Friday, November 7, 2008

Abdul Sattar Edhi

Edhi is one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan. At the age of eleven, he started taking care of his mother, who suffered paralysis from severe diabetes. Many years later, he purchased a small shop from the money he had saved while taking care of his mother, and used the shop as a clinic that dispensed medicine and medical supplies. He learned basic medical care from a friend who was a doctor. He was a simple man, 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 acted quickly, setting up tents on the outskirts of the city and distributed free immunizations. Many people, after hearing of his deeds, donated generously. He used the money to purchase the entire building that his small tiny clinic was on. This he used as a free maternity center and a nursing school.

Later, a businessman would donate a large sum, which Edhi would use to buy an ambulance. He would drive the ambulance himself. As of today, the Edhi foundation now has 2000 ambulances over the country, according to BBC Asia. Even with this, he continues to travel with the ambulances when there is a call for help.

Edhi has set up hospitals, the ambulance services, clinics, maternity homes, mental asylums, homes for the physically handicapped, blood banks, orphanages, adoption centers, mortuaries, shelters for runaway children and battered women, schools, nursing courses, and soup kitchens. Outside each Edhi center is a carriage, where women who can't support their babies, or those that have babies outside of wedlock and cannot keep it, can place their child there to be orphaned by the foundation and given free education.

The following is a video featuring his achievements:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Murlidhar Devidas Amte | A Real Hero

Murlidhar Devidas Amte is one of my moral heroes. He was a man, who with hard work and perseverance, showed me that one man can really make a significant difference in the world. I chanced to learn about him when I joined the Ramon Magsaysay Essay Writing contest, which I joined year after year and writing about Amte each time.

Amte was a man of action. He once went into a brawl to protect a girl who was a stranger to her. At another time, he shielded a couple from falling luggage in an accident on the train, which cost him a broken shoulder for the rest of his life, which prevented him from lifting his hand higher than his head. He was born into a rich family, however, upon his decision to help outcasts such as lepers, he was branded as insane and unclean, since anyone touching an unclean will also be unclean. Thus, he lost his rights to the wealth that his family had.

This did not stop him.

He, along with his wife and children, six lepers, a lame cow, and a few meager rupees, started a settlement on land that they loaned from the government. The land was barren and hard, not suitable for growing vegetables. It was dangerous, hunting land, infested by tigers and scorpions. His wife had to kill a dozen deadly scorpions a day. Yet he named this land positively as Anandwan, meaning the Forest of Bliss.

They started digging a well. It took them several weeks before they dug enough to produce water. And even then, it was little. Amte mentioned that there were more tears and sweat that went down into the well than the water that was coming out of it.

In two years of hard toil, the small community became self sufficient. They had transformed the barren wasteland into productivity.

The community grew, and it now has thousands of people living in it, people who were previously social outcasts such as lepers, orphaned children, the visually challenged, mentally challenged, senior citizens, and differently abled individuals. It is one of the most productive communities in India.

Amte has created a community built upon the warmth of love. It was not a community for charity. He did not believe in charity. Instead, he believed in the power of work to provide people a sense of direction, purpose, and belongingness. For social outcasts such as lepers, this really meant a lot, to become part of a community where they too can contribute and have direction in their life. Through Amte, lepers have come to experience how to live again.

The following video was dedicated to him after his death by the people that he had helped. Today, his children have grown up to continue his work and to help even more people.