amenities and face a severe lack of education. Working tirelessly to turn this situation around, OBAT Helpers has been instrumental in providing opportunities for growth and transformation to this community. Since October 2017, OBAT has also been in the forefront of serving Rohingya refugees who have been settling in camps near Chittagong (an area that was already served by OBAT) since the crises erupted in August 2017.
Following are the areas through which OBAT has been serving the Urdu Speaking camp community:
EDUCATION & TRAINING:
OBAT operates more than 50 educational and training programs: including 8 schools, 35 preschools, Education for Working Children programs, 7 tutoring centers, 6 computer training center, and three sewing training centers. Over 1,000 scholarships at different levels of education have been awarded so far. OBAT’s educational projects collectively educate almost 5,000 children presently.
Since 2006, over 1,500 families have been empowered through OBAT’s micro finance program in Syedpur. This program was mainly designed for women entrepreneurs who were offered micro loans ranging from $100 to $1,000. Extensive training before and during the program was also provided to enable the borrowers to run their businesses and to teach them basic financial literacy. The women in the camps are illiterate and the only way to empower them is through education and micro finance. Instead of perpetuating their cycle of poverty by making them dependent on external assistance, OBAT’s program has made them self-sufficient. Currently, the initial project in Syedpur is self-sustained with a total rolling fund of approximately $500,000.
Jobs are very hard to find for the camp dwellers; discrimination diminishes their prospects greatly. For women, chances of finding employment are much less. They earn only a pittance, working as a maid servant in various people’s homes. Doing arduous labor in a factory in exchange for a few Takas does not offer any more appeal either.
OBAT’s first sewing program began in November 2011 at Bansbari camp, in Syedpur. Many of the graduates from the Syedpur sewing center and the sewing center at Khulna, are now spreading their wings and looking for ways to sell the clothes they stitch, in local markets. They also stitch uniforms for OBAT’s schools’ students. Every year, around 150-175 students graduate from these two vocational centers.
Among other problems faced by the camp residents, lack of adequate health care services is an acute issue. Due to extreme poverty and rampant unemployment, they cannot afford to pay the fees or incur other expenditure for their medical treatment at regular clinics. Close to 10,000 people are assisted annually through the two health care facilities operated by OBAT in Rangpur and Syedpur. The two clinics provide routine medical screenings and medication support for common ailments. For all health services, no consultation fee is charged and patients pay only fifty percent of the cost of the medicines.
There are many camps which are located at a considerable distance from OBAT’s Syedpur clinic. To ensure the provision of health services among the people in these camps, a mobile health service was initiated in Syedpur camps in 2011. The Medical Assistant who delivers these services is qualified and experienced and visits the camps every Sunday on a bicycle to provide treatment to ailing patients.
Health education for the camp residents is an integral part of the project to increase their awareness of various types of diseases and preventative measures related to them. For example, how to avoid being exposed to water borne pathogens by drinking clean water or lessons in first aid. Among other things, they are also taught about immunizations, nutritional deficiencies, family planning and practicing proper hygiene. Patients are also referred to other health service providers for lab tests. Follow up of referred patients is also carried out regularly. Malnutrition for kids younger than five years old is a serious issue. Parents of affected children also receive information and advice on improving their children’s nutrition by OBAT’s clinic staff.
CATARACT SURGERY PROGRAM:
With no access to health care, many camp residents do not get the eye care they need and remain untreated for their vision related illnesses. The surgeries are carried out in partnership with local hospitals and one surgery costs about $40 per person. We are grateful to the RS foundation and HCI (Human Concern International) for their contributions toward the cataract program since 2014. Since the year 2012, almost 2,000 cataract surgeries have been conducted in different camps.
INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT & FAMILY ASSISTANCE:
OBAT provides financial assistance to the sick, elderly and widows in the camp communities. Thousands of families have been helped through the Ramadan Food Distribution and Qurbani Meat Distribution programs. These programs are conducted around the two Muslim festivals celebrated in the camps. Communities have also benefited through projects such as renovation or construction of new bathrooms, community centers, drains and sewage systems. Relief projects are also undertaken by OBAT in case of a disastrous situation, for instance a camp fire or a natural calamity such as floods or cyclones.
To address the dearth of potable water, OBAT has installed deep tube wells in different camps to provide better, safe and clean water for the camp communities. Currently, about 78,000 people are benefiting from all the drinking water projects.
OBAT Youth Think Tank:
OBAT Think Tank was formed in December 2012 to utilize and involve the vast and untapped potential that is present in the youth of the camps. It is an organized group led by the youth of the camps and works hand in hand with the OBAT staff. The main goal of the Think Tank is to organize and involve the youth with positive community building activities. The group aims to keep its members focused on the betterment of youth, while simultaneously improving their leadership and communication skills. It also works on spreading awareness regarding health, safety and a clean environment.
OBAT Media Productions:
OBAT Media Production (OMP) was formed in January 2015 to utilize the latent talent of the youth volunteers residing in camps. Through OMP, the youth are trained in making videos, documentation, presentation and photography etc. Through these mediums, they are able to share the stories of their fellow camp residents with the rest of the world. Learning these skills will also be invaluable to them if they decide to pursue a career in this direction.
Executive Internship program:
This program focuses on providing project management and professional skill development training via real world examples. The internships are assigned high level program strategy assignments which work in direct collaboration with the Executive Director.
ROHINGYA RELIEF PROGRAM:
In October of 2017, OBAT also started responding to the critical situation that came about after an influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh who were escaping persecution and genocide in Myanmar. It formed the “Humanitarian Assistance Program,” a coalition of local volunteers, donors and organizations, jointly working together to address the Rohingya crisis. The goal of HAP is to build a task force of local volunteers who will be able to engage, prepare and lead communities during emergency situations and have the capacity to rehabilitate them quickly and efficiently. The Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP) is governed by a steering committee, consisting of OBAT Helpers’ executive staff, local business leaders, volunteers, local and international NGO’s, educational institutes and various other business partners and groups. OBAT's current relief strategy has and will be addressing medical, educational, nutrition and emergency needs through the following means:
Ø Providing families with emergency kits (dry food, first aid, sanitary and hygiene products, basic essentials like plastic cups and other daily use items).
Ø Providing freshly cooked baby food on a daily basis.
Ø Stationary medical camps with full time general physicians, pediatricians, OB/GYN specialists and therapists.
Ø Setting up 100 learning centers for 10,000 kids. Digital learning program for children attending these centers will be starting soon as well
Ø Two medical centers. One is recently established while other treats anywhere between 300-400 patients per day and includes:
· Triage unit
· Maternity care
· Fully stocked pharmacy
· Isolation unit
· Qualified Doctors volunteering from all over the world
Ø Tube wells to provide clean water
Ø Islamic center for women
Ø Playground for kids
Ø Community centers
Ø 1,400 + sturdy shelters built for monsoon season, with more in progress
Organization info resources:
Company Profile Video: https://vimeo.com/167057560
Link to documentary OBAT HELPERS: http://bit.ly/1cw24YC
Link to 2016 electronic annual report: bit.ly/OBAT2016Annualreport
USA based 501(c)3 OBAT Helpers, has been working since 2004 to serve an unfortunate forgotten group of people commonly known as stranded Pakistanis or Urdu Speaking, who are living in makeshift camps throughout Bangladesh since 1971. More…