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A birthday tribute to Anwar Khan- President of OBAT Helpers Inc. Happy Birthday, Anwar- the world needs more people like you.

August 23, 2011

Face to face with him, you would see a salt and pepper haired, extremely humble and soft-spoken man. His respectful demeanor and kind eyes tell a lot about the kind of person he is. But not enough about what all he has done or accomplished- single-handedly.

This is a man who travelled 8000 miles to Bangladesh with $1800 in his pocket. His intention was to adopt a destitute family living in refugee camps -one family out of a population of 250,000 or so at that time; perishing in make-shift camps, better described as slums, since forty years. He had read about them, was moved by their poignant story and garnered the support of close family and friends to raise $1800 for them within the confines of his living room.

Once there, Anwar Khan realized that the amount in his pocket was not enough to address the scale and magnitude of the suffering he witnessed. These people were stranded in slums which were supposed to serve as their temporary accommodation when Pakistan and Bangladesh split in 1971 and neither country took ownership of them. He saw ragamuffin school-aged children playing perilously close to open sewers, rampant sickness, death and disease, extreme poverty and no hope of a better future in the eyes of the elders. He made a decision then to come back and do something to take them out of their misery.

Come back he did, not once but many more times. Back in the US, in 2004, he formed a non-profit, OBAT Helpers, with a mission to improve the lives of the people, known as, “Biharis or stranded Pakistanis.” Accomplished professionals from several walks of life extended support and expertise to the cause.  Instead of spending winter vacations lounging at swanky resorts, Anwar spends the two weeks in Bangladesh, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of OBAT’s programs, lending expertise or simply lending an ear- listening to and solving the problems of the slum’s residents.

 His remarkable work continues to this day in tandem with his full-time position as Lead Auditor of quality management systems at General Motors. His profession couldn’t have been more fitting, allowing him to apply his work skills to ameliorate the operations of OBAT. The organization now runs seven schools, health clinics, tutoring and computer training centers and a microfinance program. Altogether, these programs have improved the lives of hundreds of people- all because of a simple act of humanity. Once forgotten, these people have been brought back to life by a compassionate individual.

 You can read more about the work of OBAT Helpers at http://www.obathelpers.org.

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