OBAT HELPERS INC.
OBAT HELPERS INC.
Empowerment through Community Development
OBAT Helpers is a US based 501(c)3 nonprofit. Since 2004, it has been serving an unfortunate and 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 of this community continue to live in 8 ft. x 10 ft. spaces in abject poverty, with no access to basic amenities. They face a severe lack of education, healthcare and income earning opportunities. OBAT Helpers has been instrumental in providing opportunities for growth and transformation to this community through the areas of education, health, infrastructure development, empowerment and relief.
Since October 2017, OBAT has also been in the forefront of serving Rohingya refugees who have been settling in camps in Cox’s Bazar near Chittagong since the crises erupted in August 2017.
OBAT’S PROJECTS FOR THE URDU SPEAKING CAMP COMMUNITY
EDUCATION & TRAINING
OBAT operates more than 50 educational and training programs and through them, it educates over 7,000 students collectively. These education programs include the following projects:
Schools | Computer Training Centers | Tutoring Centers | Scholarship Program | Preschools | Adult Literacy Program | Education for Working Children Program | Back to School Program | Arabic Education Program.
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 a pittance working as maidservants for people. Doing arduous labor in a factory in exchange for a few Takas does not offer any more financial respite either. OBAT’s Sewing and Embroidery Training Centers address this issue by training women to sew and embroider in a four month course. Many of the graduates from these centers are able to start home-based businesses and sell the clothes they stitch in local markets. They are also employed to sew uniforms for OBAT’s Schools’ students.
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.
RELIEF & 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. Relief projects are also undertaken by OBAT in case of a disastrous situation, for instance a campfire or a natural calamity such as floods or cyclones.
To address the dearth of potable water, OBAT has installed deep and shallow tube wells in different camps to provide better, safe and clean water for the camp communities.
Other projects such as renovation or construction of new bathrooms, community centers, drains and sewage systems have also been very beneficial for the camp residents.
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 Production
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.
ROHINGYA RELIEF PROGRAM
In October of 2017, OBAT also started responding to the critical situation that resulted after an influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. The Rohingya escaped from persecution and genocide in Myanmar to seek protection in Bangladesh. With the Rohingya crisis unfolding at the doorstep of OBAT projects, we made a strategic decision to provide humanitarian assistance in the immediate aftermath and apply solutions and lessons learned from the Urdu-speaking camps to help the recently displaced individuals. Key OBAT staff from the Urdu-speaking projects have played an important role in spearheading the Rohingya relief efforts. OBAT's current relief strategy in the Rohingya camps has and will be addressing medical, educational, nutrition and emergency needs.
Currently, the following projects have been undertaken by OBAT’s Rohingya Relief Program:
• Providing families with emergency supplies. Shelter reinforcement kits distributed to 23,000 people.
• 5 stationary medical camps (3,600 ppl. treated)
• 10 learning centers for 1,000 kids. Nutritional support is also provided to them. Digital learning program for 90 students. More centers are in progress.
• One medical center that treats around 150 patients per day
• 82 tube wells to provide clean water
• Islamic & sewing center for women
• Playground for kids
• 2 community centers, 9 bridges, 12 pathways,
• 1,504 + sturdy shelters built for monsoon season, with more in progress
Organization information resources:
Company Profile Video: https://vimeo.com/167057560
Link to documentary OBAT HELPERS: http://bit.ly/1cw24YC
Link to 2018 electronic annual report: http://bit.ly/OBAT2018AR