Archive for October 15th, 2008

Today, October 15, is Blog Action Day, where thousands of bloggers have pledged to unite and discuss a single issue – poverty. For my part, I decided to delve into the work of the Edhi Foundation, a not-for-profit social welfare program in Pakistan, established by Abdul Sattar Edhi. According to the official website,

The organization’s activities include a 24-hour emergency service across the country through 250 Edhi centers, which provide free shrouding and burial of unclaimed dead bodies, shelter for the poor, orphans and handicapped persons, free hospitals and dispensaries, rehabilitation of drug addicts, free wheelchairs, crutches and other services for the handicapped, family planning counseling and maternity services, national and international relief efforts for the victims.

Following the devastating Pakistan earthquake in 2005, the Edhi Foundation provided exhaustive relief and rehabilitative services in the affected areas and for the families of the victims. The foundation has won numerous awards for its work in Pakistan, including the Paul Harris Fellow from Rotatory International Foundation in 1993, the Lenin Peace Prize, and the Nishan-e-Imtiaz award from the Pakistani government in 1989.

Currently, the Edhi Foundation is home to over 6,000 poor people, runaways, and the mentally ill.  In Karachi alone, the organization runs eight hospitals providing free medical care, eye hospitals, diabetic centres, surgical units, a four-bed cancer hospital and mobile dispensaries. Moreover, it provides transportation to over one million people annually to hospitals throughout the country. In fact, it set the Guinness World Record in 2000 for having the largest voluntary ambulance organization in the world.

It is impossible to discuss the work of this foundation without also commending its founder, Abdul Sattar Edhi, one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan. Born in 1928, Edhi and his family migrated to Karachi from Gujarat, India after partition in 1947. In 1957, a major flu epidemic swept through Karachi. Edhi was quick to react, setting up tents on the outskirts of the city to distribute free immunizations. After hearing of his work, Pakistanis throughout the country donated to Edhi’s efforts. With the donations, he bought the rest of the building his dispensary was located in. Edhi soon opened a free maternity center and nursing school. Soon after, the Edhi Foundation was born.

Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife, Bilquis Edhi, are more than just philanthropists – they represent all that is good and right in Pakistan. The work of the Edhi Foundation and the work of similar organizations are a bright light in a history marred with violence, military coups, and social disparity. They are, quite frankly, inspirations and national heroes.

To donate to the Edhi Foundation, click here.

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