OBAT Helpers is an Indianapolis based non-profit, 501(C) 3 organization committed to providing aid, support, education and economic empowerment to a suffering and displaced community known as, “Biharis” or “Stranded Pakistanis.”
The Biharis have been stranded in Bangladesh since it achieved independence from Pakistan in 1971. This community was supposed to be repatriated to Pakistan after the two countries separated as they identified with Pakistan politically and linguistically. However, most of them could not be repatriated due to political complications. They still live in the camps that were supposed to serve as their temporary shelter forty-two years ago. Almost four decades were spent by them in the camps without an identity- they belonged nowhere. In 2008, the Government of Bangladesh granted citizenship to those born in the camps after 1971. However, they still struggle with obtaining passports, jobs, housing outside the camps and basic amenities of living. They are discriminated against for their distinct ethnic and linguistic identity and for their past inclination toward Pakistan. Their camp address acts as the greatest obstacle between them and the opportunities that they could have had access to if they were not residing in the camps.
This population is scattered across sixty-six camps which house around 300,000-350,000 people. These individuals received some initial help from international aid organizations. However, they have largely been forgotten by the international community and continue to live in miserable circumstances with little or no recourse to basic facilities. Anyone visiting the camps would see a family of 7-10 people sharing a living space of 8x10 ft.; open sewers and overflowing drains; a single toilet or two for one hundred or so people; innocent six or seven year olds who should be in schools, working for a living; high-infant mortality rates due to absence of medical facilities; severe overcrowding; lack of clean drinking water; terrible or no sanitation facilities and nothing but abject poverty.
OBAT Helpers is the only organization in North America which is committed to helping the Biharis to become self-reliant and empowered through proper education, health care and micro financing projects. OBAT started with providing help to one camp in 2004, and now, it is improving the lives of people in more than thirty-five out of the total sixty-six camps in six cities of Bangladesh.
The following are the areas of focus for OBAT: Education & Training, Self-Empowerment, Health & Sanitation; Infrastructure Development and Family Assistance.
EDUCATION & TRAINING: Altogether, OBAT operates more than 50 educational and training projects, including schools, tutoring, sewing and computer training centers. More than 600 scholarships have been offered to students pursuing education at different levels (middle school to higher education).
SELF-EMPOWERMENT: Over 1,600 families have been empowered through our micro-finance program. This program is mainly designed for women entrepreneurs who are provided financial assistance from 10,000 ($130) to 100,000 ($1,300) Takas. Presently, our first project is self-sustained with a total rolling fund of more than 40 million Takas or approximately $500,000.
HEALTH & SANITATION: Over 10,000 people are assisted annually through two health care facilities which provide routine medical screenings and medication support.
One thousand cataract surgeries were conducted in 2012, in partnership with a UK based organization, Sight Savers. The goal for 2013 is to conduct another thousand surgeries by partnering with various hospitals in different cities and the RS foundation in Canada.
OBAT is installing deep tube wells in different camps to provide better, safe and clean water for the camp communities. Currently, five tube wells and twenty hand pumps are operational in various cities.
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 our Ramadan Food Distribution and Qurbani Meat Distribution Programs. These programs are conducted around two Muslim festivals celebrated in the camps. Communities have also benefited through projects such as: rebuilding/construction of bathrooms, sanitation facilities and community center, etcetera. 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.
Please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 317-203-0603 for any inquiries.
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