Dr. Abdul Sattar Edhi incepted his humanitarian work in 1951 from an eight foot dispensary in Mithadar, Karachi, Pakistan. After 57 years, Edhi Foundation has more than 7000 workers, including medical doctors, nurses, health care workers, ambulance drivers and social activists with more than 250 Edhi centers. There are seventeen (17)Edhi homes for old women and men, mentally challenged people, girls and boys, infants and babies and a home for animals. In total, approximately 6000 homeless people live in these seventeen Edhi homes. This was not an ordinary journey for Edhi to reach in his life time. He has
approached eighty years of age in December, 2008 and is loved, admired and has numerous followers
who share his vision and objectives voluntarily.Dr. Edhi is himself a mobile institution ready to
respond, dying to comfort and console the anguished souls. Edhi Foundation, under the leadership of Dr. Edhi, has been successful in developing a model of welfare services in a large number of areas where the Foundation supplements and supports the government system by mobilizing community resources without
burdening the public exchequer. Edhi Foundation is run entirely with the help of volunteers and these volunteers get subsistence allowance for their services, the compensation is not in the form of salary. This “Volunteer System” results in deep commitment on part of the workers and simultaneously minimizes administrative and over-head expenses (Khan 2008).Dr. Abdul Sattar Edhi has spent over 45 years of his life in the service of humanity and has established, more or less single headedly, a national welfare network, which operates from a small headquarter, in a poor locality of Karachi. Dr. Edhi is a unique example of what ordinary people can achieve through sincerity of purpose, dedication and perseverance and how the leaders evolve even in developing nations. All donations for Edhi Foundation come from individuals and a few business enterprises and his vision embodies the spirit of self-help. He has broken the religious, geographical and racial barriers, thus fostering the notion of welfare for all mankind.
Three centuries ago Edhi’s family first migrated from Hala, Sindh (Pakistan) to Kathiawar in Gujarat
(India). Edhi family settled in Bantva (therefore they are known as Bantva Memons). Abdul Sattar Edhi was born on 28th December, 1928 in Bantva, India. His mother sent him to school at the age of seven and he finished his formal education at the age of thirteen. He never enjoyed school and never was interested in education; has been more interested in playing and serving others. Dr. Edhi thinks it is his mother who cultivated the seed of social welfare and charity work within him. He thinks that she taught him how to control his desires and put away personal greed for the material world. Edhi’s mother was more concerned about Edhi’s development as a kind and caring human being rather than an educated one. Edhi knew that he has a potential to be successful in his life and his self-confidence helped him establish himself as a group leader. Physically, he indeed was a solidly build, good looking and smart athletic type of person. Edhi’s self confidence and his desire to make a change perhaps contributed
greatly towards his personality development. Edhi remained in Bantva till his family migrated to Pakistan in September, 1947 and he developed personal values of simplicity, hard work, and sensitivity to others’ feelings, humanity and truthfulness (Durrani 2006). At the age of 13, Edhi left school and started working. He sold pencils, pens, matchboxes etc. in Bantva bazaar and in the afternoon he read
newspapers, books and magazines to educate himself. During that time he read Muslim Gujarat Gazette, Bombay Samachar, SANDES magazine and these readings introduced him to the ideas of Karl Marx and Lenin. He learned about the struggle of oppressed (Mazloom) people in Russia against capitalists (Zalim). Perhaps the theme of Zalim and Mazloom became much clearer when Edhi read the epic story of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA). He also learned that Capitalists (Sarmayadars) are Zalim and poor people are Mazloom. Dr. Edhi became passionate about the revolution and was excited about the struggle for Pakistan. He started to follow newspapers and books on Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Another personality that fascinated Edhi was Abuzar Ghafafri (RA), a dear companion of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). He also read about Ghaffar Khan’s Khudai Khidmatgar Party and started adopting the dress code from Ghaffar Khan. Dr. Edhi’s intellectual development took place through reading and reflecting biographies (Edhi 2009).
