Edhi: The Mother Teressa of Pakistan
Abdul Sattar Edhi—the most active and renowned social worker of Pakistan—was born in the small village of Bantva, which is situated near Gujrat, in the year 1928. In 1974, he established the Edhi Foundation that later on became the largest welfare organization in not only Pakistan but also in the Third World. Abdul Sattar Edhi, after performing an excellent job during his life, passed away at the age of 88 in 2016. Now, the Edhi welfare center is run by his wife Bilquis Edhi and son Faisal Edhi.
Abdul Sattar Edhi has done a miracle to the city of Karachi and the state of Pakistan. Edhi did not take any salary throughout his life and lived a simple, decent, and unforgettable life. At the age of eleven, his mother was paralyzed and this affected her mental health later on. Edhi, at a very young age, became his own caretaker and also took care of his mother and all her needs.
Edhi credited his childhood for creating awareness for the need for social welfare as his mother would give him two paise—one for himself and the other one to give away. Edhi was often referred to as the Mother Teressa of Pakistan and had to operate despite facing many obstacles and death threats.
The Edhi Foundation in Pakistan
In Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is a growing welfare network based on local volunteers that provides a number of facilities and runs through private donations. The Edhi Foundation aims to break the religious and social barriers in Pakistan. It creates a spirit of solidarity and tolerance and helps mankind without any discrimination. Abdul Sattar Edhi has proven how an individual can help to bring the fragments of society together.
The most unique characteristic of this foundation is that it firmly refuses to take any financial aid from both the government as well as from religious organizations, and is handled solely by individual donors. Today, the welfare center established by Abdul Sattar Edhi is run by the heirs and includes 24-hours emergency services, over 1,500 ambulances, shelters, and other services.
Abdul Sattar Edhi clearly mentioned how one citizen can bring change in the whole society despite his limited education. Edhi and his wife, Bilquis, help thousands of people daily and have inculcated an enormous feeling of humanity within the people. From feeding a poor child to sheltering an orphan, from rescuing an accident victim to burying the unclaimed bodies, from teaching a teenager to counseling a battered wife, what Abdul Sattar Edhi has done for society can never be undone or forgotten.
How It Started?
It all started with a small dispensary in Mithadar, a region in Karachi, in the year 1951. Slow and steady, this tiny unit grew into a countrywide organization of ambulances, shelter homes, clinics, asylums, maternity homes, blood banks, adoption centers, schools, and orphanages. Not only within Pakistan but also in countries like Ethiopia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, Edhi has delivered many food items, medicines, and clothing to the refugees.
The most relied-on safety network of Pakistan emerged as a hero during the virulent flu epidemic of 1957. The selfless reaction of Edhi, spending his own money to control the epidemic, and his efforts impressed many people. These people then helped him to get the remaining dispensary building. Here he created a free school and maternity center.
Regarding the epidemic, Edhi stated, “The flu had spread in Karachi, and there was no one to treat them. So I set up benches and got medical students to volunteer. I was penniless and begged for donations on the street. And people gave. I bought this 8-by-8 room to start my work.”
In the following years, Edhi felt the need to start an ambulance service in the city of Karachi. He did so with the help of donations from a local businessman and converted a beat-up van into an ambulance and drove it himself. “I prided myself on being the first to arrive at an accident,” said Edhi, during an interview. Today, the Edhi centers are scattered across the country and Edhi ambulances are the first ones to arrive at the site of incidents, lowering road accidents deaths to almost half.
During emergency situations, the Edhi Foundation in Pakistan has always rescued people. At the incident of 9/11, he donated $100,000 to the overseas Pakistanis and helped them during the subsequent economic crisis. All the budget comes from private donations, Abdul Sattar Edhi has even refused to take the money from President Zia-ul-Haq back in the year 1980.
Explaining the philosophy behind his launch of the Mithadar dispensary, Edhi said, “I tell people that, because I am working for you, the money must come from you.” Sticking to his words, Edhi would walk around the streets and ask people to donate to his growing welfare center and social programs.
Not only that, but donors would also come to more than 300 centers to be a part of this noble cause. Some donors with interesting stories show up as well; one donor attributed the regularity of his donations to the fact that an Edhi ambulance once saved his sister’s life during an accident and knowing that the donations would help people in need. The people donating to their city’s respective Edhi welfare center, do so as per their capacity. Their donations can range from a few rupees to a few million.
Living an Achievement
Abdul Sattar Edhi was always available for the people and lived at the house neighboring his office to maintain a twenty-four hours availability. In the year 1986, the Ramón Magsaysay Award—generally known as “the Asian Nobel Prize”—was given to Mr. Edhi for his public service. In the year 1988, he received the Lenin Peace Prize and was awarded Nishan-e-Imtiaz a year later.
In 2000, he received the International Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace, and Brotherhood followed by the Wolf of Bhogio Peace Award in 2005. Despite being the most famous social worker of Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Edhi acknowledged that “Still, it’s very hard to survive if you are working for all the people, not just your particular religious or ethnic group.”
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