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Volunteer Base | Donations | Management Style

Problems faced by the developed and the developing countries in the area of welfare services demand radically different approaches. Whereas, the developed countries are putting the responsibility primarily on the government, the developing countries are struggling to mobilise their own resources or look for foreign assistance for this purpose.
At best, it is to be hoped that there could be co-ordinated efforts between the private and the public sector for provision of the needed welfare services through the most economical and effective use of financial, human and technical resources. Edhi Foundation 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 mobilising community resources without burdening the public exchequer.
In actual practice, the organisational set-up of the Foundation has been constantly in the process of shaping itself to suit the requirements of its ever expanding network of services. Being outside the formal bureaucratic set up, it has the plasmatic flexibility to mould itself in response to the exigencies of the situation.


Edhi Foundation is run entirely with the help of volunteers. There are around two thousand Volunteers, comprising zonal heads, workers at several Edhi Homes, clerks at the Edhi Centres, workers at Maternity homes and drivers for the ambulances. Although these Volunteers get subsistence allowance for their services, the compensation is not in the form of salary. According to Edhi, this "Volunteer System" results in deep commitment on part of the workers and simultaneously minimises administrative and over-head expenses.
This compensation system is also beneficial for the volunteers who can add to their income by putting in more hours besides their other regular jobs.
In addition to the paid volunteers, there are thousands of others who offer their services without any payment or reward, and participate in social work on full time or part time basis. Such voluntary work takes many forms. The dispensaries are served by doctors and other professionals. Vehicles are operated by Volunteers. Architectural, engineering, legal and financial services are often available on gratis basis. Volunteers collect and deliver food, clothing, medicines and other emergency supplies.
The Foundation has no problem in enlisting social workers for its help in its various activities. People from every profession and walk of life offer their services free of charge. Since most of the Volunteers belong to the lower and middle class, it is easier for them to identify with the needs of the people. For enrolling Volunteers preference is given to retired officers of armed forces, retired school teachers and officers belonging to postal service to work in rural areas. The under lying idea behind this approach is to reach the masses in rural set-up avoiding sectarian and political controversies making the system more radical and direct.
This is one of the key ingredient of Foundations success. All Edhi Homes and Edhi Child Homes, which admit thousands of destitute, mentally retarded persons and orphans, are being run entirely by the inmates of these Edhi Homes. They are provided with not only shelter and food but also a purposeful life. Both the paid and unpaid purely voluntary workers play a critical role in Edhi Foundation’s success. They perform their duties in an environment which is generally hostile and full of stress. The clerks attending emergency calls at the main control room in Karachi listen to distress messages everyday in a congested and noisy work environment. The control room is located in a very busy area of Karachi. The administrators and other workers at Edhi Homes have to live with destitute, orphans and mentally handicapped persons. Similarly, attendants and ambulance drivers at Emergency Edhi Centres operate from a small booth, often housed in a small tent.
Despite all these difficulties, Edhi workers display real and positive motivation. They all seem to draw satisfaction from their work and take pride in their being part of a pioneering team in a challenging field. The ordinary socio-economic background of most of Edhi workers, their sense of being part of a noble mission, the compensation A system and a Dove all the leadership provided by the founder instils a strong driving spirit for an efficient Edhi work force.


Voluntary donations from individuals ranging from Rs. five to many hundreds of thousands of rupees, support the Foundation’s activities. The emphasis is on individual social commitment from the masses. Contributions are also made in kind, in the form of food, clothing, medicines, animal hides and skins. Medical supplies and technical support are also received from several non-governmental organisations. The annual donations are fairly regular and reliable because they are broad based, not linked to narrow interest groups.
Most of the donations come from past beneficiaries of the Foundation’s activities. Edhi Foundation raises funds from Pakistanis living abroad in thirteen different countries.
However, ninety percent of the donations come from within Pakistan. The value of the pure voluntary services is not quantified in the financial records, but it is a significant part of the organisation’s strength. Support from larger organisations and business community is readily available, but tapped only occasionally and most judiciously in order to retain the deep private and personal commitment that has been critical to the success of this Foundation. Donations from the government, religious organisations and relief agencies are not accepted. Abdul Sattar Edhi firmly believes that since the Foundation’s work is for the" Awam" (Masses) ,the Awam should contribute towards its operations. Through this principle of self- reliance, he wishes to inspire the masses for welfare projects. Aid from government and foreign agencies, in Edhi’s view, leads to undesirable interference and creates administrative bottlenecks in the organisation’s work.
Cash donations are collected at the Edhi Centres and at Edhi Headquarters. Donations are also received by mail. Quite often Mr. Edhi launches fund raising campaigns and makes collections standing on pavements and busy road junctions. For his frequent appearance in this role, Edhi has become a familiar figure to the general public as a known champion of the noble cause. He has, on several occasions, gone to the streets, cap in hand to collect funds for treatment abroad of seriously ill patients.
Donations in kind are received at various centres of Edhi network including Edhi Centres, Homes, Edhi hospitals, maternity homes and the Headquarters.
All donations and record of accounts are audited properly through a firm of Chartered Accountants. The statements of accounts are presented to the Federal Government for grant of tax relief by Central Board of Revenue. Another system of internal check and audit of accounts on weekly basis is in operation within the system.

Management of all funds is centralised, and remains in the exclusive control of Edhi and his wife who are personally involved in all forms of operations of the Foundation. They are associated with the raising of funds from home and abroad. Edhi himself drives an ambulance makes rounds of the city and goes for surprise checks of various centres. His omnipresence is not only a source of motivation for the workers but also a means of keeping a constant vigil on the ground operations.

Edhi is very strict about any lapse in service. He personally gets involved if any complaint is received and takes corrective measures on the spot. He also keeps guiding his workers to ensure compliance with the procedures. Instructions are given verbally telephonically, through written communications and on wireless network.

Edhi is averse to procedural obstacles in carrying out the functions of his organisation. He takes action first, and deals with the relevant paper work and other details later. For example, on several occasions tents were installed in emergency and welfare services started immediately without waiting for the procedural approval for the use of sites for the Edhi Centres. However, after initiating the services, prompt efforts were made to regularise it fully.

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Research work and Interview by Engr. Iqbal A. Khan
Artwork by ContactPakistan.com
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