Vision and Mission
According to Dr. Edhi, “his mission is to serve humanity, regardless of religion, race, and background”. He further said that “our mission is to provide Mazloom people, health, food and shelter when they need it, why a poor ill person should not have medicines or an ambulance or doctor when they need it? Poor and Mazloom people have Haq (right) to these things like any other rich person. To me serving Mazloom is just like praying and all human beings are equal and they all deserve equal treatment, respect, care and love” (Edhi 2006). Dr. Edhi even collected funds by begging (bheek) on the streets just like beggars, because he wanted to educate this nation to learn to give charity and to the social mission. He decided not take money and funds from rich Seths, because they want to interfere in the organization for their personal interest (Durrani 2006).
Ethics and Personality
Dr. Edhi has always sacrificed and is always willing to make personal sacrifices to lead his followers
by influencing them with his own examples. He is always awake i.e. in mode of alertness, urgency, and dissatisfaction at all times. Having a blend of character ethics, personality ethics and mental ethics, Dr. Edhi is always genuinely interested in other people’s welfare and well being. He engages with his team of volunteer in such a way that he and his followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality, thus implementing and practicing a transformational leadership model. Even out of power, he still commands his volunteers. He is a big thinker and dreamer, with high level of ethics and sensitivity. He is a risk taker, a decision maker and courageous individual who is committed and determined to fulfill his vision and for the well being for the suffering humanity and the mankind. He follows a principle -centered, character -based, “inside -out” approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness to cater the dynamics of this foundation as the centre of his life is the well being and service for the entire humanity. His ‘Emotional Bank Account’ is very high that results in a synergistic environment and his emphatic communication are one of the most important skills that enables him to sense the hearts and the emotions. Dr. Edhi learned better by reading not by listening and he always manages his time and focuses on the efforts on making contributions and also makes his strength as productive as he is always ‘within the Edhi Foundation’. He always picks the future as against the past and tries to focus on opportunity rather than on problem. The word difficult is not in his dictionary and he aims high, aims for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is “safe” and easy to do. He possesses both the Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligence.
Leadership Skill and Style
Dr. Edhi follows the afflictive leadership style by creating harmony and building emotional bonds as he always tries to heal rifts in a team or to motivate his volunteers during stressful circumstances and juggles competing forces and takes responsibility for his decisions. From the transformational leadership perspective, Dr. Edhi is an achiever i.e. he meets strategic goals and effectively achieves goals through teams; juggles managerial and supervisory duties and stressful situation and is always action/goal oriented. He leads the volunteers of his foundation from the front and sets in front of them a model by using ‘management by example’ methodology. Dr. Edhi strongly believes in his will power and positive thinking and he is a centurion leader in its true sense and he earned the position at the cost of his own life and more than 45 years of untiring and long lasting service to mankind. He has indeed a courageous heart, an adventurous spirit, a quick mind and is a visionary soul. At times, he even provided his own equipment and personal things for the cause of the wellbeing of the mankind. He makes sure the volunteers of Edhi Foundation not only see the vision, they live and breathe it and also establishes trust with candor, transparency, and credit. He possesses the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls and he learns from his weaknesses and has the art to minimize them using his moral courage. He believes that boldness is not the same as foolishness. He knows each and every individual member of his Edhi Foundation and has got the ability to touch the people as he leads on an emotional plane and not technical brilliance alone. Dr. Edhi doesn’t really run Edhi Foundation rather; he leads individual followers, who collectively give motion and substance to the Edhi Foundation.
Main Challenges of the Past
and How Dr. Edhi Resolved it
Seeds for social welfare and humanitarian work were already planted within Edhi, but the challenge was how and where to start ploughing it in Pakistan. Edhi was deeply upset about the fact that Memons got divided in small sub communities and every sub community was serving only its own members. This was the first major challenge to young Edhi’s ideas and beliefs. He was dissatisfied with the existing situation and he decided to against the prevalent belief system, disobeying their rules and criticized the managing committee (Seths). As a result, Edhi was asked to leave the dispensary and hid life was made difficult by the community elders. Edhi soon realized that it would be waste of energy and time to respond to their allegations and actions. The best strategy would be to focus on the real task and that is equitable humanitarian work. In 1951 Edhi spent two thousand and three hundred rupees from his personal savings and bought an eight (8) foot shop in Mithadar, and called it ‘Memon Voluntary Corporation’ and he started the new dispensary for everyone in need. His creative ideas never stopped coming, next he bought some more rooms above the dispensary and opened a maternity home where he started midwife training course with the help of an experienced doctor, this was a major milestone for him both financially and work wise. Community elders and Memon Seth increased their propaganda against Edhi to hamper his success. Edhi first changed the name of the dispensary to Madina Volunteer Corporation, to make it more universal and secondly, he put the banner at the dispensary that anyone who is not satisfied with his organization’s work and from his dispensary and maternity home can take his money back.
