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Abdul Sattar Edhi
Edhi is one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan, a premiere example of a life of compassion, perseverance and patience. Born January 1st 1928 in British India, Edhi grew up taking care of his mother who suffered from paralysis and diabetes. She taught him a daily lesson by giving him two paisas, one to spend on himself, and one on someone less fortunate. This simple lesson shaped him into the great man that he is today. In a region that had faced great turmoil after the dismantling of the British Empire, where millions of Hindus and Muslims were uprooted and became refugees, it wasn’t hard to find someone less fortunate.
“I had accepted at the outset that charity was distorted and completely unrelated to its original concept. Reverting to the ideal was like diverting an ocean of wild waters. Another major obstacle in the promotion of welfare was exposed…the disgust of man towards mankind. There was only one expression, one reaction from everyone…cringing.
…We could not reduce suffering unless we rose above our own senses…cringing was the first and the greatest hindrance that blocked our way, the most brutal, but also the most understandable.” Abdul Sitar Edhi
Around the age of 20, Edhi and his family migrated to Karachi, Pakistan. Here the conditions were not any better, infants were discarded on roadsides and adult corpses baked in the sun. Edhi began to realize the dire need for medicine and saved up his money to open a charitable clinic. Despite not having a formal education, he applied himself to learn basic medical care from a friend who was a doctor. He was a simple man with a simple philosophy, and he would sleep on the concrete outside the clinic so that he was available to anyone who needed help anytime.
In 1957, there was a major flu epidemic in the city of Karachi. He quickly began setting up tents on the outskirts of the city and distributing free immunizations. Due to his efforts and the public outpouring of financial support he was able to purchase the entire building that his small tiny clinic was on. He then established the Edhi foundation, which continues today, and is run completely by public support. Government, religious and political money is always cheerfully returned so they organization can remain independent and react to any social needs as they come.
As the years went on, and the public funding grew, Edhi was able to expand his humanitarian reach. He bought an ambulance that would drive himself. Then set up a free maternity center and a nursing school. Expanded the number of clinics, and began mental health institutions and homes for the physically handicapped. Always aware of the needs around him, Edhi set up orphanages, adoption centers, blood banks, maternity centers, soup kitchens, and shelters for children and battered women. His extraordinary social welfare network continues to grow today.
The Edhi foundation is now the largest in Pakistan, having over 300 clinics, 2000 ambulances over the country, 8 hospitals in Karachi alone, a cancer hospital and mobile clinics, a legal aid department with free services and doctor visits for inmates. Over 20,000 abandon babies have been saved through the Edhi foundation. The Edhi orphanages have served over 50,000 orphans, and their nursing school have educated and trained more than 40,000 nurses.
Yet even now, Abdul Sattar Edhi spends many sleepless nights and days ministering to the needs of his fellow Pakistanis, traveling with the ambulances to calls for help, personally bathing the handicapped and spending time playing with and educating the orphaned street children he comes across. Each evening Edhi spends his dinner dining with the hundreds of poor at the “Langar” (free community meals) his organization provides.
It is amazing how great of an impact one dedicated and determined individual can have on the world around them.