Celebration Marks OBAT's Tenth Anniversary
By Saima Hassan
On September 27th 2014, US based OBAT Helpers celebrated ten years of empowerment. OBAT Helpers is a 501 ©(3) Indianapolis based nonprofit that aims to empower displaced communities through education, health and micro-finance programs. Its immediate focus is to work for the empowerment of a destitute community known as Urdu-speaking or stranded Pakistanis who reside in makeshift camps in Bangladesh in truly despicable conditions.
In the past ten years, OBAT has made tremendous progress in empowering the camp residents. Its academic programs collectively educate nearly 4,500 students. Twenty-one thousand people enjoy clean drinking water from the tube-wells established by OBAT. The two sewing centers of OBAT teach about 150 women a year to sew clothing and earn a living by selling the clothes they stitch. The successful micro-finance program has enabled 9,000 people to earn an income from businesses initiated through loans received from the program. OBAT also has two health clinics that treat almost 10,000 camp residents every year. Hundreds of people around the world assist the camp dwellers through their zakat, sadka and qurbani contributions and have made these strides possible.
The organization hence had many milestones to celebrate at its ten year anniversary celebration. The event took place at the Athenaeum Theater in downtown Indianapolis and, among other things, consisted of paying tributes to donors, volunteers, partners and a musical program. The initial part of the event comprised of a silent auction gallery, signing a canvas with messages for the school children, viewing large scale photos from the camps while also enjoying food and music by DJ, Kyle Long. During the event, the attendees were entertained to musical performances by Irfan Alvi and Ranjani Datar. A birthday cake was cut on the stage. OBAT was fortunate to have guests from Texas, Seattle, Illinois and Canada attending this event.
Many OBAT founders, board of directors and advisors were recognized, including Dr Shahid Athar, and presented with plaques. Mr M.M Alam and Mohammad Inamul Haque Siddiqui from Bangladesh and Ehtesham Arshad Nezami, director, Friends of Humanity from Chicago along with over 200 friends were present on the occasion. In his brief remarks, Dr Shahid Athar observed: "All praise belongs to God who inspired Mr Anwar Khan and family 10 years ago to start this project of helping the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh who are stateless . My congratulations to him and the board of directors as well as workers of OBAT in BD refugee camps for all their wok and support. My prayers are with you. God Bless You. To the 'forgotten people' I say that world may have forgotten you but Allah has not, nor we have. You live not in refugee camps but in our hearts. You should continue to empower yourselves with education, micro financing, and your hard work. I was with you from the inception of OBAT and will continue to be with you till my last day on earth."
Many people from around the world and the US have been a part of this ten-year journey of OBAT and have played a major role in reaching this milestone. OBAT hopes that with the help of more friends, it will be able to brighten the future of many more camp residents in the years to come. It invites you to join the cause and spread the word about the plight of the camp residents. More information about OBAT can be found at www.obathelpers.org.