As I wrapped up the year 2015, here in Chittagong, Bangladesh, I couldn’t help but think of all the changes and improvements I have observed during my visits during the past ten years. During the last decade, I have begun each new year with our brothers, sisters and youth in the camps (commonly known as stranded Pakistanis/Biharis). My goal is to provide them with hope, dreams, and to help them navigate the tough road ahead of them.
For my 2015 annual trip, I arrived in Dhaka on December 16th and in the twenty- four days since then, I travelled to different OBAT projects in the cities of Dhaka, Mymensingh, Khulna, Ishwardy, Rangpur, Syedpur, and Chittagong.
Besides my usual monitoring and follow-up of projects and training the OBAT team, the goal of this trip has been to begin mentoring and developing the youth leadership from the camps and continuing this development on a regular basis. I have enjoyed meeting with our forgotten brothers and sisters and especially spending time with the youth who are our future. We believe that our youth will change the future and that the long-term empowerment of this community lies with them. The output of the youth training event was so amazing for all of us. Based on their availability and the projects they are involved with, Mohammad Raju, Nabila Ruhi, Mohammad Faisal and Mohammad Waseem from Geneva camp, and Abul Kashem from Rangpur camp (who is also the first future doctor, currently enrolled in medical school), joined me during the trip. It was a great learning experience for all of us- getting to know each other more, reaching a better understanding and engaging in discussions related to personal growth, leadership and other skills’ development. During our visits to different camps, these youth leaders met with other youths of the camps and have done an excellent job motivating and mentoring them.
We also conducted a career planning workshop and invited business leaders, Zobair Khandaker of Nitol Group, Jawaher Ahmed of Flora Telecom and Niaz Ahmed a leading businessman and CEO of local NGO, AWARD, to share their thoughts and vision.
This trip has so many memories that I was not able to sleep on my long flight back to the US, as I collected my thoughts about the days, hours and moments I spent there. Besides our regular schedule, we hosted two conferences in Khulna and Dhaka to which we invited local and international NGO’s. More than thirty organizations joined us, including Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid and JAGO Foundation. This was really a great milestone for OBAT to meet and forge connections with the local grassroots and international organizations working in Bangladesh. The next step is to move forward and cooperate and collaborate with each other. We also held a meeting with the US Embassy where our youth leadership from the camps discussed their problems and roadblocks including the opportunities to obtain higher education in USA.
Joining this year’s trip from the US, were Maureen Lynch (Dr. Lynch is an independent humanitarian advocate and researcher based in Washington, DC. She was the former Senior Associate on Stateless Initiatives at Refugees International) and Thatcher Cook (Mr. Cook is a documentary photographer whose clients are primarily humanitarian aid and development organizations that work with refugees. This was his second visit). Both visited the projects of OBAT and the camps and also met with SPGRC and Al-Falah (local NGO’s) during this trip.
One of the most important parts of my trip was spending time with the OBAT staff and team. Every team did an excellent job explaining the progress of the projects and presenting a SWOT analysis by project and city. Immad Ahmed, our new COO will be in Dhaka next week to follow up on the actions taken and will help implement some new changes in 2016 to improve our efficiency and output.
I am thankful to everyone around the world who has helped make 2015 a memorable year. Knowing that I have your continuous support, means so much. Thank you for your friendship; I pray that we can create more positive impact and help even more people in 2016. May this next year be filled with blessings, peace, and success for us all. Happy new year to you and your family!
(President and Founder, OBAT Helpers)