In July this year, Pakistan lost its most cherished son. A man who inspired us, made us feel positively about our country’s future and humanity. We mourned his loss as a nation and will continue to grieve his absence for many years and decades to come.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was a giant amongst mortals. What he achieved and what he gave to society in six decades would take men and women – like you and I – countless lifetimes. From humble beginnings, he managed to go from a one-man, one-room operation to founding the largest ambulance service in the world.
For a man known and recognised across the country, Edhi Sahib remained true to his humble origins – he never owned a cell phone and slept on the floor when his work demanded – it did during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief efforts. He owned little property and lived in a small portion in his modest office in the congested historical Kharadar area of Karachi. Edhi sahab worked non-stop, took no holidays and spent weekends at Edhi village with people with disabilities and children who were abandoned. He captured the imagination and admiration of the world at large by his extraordinary dedication to the poor.
I, like many around me, was truly inspired by Edhi sahab. My family started Aman Foundation with the mission to serve the underprivileged because we saw the impact that one man could make. The Aman Foundation’s ambulance service was inspired by, and tried to build upon his trailblazing work. In fact, since Aman’s inception, we have sincerely attempted to complement the great work done by the Edhi ambulance service. The result was an MoU signed between the two foundations to share our work load, as per our respective expertise, in our joint endeavour to serve the citizens of Karachi.
We cannot deny that Edhi sahab’s passing has created a gaping hole in our national conscience. He represented the best in us and made us want to be better and to do more. Our country was deeply fortunate to have such a saviour. His absence is a loss of epic proportions. However, it is important to recognise that Abdul Sattar Edhi would not have wanted us to wring our hands in despair. Instead, he would have advised us in that gentle, soft voice to pick up from where he left off. He would have reminded us that while he achieved great things, his dreams and aspirations were even greater.
It is in this spirit, that Aman collaborated with the Edhi Foundation to launch the ‘Edhi Award for Pre-Hospital Care’. This annual award is in remembrance of Edhi sahab and honours the effort, courage and skills of the brave and committed ambulance staff who work tirelessly to provide critical pre-hospital care for patients, regardless of race, creed, colour, situation or circumstance. Award recipients would need to have demonstrated the same type of humanity, compassion and dedication to save lives as demonstrated each and every day by Edhi sahab. This is a small tribute to him and intends to inspire the next generation to embrace his values and to continue his mission.
We must not forget that millions of Pakistanis are still in dire need of help. Many are poor and many in poor health. Countless are marginalised, abused and without a voice. For 60 years, Edhi sahab shouldered the responsibility to help these individuals and communities. His passing should not mean that those in need are without support and succor. We cannot let his legacy become a memory.
Organisations like the Edhi Foundation are still doing incredible and impactful work and need our support and contribution. While none of us can replace Edhi sahab, it is important that we, as a nation, continue to walk in his footsteps. It is a long walk – and one that is not easy. And it shouldn’t be – we are after all, walking in the footsteps of a giant.
The writer is the chairwoman and
co-founder of the Aman Foundation.