Abdul Sattar Edhi is an institution of service to mankind; he is a man of moral and spiritual greatness who has dedicated his entire life for the greater good of humans. Edhi is matchless philanthropist, truly a remarkable example of humility, chastity and dignity. Edhi is nothing short of a phenomenon, an institution and a living legend. His story is truly inspiring.
Edhi was born in Gujarat, India in 1928. His mother, from the very impressionable age of his childhood, taught Edhi to be humble and always helpful to the needy. In the period of great emotional agony and political disorder, Edhi and his family migrated from India to Pakistan in 1947 and settled in the city of Karachi. When he was eleven, his mother became paralyzed. Edhi spent his days and nights taking care and looking after his sick mother, providing her with all the services a nurse would do – cleaning, bathing, changing clothes and feeding. Thus he became too engrossed in being the caretaker of his mother to complete his education. But this very first act of humanitarian labor and altruism paved way for him being the widely praised social worker in Pakistan and around the world.
Abdul Sattar Edhi began his career as a street-hawker, selling pencils and matchboxes in the streets of Karachi. Then in 1951, he set up a small dispensary in Karachi’s poor neighborhood called Mithadar. Providing full-fledged services to the needy was his top priority. Edhi bought his first ambulance and named it the ‘poor man’s van’ – a poor man with a rich heart.
He went around the city providing medical aid and burying unclaimed bodies. Such a humble act advertised his love for helping others. People noticed, donations began pouring in. This was when Edhi employed nurses and other additional staff for his small welfare organization. He met his wife, Bilquees Edhi, who was a trainee nurse at the dispensary. They were married in 1966.
Abdul Sattar Edhi had established his first organization with a mere 5000 rupees ($1000). With time, Edhi foundation was expanded as people began to recognize the humanitarian aims it had. In 1973 when an old apartment building collapsed in Karachi, Edhi’s ambulances and volunteers were the first to reach the scene and start rescue operations. From then, on, through the troubles in Karachi and all over the country, Edhi’s ambulances have been rescuing and taking the injured to hospitals and burying unclaimed bodies. They go to places where even government agencies hesitate to venture. The Edhi Foundation is the first of its kind in South Asia that owns air ambulances, providing quick access to far-flung areas. 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. On a national scale there are about 250 Edhi centers. Edhi also donated $100,000 to the numerous Pakistanis who lost their jobs in New York after the subsequent economic crisis that followed after the 9/11 incident. 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.
In spite of having such a huge position, Abdul Sattar Edhi chooses to remain a very humble and down to earth person, clinging with simplicity. 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.
Indeed, Edhi is to Pakistan what Mother Teresa was to the poor of Calcutta. As long as we have such heroic personalities in this world, we should remain hopeful that humanity can dawn on this cruel world once again. May the savior of a million souls get a long life, full of humanitarian causes.