INDIANAPOLIS — Imagine living in an 8x10-foot clay hut with a sheet as your only roofing, packed in with multiple families in an area that a host of countries refuse to claim as their own.
These are the forgotten 300,000 Rohingya people living along the border of Myanmar, and these are the people that OBAT (an acronym formed by the first letters of the names of the four founding parents) Helpers aim to empower.
Based in Indianapolis, the group is extending its reach to the local community with the second annual Race 4 Rhema from 3 to 6 p.m. Sept. 29 on the canal downtown.
The 5K walk and cultural celebration that includes games, raffles, and live music will benefit Second Helpings, which feeds the local needy, and SENSE Charter School.
“Since we’re located here in Indianapolis, our headquarters are here, our staff is here, we really felt the need to get involved locally in the community,” said Arishaa Kahn, of OBAT Helpers. Her parents are two of the founders of the non-profit organization.
“We want to bring the same focus that we bring to the Forgotten People to a local focus,” Kahn said. “We focus on Second Helpings, the food shelter, and then SENSE, and our role is that we provide them with tutors and help them with their mission of educating students. Rhema is the Arabic word for compassion, so that’s the point we’re trying to get across with what we can do locally.”
Anwar Kahn, founder and president of OBAT Helpers, added, “Although OBAT Helpers was originally founded as a global organization with a focus on education and empowering in Bangladesh, as a resident of Indiana, I feel it is just as important to do what we can for our neighbors and the community here at home. The local initiative aims to do that and can only grow with local support.”
Arishaa Kahn said last year’s event was “very dramatic.”
“It shows the culture we have in Indianapolis,” she said. “We had a Nigerian dancer, singers from the IUPUI campus singing pop songs, and it was a very diverse event. It’s put on by young professionals and we have that image that we want to bring forward, especially in the heart of our city in the canal.”
She added that the continuing goal is to feed 200 people every single Friday through their initiative, and that already the number of expected participants has doubled from last year’s event.
Fatima Hussain, who does public relations with the OBAT Helpers, explained, “It literally began in a living room, discussing different things we could do to make the organization more local. It was October of last year we planned to do this and we had only a month of planning. Honestly I think it just comes down to the core of the personalities of the people involved and the people who founded the organization. They always have had a giving nature and know not to take what they have for granted.
“Race 4 Rhema is a really cool event because it was started by a global organization, so while they could be putting their efforts overseas, they realize they should be looking at the people in the city and not overlooking them. They try to cover both fronts at once.”
Arishaa said this year’s event will include an African drumming band and Zumba trainers to help before the 5K.
While not required to be done prior to the event, advance registration may be made at www.race4rhema2012.eventbrite.com. Cost for the event is $10.
For more information on the OBAT Helpers, visit the website at www.obathelpers.org.
The Indianapolis canal is at 337 W. 11th St.
Just the facts
WHAT: Race 4 Rhema
WHEN: 3 to 6 p.m. Sept. 29
WHERE: Indianapolis canal, 337 W. 11th St.