Abdul Sattar Edhi

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Abdul Sattar Edhi is nothing short of a phenomenon, an institution and a living legend. He is a world-renowned social worker who devoted his entire life to the service of mankind. His ambulances are here and there, and his clinics and homes are everywhere to help millions of people. Edhi was born in 1928 at Bantwa, Gujrat in pre-partition India. His story is truly inspiring. At the age of eleven his mother paralyzed. He spent his days and nights to nurse and provide full-fledged services to his mother — cleaning, bathing, changing clothes and feeding and hence he was too busy to complete his education in the school. But the very first experience of hardship and self-sacrificing service turned out to be his tutor to make him an “Angel Hero”.

He started his career as a street hawker, selling pencils and matchboxes in Karachi. Then in 1951, he opened a tiny dispensary in Karachi’s poor neighborhood of Mithadar where his priority was to give maximum help to the poor and the needy. He worked steadily and then due to his devotion, determination for philanthropy proceeded to launch a nationwide organization. Now he is the chief of a titanic organization that consists of ambulances, clinics, maternity homes, lunatic asylums, homes for the physically and mentally handicapped, blood banks, orphanages, adoption centers, mortuaries, shelters for runaway children and battered women, schools, nursing courses, soup kitchens and a cancer hospital. The entire set-up is now being smoothly run by some 7000 volunteers and a small paid staff of teachers, doctors and nurses.

In 1966 he married Bilquis, a nurse by profession in one of his dispensary. Both have had little education but strong will and altruism enabled them to run an international organization. So without an iota of doubt, Abdus Sattar Edhi is now an international social worker. He was the first individual to deliver personally medicines, food and clothing to refugees in Bosnia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. He and the drivers of his ambulances have saved numerous lives in floods, train wrecks, civil conflicts and traffic accidents. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, he donated $100,000 to Pakistanis in New York who had lost their jobs in the subsequent economic crisis.

Edhi foundation deals with emergency relief in natural disastrous such as fire, epidemics, floods and earthquake. The focus is on long-term rehabilitation of the poor in case of hunger and poverty. The foundation has an educational scheme, which deals with reading, teaching, training, pharmacy and paramedical training to the most ignored section of the society. It provides transportation facility in emergency to more than one million persons annually. On the national scale there are 250 Edhi Centers. The organization saved 20,000 abandoned babies; trained 40,000 qualified nurses and 50,000 orphans are housed in Edhi Homes. One million babies have been delivered in Edhi maternity centers. The organization has 3500 workers and thousands of volunteers have been generating its own resources from donations of people without any help of the Government. Edhi doctrine is a collective welfare program based on self-help to ameliorate and develop present institutions in Pakistan. It is really amazing that the lion’s share of the Edhi Foundation’s $10-million budget comes from private donations from individual Pakistanis inside and outside the country. The Edhi foundation refuses to take any help from the Government thereby maintaining its independence. In the 1980’s, when Pakistan’s then-President Zia-ul-Haq sent him a check for 500,000 rupees, Edhi sent it back. When the Italian government offered him a million-dollar donation, he didn’t entertain it saying “Governments set conditions that I cannot accept,” and declined to give any details.

The man with a great cause highly recognized by the world in general and Pakistan in particular was given Nishan-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan in 1989. He was recognized the world over as in 1986 he was awarded with the prestigious Magasay award by Philippines, Balzan Peace Award in 2000 by the Italian Government and a Peace Prize from U.S.S.R for the services in the Armenian earthquake disaster in 1988.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, Jan 06, 2010