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)
“Five days until I leave for Bangladesh, and I couldn’t be more excited.” This was the first entry I wrote in my travel journal, and thinking back to the feelings I was having then and throughout my trip with OBAT Helpers, I’m filled with happiness. I’m very passionate about Islamic societies, culture, language, education and human rights; however, this was my first international experience. Visiting the schools was what I was most excited to experience. I was anxious and curious to hear stories from the children and their families, and to be able to witness first-hand, their living conditions. Were their living conditions, lack of access to jobs, discrimination and socio-economic status eye-opening to me? Yes. But more eye-opening and empowering than anything was the energy and light that came from the children. The schools, programming, teachers and team members were incredible. The love and feeling of duty that they felt are things that I have never seen and will never forget. It makes me tear up now thinking about them. Looking back in my journal, I wrote about our visit to the school in Rangpur, and how one of the teachers said that she didn’t know these children could be so smart and wonderful, and how she loves them so much, loves her job and is so proud of them. Who knew such light could shine in darkness? OBAT Helpers allowed me an opportunity to join their team, and bring programming that could support and aid in their work in girls’ and womens’ empowerment and education. I figured, I would feel excited and motivated after I arrived back to the States, but I had no idea I would feel as passionate and determined as I do. My pulse quickens at the memories and at the stories I tell when talking to friends and family. OBAT Helpers is striving to create change and provide support to break down barriers of inequality, discrimination and injustice, and I feel honored and privileged to be able to tell my experiences and the stories of those involved and effected by OBAT Helpers.
Burma, Iraq, Eritrea, China, Cuba, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are some of the countries whose natives have sought protection and refuge in Indianapolis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could help them rebuild their lives here? An easy and fun way to do this is to register for OBAT’s 5K walk, Race 4 Rehma at www.race4rehma2014.eventbrite.com. This year, we are partnering with Exodus Refugee and Immigration. Proceeds from this event will be donated toward Exodus’ mission of helping thousands of refugees establish their lives in Indiana.
Racing for Rehma means Racing for compassion so invite your friends and family to be a part of this event and to Race for compassion with you. Form a team for any of the above country’s names and walk together in solidarity for them. Enjoy live music, snacks and products made by artisans in Cambodia, Kenya, Haiti and Burma- not to forget the scenic and serene beauty of the canal and the warm temperatures of spring- the perfect combination for an entertaining Saturday morning!
Join OBAT in helping Exodus make Indianapolis the new home of refugees seeking shelter in Indiana from all over the world.
Race 4 Rehma. Race 4 compassion.
These stellar performers belong to OBAT’s Rangpur School and have received some shiny accolades of their own. In the PSC (Primary/elementary School Certificate) exams, 40% of the Rangpur School students got an A+, another 40% got an A and 20% received an A-. As a reward for an excellent performance among other government and private schools, the students earned a trip to Swapna Puri or the City of Dreams park.
These individuals overcame obstacles to be where they are today as you stepped forward to help them. In the months leading up to OBAT’s ten year anniversary on September 26th 2014, we will share with you snippets from this ten year passage through milestones and achievements, beginning with the first one here. Read more about the lives of this resilient bunch:http://conta.cc/1bIxCG6
|In September of 2004, a modest organization with a compelling mission emerged on the map of Indianapolis. Established by a purposeful individual with an earnest intent, it reached out to help distressed and forgotten individuals living eight thousand miles away in the South Asian country of Bangladesh. In the nearly ten years that have elapsed since then, you have helped OBAT Helpers achieve several milestones and touch innumerable lives. In these ten years, you have been by our side to give hope to the hopeless and to enlighten the lives of thousands of disadvantaged people with education.
In this momentous year, we want to celebrate with you everything that you have helped us accomplish. All of OBAT’s educational institutions, the life changing micro loans that have been disbursed and the numerous health treatments extended to the sick were made possible because of you.
As we enter the next decade of possibilities in 2014, we hope that you will walk with us when we make strides toward greater objectives, that you will help us set our sights higher, to attain more and to serve more. Thank you for sticking by our side.
On International Day of the Girl Child, today, we are proud to share with you that the number of girls enrolled in all of OBAT’s seven schools exceed the number of boys who study there. October 11th, declared by the United Nations as the day of the girl child in 2011, focuses this year on “Innovating for Girls’ Education.”