OBAT Helpers is a 501(C) 3, non-profit organization committed to providing aid, support, education and economic empowerment to the displaced, unfortunate and forgotten population residing in camps in Bangladesh. Commonly known as stranded Pakistanis, Biharis or Urdu speaking people, they have been suffering silently in the countless slums or makeshift camps scattered across Bangladesh, for the past 46 years. Their displaced status and dire living conditions were a consequence of a civil war between both parts of Pakistan and the unresolved political conflict between them. Altogether, there are about 300,000 people languishing in one hundred and sixteen makeshift camps in extremely poor conditions- they live in abject poverty with no access to basic amenities of living. At present, to address the crises facing the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, OBAT is extending humanitarian services to this group of displaced people as well.
OBAT Helpers was initially formed as a family initiative to alleviate the suffering of this community with limited funds raised through friends and family. OBAT is an acronym formed by the first letters of the names of the parents (Obaid, Bilquis, Aman & Tayyaba) of Anwar and Afshan Khan, the founders of this charitable initiative. On delving deeper into this pressing issue, the founders soon realized that a family initiative like theirs would be rendered totally ineffective due to the severity and magnitude of the crisis on hand. To address this predicament, OBAT Helpers was incorporated in 2004 as a non-religious, non-political non-profit organization in the state of Indiana.
The Urdu speaking community housed in the decrepit camps, have no access to clean water and live on less than a dollar a day. Their entire families live in tiny 8 ft. by 10 ft. tin and bamboo huts; the children don’t go to school so that they can help their parents make a living; they suffer from myriad health issues, including malnutrition; and the living conditions are unsanitary and shameful.
OBAT has established schools, health clinics, tutoring, computer training and vocational centers along with a self-empowerment program. Provision of basic amenities for the camp residents through infrastructure development, is a priority. Education and economic empowerment are the areas of focus as together, they have the potential to lift the camp dwellers out of dire poverty and hopelessness.
Through a judicious and strategic mix of aid, education, vocational training and self-empowerment initiatives, OBAT aims to improve the lives of these unfortunate people and to replace their misery with happiness, hope and self-worth.