Abdul Sattar Edhi

Philanthropist, humanitarian


Abdul Sattar Edhi was a Pakistani philanthropist, ascetic, and humanitarian who founded the Edhi Foundation that runs hospitals, homeless shelters, rehab centres, and orphanages across Pakistan. The seeds of compassion for humanity's suffering were sown in his soul by his mother’s illness. His mother’s suffering and death led him to contemplate the millions of people in suffering with nobody around to help. It took him some time and many occupations to finally launch himself on his path of charity work. He opened his first free dispensary in 1950s.

His Edhi Foundation runs the world's largest ambulance service (operating 1,500 of them) and offers 24-hour emergency services. It also operates free nursing homes, orphanages, clinics, women's shelters, and rehab centres for drug addicts and mentally ill individuals. Edhi used to involve himself in every activity at the Edhi Foundation from raising funds to bathing corpses. He had an ambulance van, which he personally drove around the city. Despite his busy work schedule with the Foundation, Edhi found enough time to spare with the residents of the orphanages called “Edhi Homes”.

Although Edhi had a traditional Islamic background, he had an open and progressive mind on a number of sensitive social issues. He strongly supported the notion of working women and encouraged women to build a career in various fields. Edhi was famous for his modest lifestyle: he and his family lived in a two room apartment adjacent to the premises of the Foundation’s headquarter. Neither Edhi nor his wife Bilqis who runs the free maternity home at the headquarter in Karachi and organises the adoption of illegitimate and abandoned babies, received any salary.