Dr. Edhi mother’s death was the most important event in his life as she was the one who prepared him towards humanitarian work, and after her death in his hands he decided that his life purpose should only be the service of humanity. He managed the challenges he was facing from his community Seths (bosses) by believing that Allah is with him in his work. But he believed that the humanitarian work is the ultimate purpose for him and he must do it.
Dr. Edhi’s One Major Decision / Move that Changed the
Nature of Edhi Foundation
Before 1978 Sattar Edhi has registered his organization as Abdul Sattar Edhi Trust under the Trust Act, 1886. There were several trustees including his brother. In 1978 trustees started to influence on the day to day operations of the organization. Edhi’s younger brother was leading a number of trustees to remove Edhi from the Edhi Trust. At one instance Edhi’s younger brother became heavy-handed and physical with Edhi, moreover trustees went to the court, but the court gave judgment in the favour of Sattar Edhi in 1979. During the whole period, Sattar Edhi was extremely stressed and he even thought about suicide, he never expected that his real brother will act in this manner against him. After 1979 Edhi converted the Trust into Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation. There are seven members in the foundation, including his wife and himself. His two sons and two daughters are also members. The foundation submits annual audit and is exempted from income tax. On the positive side, this event transformed the Edhi foundation from a local welfare trust into an international humanitarian foundation. This experience also opened new growth possibilities for Edhi’s social mission and services not only in Pakistan but also internationally.
While facing major challenges from his opponents, he decided that he will never allow them to challenge his integrity and lifestyle. He decided that he will never spend extra time and money on himself or his family. He has only three pairs of cloths, one pair of plastic chappal, one Jinnah Cap and he sleeps on the wooden bench in his dispensary, so people can see his life completely. The more his opponents criticized him, the more committed he became to his mission and the more Edhi reduced his material needs. In the end, his simple life, his humanitarian work and simple dressing (he changes his dress every Friday) made him the Sattar Edhi he is now (Durrani 2006).
Edhi Foundation – The Challenges for the Future
According to Dr. Edhi the future challenges are “terrorist attacks from nationalist and terrorist groups, also donations inflow to Edhi foundation in the future” (Edhi 2009). Another challenge Abdul Sattar Edhi talked about was lack of well educated and professional people coming to his organization. According to Dr. Edhi “educated young people are not coming to welfare work, only women are coming”. Edhi foundation is growing and becoming complex organization, therefore he needs well educated and professional people to come and develop these systems. It would be a challenge in the future that how Edhi Foundation remains financially sustainable and most importantly to become a well managed international humanitarian organization” (Edhi 2009).
Whom Dr. Edhi Considers as Leader
Dr. Edhi considers Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the living leaders. Also he considers Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Mao Zedong and Mr. Abuzar Ghaffari (RA) as the leaders. Dr. Edhi’s intellectual development took place through reading and reflecting biographies. He was able to develop links between the present realities with the lives of his heroes.
Edhi Foundation is the largest and most organized social welfare system in Pakistan and it is a unique example of what ordinary people can achieve through sincerity of purpose, dedication and perseverance. By focusing on alleviation of human sufferings, Edhi Foundation has broken the religious, geographical and racial barriers, thus fostering the notion of welfare for all mankind. The recognitions received by Dr. Edhi include the International awards like the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, Lenin Peace Prize, International Balzan Prize for Humanity, Life Time Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate Degree by IBA Karachi and various national awards like Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Human Rights Award, Shield of Honour and the Pakistan Civic Award etc. His life’s work restores out flickering faith in humanity and his example inspires us towards making a personal revolution, so that the collective spirit may be strengthened.