The Edhi Foundation is a non-profit social welfare program
founded by Abdul Sattar
Edhi in 1951,
with its headquarters located in Karachi, Pakistan.
(Edhi Foundation, 2003). Edhi is the chief
of the association and his spouse Bilquis,
a nurse, supervises the adoption and maternity services of the organization.
Edhi established his initial welfare center and then the Edhi Trust with a mere Rs. 5000. This was started as one man in service from a solo room in Karachi however, now the Edhi Foundation is the biggest welfare association in Pakistan. The foundation has over 300 centers across the country, in large cities, undersized towns and far-flung pastoral areas, providing therapeutic aid, emergency support and family planning facilities. They possess air ambulances, providing speedy way in to remote regions.
The Edhi organization offer 24-hour emergency support across Pakistan and overseas. The Foundation provides, in the midst of many other services, asylum for the impoverished, free of charge hospitals, drug psychoanalysis services and medicinal care and nationwide and global relief efforts. Its main focal point is shelters, disaster services, handicapped persons, orphans, healthcare, education, intercontinental community centers, and blood and drug bank.
In Karachi single-handedly, the Edhi Foundation operates 8 hospitals providing at no cost medical heed, diabetic centers, eye hospitals, surgical divisions, transportable dispensaries and a 4- bed cancer hospice. Also, the Foundation also administers two blood banks in Karachi. Their work has enabled such progress that 40,000 qualified nurses have been trained, 50,000 orphans are housed in Edhi Homes, 20,000 abandoned babies have been saved and 1 million babies have been delivered in Edhi Maternity Centers
Baby Cradles (Edhi Jhoolay) are installed at the most of the Edhi centers. These cradles are the haven for those poor babies, left by their parents. Edhi homes provide shelters for such homeless children where, education, food, clothing and skills are being taught to them in order to make them skilled adults.
For our community services class, we visited the Edhi home for boys located in Korangi. Here, boys aged between 5-15 years were housed. There was school, a madressah and rooms were made for these children. There was also a separate section where kitchen, pantry, dining hall and dispensary was located. There was also a play area made for these children. Surrounded by the children, sighting their lifestyle and listening to their stories, we were surely taken to a foreign world where expectations and the rat race of the world were considerably at a slower pace. All we could see was a family, a unit, untied by blood but bonded with compassion, humility, care and concern for each member of the family, comprising over 100 boys.
Living in similar vicinity, each child had a different story to narrate, some were homeless, others left by their parents and promised a return to their homes, once they grow up and can work. Some sat on the wrong train and ended up in Karachi, with no recall of their hometown, brought in to the shelter by the police. Few ran away from their homes and winded up there. A quite, shy and isolated 6-years old boy, Faizan, was admitted in the home only 3 days prior to our visit by his grandmother, he informed us that his father stays at work and mother had went to Hyderabad, thus his grandmother brought him here. All in all, each child was living with a hope to return to his parents, siblings and his home one day.
On our arrival, we were greeted by the perky and friendly children excited to meet us. They surrounded us and showed us around their rooms and introducing us to their peers. Their rooms were unfurnished with few bunks around the corners and sheets lay in the middle to provide accommodation to the boys since there were only 5 rooms and a lot more boys to be accommodated in such small space. There was also a stock room where there were new clothes, mattresses and blankets stocked for the winters.
The care-takers on duty informed us that the children have a change of clothes every two days after bath, however, the untidy clothes, a pungent smell around the vicinity and prominent skin infection prevalent among the boys negated their stance. Care-takers had no reasoning for it and they dismissed the matter, proclaiming that they had recently joined the foundation. On asking about the medical check-ups, they again had no considerable reasoning for it.
The madressahs where children were learning Quran was locked from the outside and only single tutor was teaching over 2 dozens of children. The pantry and kitchen area was also locked and we were told that 3 times meal is provided to the children and often food comes from outside. The kitchen was neat and clean and properly organized. A boy came to us and informed us that he had been working since past 3 hours to arrange and clean the area without any assistance.
There was no recreation facility available, on the contrary we were told that children watch television every day, though none we can see was in the range of our sight. Since, there was a fear of children running away, we were told that they were monitored while playing outside in the play area, however, children informed us that they were only taken out once in a month or so.
Each Edhi home has a board placed outside with pictures along with registration numbers of the children sheltered by each branch. This is done for the facility of outsiders, looking for their lost children to contact the center. This Korangi unit of Edhi center is under the charge of Mr. Rizwan, MS. Masooma and MS. Bilquis (the chief kitchen manager). Mr. Rizwan informed us that they locate the guardians of children by printing ads on newspapers and through radio announcements. Each month, after confirmation, Edhi vans are sent to take children to their parents. It was also revealed that Mr. and Mrs. Edhi have decreased their visits to the home.
Despite this, one noticeable trend was observed that children were giving out the numbers and names of their parents and asking us to contact them to take the children home. The revealed the desire to head home instead of staying at the shelter home since they were beaten by sticks, which they told us were hidden just before our arrival.
All in all, several revelations were made during our visit. The efforts made by Edhi Foundation are acknowledge able, yet the poor condition of children also put us on doubts an out the fate of the numerous funding being poured in to this foundation. The children call it a wild-imagination or truth, revealed a different story than the ones in charge. However, it was certainly appeasing to see the children in a better state where they have been provided food, clothing, education and shelter rather than being left heedlessly on the streets.