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Review for Obat Helpers Inc, Indianapolis, IN, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Over the past year I have spent two months, divided between three trips, in Bangladesh, where I was hosted by OBAT Helpers. Their staff has been instrumental in helping me with my fieldwork in the Rohingya refugee camps, where I have been pursuing research for my master’s thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

OBAT Helpers has been working in the Ukhiya and Teknaf regions for several years, and few organizations have so adeptly established programs in the Rohingya camps or so sincerely established trust within the community. Their staff members are intimately connected to the groups they serve, and they plan for long-term prosperity even as they address urgent conditions. The organization is one of the most agile groups working on behalf of the Rohingya refugees, and they provide convenient accommodation for guests and useful resources for colleagues.

Thanks to OBAT, I gained access to many areas where I conducted interviews and obtained photography and video footage, ranging from expansive visualizations of urban and ecological conditions to intimate portraits of everyday activities. I observed interactions between the military, host community, humanitarian actors, and refugees, both registered and unregistered. I have seen the stewardship of health care, the distribution of supplies, the education of children, the construction of buildings, and a wedding. I have been invited into homes, health clinics, learning centers, and public spaces where I have heard the voices of wives, mothers, teachers, husbands, fathers, builders, daughters, sons, clinicians, and community organizers. Their stories reveal a complex tapestry of the Rohingya community that is, unfortunately, too frequently obscured and rendered impersonal through the lens of humanitarian infrastructure.

Organizations like OBAT help us reach beyond newspaper and social media headlines to find the people whose lives are indelibly altered by the tragedies sown from violence, political division, and forced migration. In the same way OBAT empowers the local community while supplying assistance, we need more organizations to reevaluate the possibilities of humanitarian aid, and the manner in which it is provided. It is essential that we study examples like theirs if we are to meet the challenges of a century in which we witness no dilution in hatred toward minorities, refugees, women, and other persecuted groups.

Role:  Professional with expertise in this field