The Voyagers Twins Competing Story Postscript

(Please read the original short story before reading this postscript)




Karachi’s geography makes it easy for heroin to be shipped all around the globe. Around 1 in 40 are addicted to heroin. As a hub for this trade, heroin in Karachi is easily obtained and cheaper than food. Poverty is rife and men without work or hope dive into heroin to try to find an escape. Just one fix of heroin can lead to a lifetime of dependency. For these people the experience of the brief voyage away from their life of misery leads them to forever chase further escapist voyages. Invariably along the way they lose those they loved along with any plans they may have had to shape their future. The drug renders most addicts completely powerless.

The Edhi Foundation is a nonprofit program supported entirely by voluntary donations. It has six centers in Karachi treating 4500 at any one time. They don’t have the funding for substitute medications or pain relief and the centers resemble something between a war time hospital and 18th Century Jail. Bodies writhing in pain from withdrawal are strewn across make shift beds and cold concrete floors. Their only pain relief is Paracetemol. Most of the patients are there against their own free will, they have been referred by their families, desperate for them to stop their addiction. They have no choice, as once admitted they are locked behind bars until the detox is completed. The Foundation was founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951.

Edhi is the head of the organization and his wife Bilquis a nurse, looks after the maternity and adoption services of the foundation. Its headquarters are in Karachi, Pakistan.

Edhi established his first welfare center and then the Edhi Trust with a mere Rs. 5000 {Approx. $55.56}. What started as one man operating from a single room in Karachi is now the Edhi Foundation, the largest welfare organization in Pakistan. The foundation has over 300 centers across the country, in big cities, small towns and remote rural areas, providing medical aid, family planning and emergency assistance. They own air ambulances, providing quick access to far-flung areas.

In Karachi alone, the Edhi Foundation runs 8 hospitals providing free medical care, eye hospitals, diabetic centers, surgical units, a 4- bed cancer hospital and mobile dispensaries. In addition to these the Foundation also manages two blood banks in Karachi.

20,000 abandoned babies have been saved.

40,000 qualified nurses have been trained

50,000 orphans are housed in Edhi Homes

4500 at any one time are being treated for heroin addiction

1 million babies have been delivered in Edhi Maternity Centre’s

Born in 1928 in Bantva, Gujarat, India, Edhi’s family belonged to the industrious Memon community. From a young age his mother taught Edhi to be kind towards others and to help the poor. In the partition of India in 1947 the family migrated to Pakistan and settled in Karachi. That was a time of great emotional trauma and social and political upheaval. Edhi became involved in social work and began working with welfare organizations and soon started his own dispensary, providing medical aid to the poor. He bought his first ambulance, an old van which he called the “poor man’s van” and went around the city providing medical help and burying unclaimed bodies. His van became his advertisement and soon he came to be known for his work with the poor. As a consequence, donations started pouring in and his operations expanded, employing additional nurses and staff. It was here that Edhi met his wife Bilquis who was a trainee nurse at the dispensary. They were married in 1966. Bilquis became an ideal partner in life and work for Edhi.

The Edhi Foundation grew as people began to recognize its humanitarian aims. In 1973 when an old apartment building collapsed in Karachi, Edhi’s ambulances and volunteers were the first to reach the scene and start rescue operations. From then, on, through the troubles in Karachi and all over the country, Edhi’s ambulances have been rescuing and taking the injured to hospitals and burying unclaimed bodies. They go to places where even government agencies hesitate to venture.

The Edhi Foundation is the first of its kind in South Asia that owns air ambulances, providing quick access to far-flung areas. Whether it is a train accident or a bomb blast, Edhi ambulances are the first to arrive. The foundation relies on the support of its 3,500 workers and thousands of volunteers who form the backbone of the organization.

Despite the growth of the foundation, Edhi remains a very down-to-earth person, dressed always in grey homespun cotton local clothes. He has a hands on approach to his work, sweeping his own room and even cleaning the gutter if need be. Apart from the one room, which he uses for his living quarters, the rest of the building serves as his workplace in Mithadar, a locality of old Karachi that is full of narrow streets and congested alleyways. Adjoining their living room is a small kitchen where Bilquees usually prepares the midday meal. Next to it is a washing area where bodies are bathed and prepared for burial.

When Edhi is not traveling to supervise his other centers, a typical day for him begins at five in the morning with morning Fajr prayers. His work starts thereafter answering any calls for help, organizing and meeting people in need while afternoons are spent at various centers and hospitals all over the city. In the evening he dines with hundreds of poor at his “free community meals common among South East Asia” at another Edhi centre in the city. His Fridays are invariably spent at homes for the destitute children where Edhi personally helps bathe the ones who are physically handicapped, before joining them for Friday prayers. Occasionally, when he is able to, he also takes them out for picnics.

In Karachi alone, the Edhi Foundation runs 8 hospitals providing free medical care, eye hospitals, diabetic centre’s, surgical units, a 4- bed cancer hospital and mobile dispensaries. In addition to these the Foundation also manages two blood banks in Karachi. As with other Edhi services, employed professionals and volunteers run these. The foundation has a Legal aid department, which provides free services and has secured the release of countless innocent prisoners. Commissioned doctors visit jails on a regular basis and also supply food and other essentials to the inmates. There are 15 ” Apna Ghar” [“Our Home”] homes for the destitute children, runaways, and psychotics and the Edhi Foundation states that over the years 3 million children have been rehabilitated and reunited with their families thorough the Edhi network.

The foundation also has an education scheme, which apart from teaching reading and writing covers various vocational activities such as driving, pharmacy and para-medical training. The emphasis is on self-sufficiency. The Edhi Foundation has branches in several countries where they provide relief to refugees in the USA, UK, Canada, Japan, and Bangladesh. In 1991 the Foundation provided aid to victims of the Gulf war and earthquake victims in Iran and Egypt.

Edhi plans mass campaigns against narcotics, illiteracy, population control and basic hygiene. Edhi’s wife Bilquees works in the areas of maternity centre management. She runs 6 nursing training schools in Karachi, which provide basic training courses. These centers have so far trained over 40,000 qualified nurses. Some 20,000 abandoned babies have been saved and about a million babies have been delivered in the Edhi maternity homes. Bilquees also supervises the food that is supplied to the Edhi hospitals in Karachi. The total number of orphans in Edhi housing is 50,000 and Edhi’s two daughters and one son assist in the running of the orphanages and the automation of these institutions.

Edhi’s vision is to create an institution that will carry on his life’s work and survive for a long time to come. His dream is that of a Pakistan as a modern welfare state, which provides a safety net for the poor and needy while providing basic health and education with vocational skills. A welfare state Edhi feels is the only way to tackle Pakistan’s myriad social problems. He hopes that one day, Pakistan will be a model for other developing countries.

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