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Geeta’s story reads rather like the Salman Khan starrer, Bajrangi Bhaijan, only in reverse. While in the movie, the deaf and mute girl is from Pakistan who has accidentally been left in India, Geeta is an Indian lady who accidentally crossed the border to Pakistan when she was 7 or 8 years old. Despite all border disputes that we have had with our neighbor, Pakistani soldiers handed her over to a home for abandoned and orphaned children in Lahore from where she was sent to the charitable Edhi Foundation in Karachi.
She was shown filial love and care by Faisal Edhi, director of the Edhi Foundation, Pakistan. This non-profit social welfare programme took Geeta within her folds and christened her Faiza. However, when the people at the Foundation realized that she has a Hindu upbringing, they re-named her Geeta.
“Saving Humanity is the Spirit of All Religions.” In a world ridden with communal and religious divides, this is a reminder that we are all born of ONE GOD, with just different names and forms.
This is the motto of Edhi Foundation, founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi, a well known Pakistani philanthropist. It is the largest non-profit social welfare organisation in the world. It runs the world’s largest ambulance service, operating free of cost for orphanages, nursing homes, clinics. It provides food, shelters, and rehabilitation centres all across Pakistan and other countries. Edhi foundation runs 330 welfare centres in Pakistan, both in urban and rural areas to help mentally ill individuals and drug addicts. Since its beginning, the foundation has rescued more than 50,000 orphans, and 20,000 abundant infants, while it has trained more than 40,000 nurses.
60 years ago, Edhi stood on a street corner in Karachi and begged for money for an ambulance, raising enough to buy a battered old van. In it, he set out on countless life-saving missions. Gradually, Mr Edhi set up centres all over Pakistan.
He was born in 1928, when the British Empire was at its height, in Gujarat in what is now western India. But he and his family were forced to flee for their lives in 1947 when the division of India and creation of Pakistan brought about terrible communal carnage: millions were killed in mob violence and ethnic cleansing. It was then that Mr Edhi, finding himself penniless on the streets of Karachi set out on his life’s mission.
The Edhi Foundation had started with Rs. 5,000/- now the foundation receives donations in big numbers. The foundation has been a life saviour to thousands of newly born babies, by taking care of abandoned children, while the women who suffered torture at their homes were given shelter, food and provided safety. Free medication is provided to patients suffering from many diseases, and this support is brought to handicapped people also. There is a lot that the Edhi foundation does, including conducting marriages of boys and girls who can’t afford the expenses.
Moreover it also helps people to settle in their lives after being affected by natural disasters such as floods and droughts. Several relief operations have been run by the Foundation in the countries of Africa, Middle East, US, Eastern Europe etc., to help make living conditions better for people there.
No wonder, Abdul Sattar Edhi has been the recipient of numerous awards which include the Lenin Peace Prize, and Nishan-e-Imtiaz from Pakistan Government. He was awarded the Person of the year in 2013 by The Express Tribune newspaper. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1968, with his wife Mrs. Bilquis Edhi, for Public Service.
Neki kar, dariya mein daal (Do charitable work and throw it in the water, meaning forget about it). This seems to be another guiding principle of the founders, as shown by the fact that all the initiatives by the Edhi Foundation have been put into action without any expectation of monetary or financial gains. The wide number of facilities are provided selflessly by the foundation which also receives donations in large numbers from general public. The Guardian newspaper has regarded Abdul Sattar Edhi as, “a legendary charity worker known for his asceticism.” He has often been regarded as the greatest living humanitarian in the world. In November, 2911, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani, recommended his name for the Nobel Peace Prize. He may not have received the prize yet, but that, we are sure, is of no importance to this kindly soul.
Mr Edhi has been suffering from a kidney failure and has been put on dialysis since 26 June, 2013. He is one of the living models of religious equality and community service that we have in our world today. We pray that he is able to recover. God forbid, if something were to happen to him, his charitable works will outlive his modest soul, and continue to inspire millions to follow him in his footsteps. We are sure that our readers can begin their own small contribution by visiting the website of Edhi Foundation. Perhaps they can chip in a small donation as a matter of acknowledgement of his selfless services. Or at least let those who can donate know about him and his foundation.