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When refugee aid nonprofit OBAT Helpers, based in Indianapolis, set out to help establish a community for some of the 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fleeing persecution in neighboring Myanmar, design challenges abounded. Of the land not already occupied by temporary housing, much of the nearby 3,000 hilly acres were heavily forested and lacked roads, limiting accessibility to electricity, sanitation, water, and supplies for construction. The Bangladeshi government's insistence that the refugees must eventually leave further complicated the establishment of relatively resilient infrastructure that also needed to be temporary. Ultimately, OBAT Helpers decided to invest the time and resources necessary to make the land inhabitable in the short—and potentially long—term. Today, this area features 100 learning centers serving 10,000 students, two medical centers that treat 400 patients a day, and more than 1,700 individual shelters for families—most made of simply bamboo, rope, and tarp.
In this episode of our podcast, OBAT Helpers executive director Immad Ahmed discusses the design limitations and construction obstacles that faced the community and how the team leveraged local expertise to create long-term communities in largely temporary spaces.
This podcast episode was produced by Katharine Keane and Lauren Honesty.