A Man With an Extraordinary Dream

Unfortunately, our society is experiencing a decline in family values - The triumph of individualism and lawlessness seems to be eroding the sense of community. Pakistan’s social fabric has been weakened by crime and violence, coupled with family breakdown and a rapid decline in moral values.  Amidst all these glaring issues, Abdul Satar Edhi appeared as a ray of hope for the downtrodden and the oppressed. It seems hard to believe that an exceptionally compassionate Edhi gave up a comfortable life and served humanity in this increasingly acquisitive society.  He has been a source of pride for Pakistan and all over the world for his charitable work for the needy, regardless of their social background.

Abdul Satar Edhi was born on 28th February 1928, in Bantva India. His father Abdul Shakoor Edhi inherited his profession from his father and worked as a Commission agent in Bombay. The Edhi family, accompanied by other members of the Memons community migrated to Pakistan during the partition of the British India.  Edhi at a very young age helped his mother in rendering social community work. Consequently the episode of social community work inspired him to establish his own charitable organization one day. At the young age of fifteen, Edhi was independent and had started his own business.  He initially joined the Bantva Memon Dispensary but  soon realized that prejudicial treatment was given to the needy and resultantly, he quit the dispensary.

He was a great philanthropist who touched the lives of many Pakistani’s through his unwavering commitment to help the unwanted and uncared. He shunned  all grandeur and comfort for a very noble cause. Edhi, without being tempted to accumulate wealth for himself chose to live a life of selfless devotion. His first clinic was established in 1951, long before the scope of his charitable activities expanded exponentially. He created an organization out of nothing which was mainly run by private donations that poured in from Pakistan and around the world. Edhi worked relentlessly to establish his small clinic into a world renowned organization. For that, he often  slept outside his office. Initially he spent his savings to hire a doctor and bought medicines for the sick. Later he travelled abroad to study welfare strategies and successfully implemented them in Pakistan.
 In 1957, the Asian flu hit China and the surrounding regions. Edhi, rented tents on credit and put up camps all over Karachi and placed a money box for donations. This was the first time he gained massive recognition for his selfless devotion and soon experienced the much awaited financial breakthrough.  Soon after he bought a van and inscribed the words “The poor man’s van” on it.

In 2005, the Edhi organization managed to raise $100, 000 aid relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  The Edhi Foundation has more than 1800 ambulances positioned across Pakistan. Edhi’s Foundation entered Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 for being the “largest volunteer ambulance organization in the world.”

Through the years, his welfare organization created many morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the destitute. Edhi supported the mentally ill and setup clinics for women. He  helped the deprived and disadvantaged people  regardless of their religion, cast and creed. He often said “My religion is humanitarianism, which is the basis of every religion in the world.’’

He lived in a sparsely furnished windowless room adjoining his welfare office. He housed many unwanted children, battered women, deserted elderly people, drug addicts and the disabled. He passed away on 8th July 2016 in Karachi from Renal failure. Edhi, due to his remarkable contributions to the society was awarded a state funeral. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his condolence message said that “If anyone deserves to be wrapped in the flag of the nation he served, it is him.”

Edhi shall continue to live in the hearts of millions of people across the world.  He followed his heart and realized his extraordinary dream of helping humanity. He shall continue to be a source of inspiration for all of us and thus will always be remembered as a precious gem of our society.

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