Positive Pakistanis: Fountain of hope

Published: May 8, 2011

Dr Haroon’s family

Fountain House Fountain House Dr Haroon’s family

Haroon Rashid Chaudhry was born in 1955 to Dr Rashid Chaudhry and Kishwar Rashid. His father, Dr Rashid Chaudhry, was well-known for having introduced Psychiatry in the medical universities of Lahore. Before him, psychiatry was merely an optional subject taken as a minor in colleges in Pakistan.

Haroon followed in the footsteps of his father and developed an interest in the speciality of Psychiatry, eventually completing his postgraduate training in Psychiatry it from Austria. In 1985 he started his career as a specialist in mental health in Lahore, working in different hospitals to gain experience. Initially, he began work in a government hospital, then started practicing in a small clinic in his house.

He didn’t have many patients initially but his sense of humour and unshakable optimism soon made him popular and he went from a few patients to 150-200 patients every single day. His optimism was contagious and he would become friends with those who came to him with psychological problems. His patients remedied their problems by talking with Dr Haroon, many would say: “Talking to you heals half of our problems, while your medicine takes care of the other half.” But his charm was not his only aid; his main strength was his hard work. He was willing to work 18 hours out of a 24 hour day to satisfy his patients and gain more knowledge about Psychiatry. His motto in life was: “Work hard, keep good intentions and never justify your wrong-doings.” He would preach these to his patients, colleagues, family and everyone who came his way.

When his father, Dr Rashid Chaudhry passed away, Dr Haroon became the Executive Director of Fountain House, a rehabilitation centre for the mentally unwell. Fountain House has been recognised all around the world, by institutions such as Harvard University, as a model of psychiatric rehabilitation even for developed countries. Run on money that Dr Haroon generated through fundraising and charitable contributions, Fountain House accommodates around 300 to 500 patients at a time. From the poor people of Kashmir and villagers of Balochistan to students from LUMS, Aitchison, barristers and even ex-expatriates who suffer from severe mental illness — Fountain House takes in everyone who needs psychiatric rehabilitation.

Most of the patients in Fountain House are there because their families have abandoned them out of poverty or fair of social stigma. Some were abandoned because their illness was so severe and others were left at Fountain House because they were simply too old for their families to hope that they would recover. Dr Haroon was a beacon of hope for these lost souls, who had been considered pariahs by their own families. Dr Haroon was the saviour who gave those patients shelter, food, support and acceptance. Patients of Fountain House have been treated and have gone on to follow their dreams and professional careers. Raising money for the medicines, shelter, food, education for 300 patients is not easy but Dr Haroon could made it all possible because of his charisma. He organised fund-raising dinners and went all around the world on conferences and spoke about Fountain House. People would get fascinated first by Dr Haroon’s positivity and then by his charitable work and willingly donate their zakaat and sadqa while foreigners would dedicate their savings for such a noble cause.

Fountain House wasn’t Dr Haroon’s sole charitable endeavour. In the rural suburbs of Lahore, the doctor established a free clinic at Ahbab Hospital to provide medical services to about 150 patients every Wednesday. For the last 15 years of his life, Dr Haroon went to the clinic every week. I myself have been to Ahbab Hospital on a Wednesday and the number of patients there was overwhelming. Imagine 150 poor patients with their families pushing and shoving to make their way to see ‘Doctor Sahib’. Dr Haroon saw a lot of patients — some even came from Afghanistan. He once asked a patient, “You came all the way to see me — what if I had been absent from the clinic this Wednesday?” The patient replied “Doctor Sahib, no offence but the man who told us about you said that you see patients here for free every Wednesday without fail. And the only thing that could stop you from coming here on a Wednesday would be if you had left this world forever.”

Dr Haroon was so affected by his words that he promised all his patients there that he would indeed never miss a Wednesday as long as he lived. This promise was so important to him that when his daughter had a child in Canada, he flew to Canada on a Thursday and insisted on catching his flight back to Pakistan the following Tuesday so that he would be in time for his usual Wednesday at Ahbab Hospital. Dr Haroon suffered from a heart attack after seeing his free patients at Ahbab Hospital on Wednesday 29th September, 2010. After being admitted and operated upon at the hospital, he passed away on Tuesday, 5th October 2010. That Wednesday, when he did not come for the patients who had gathered to see him at Ahbab Hospital, they knew that he had gone forever, for he would never leave them waiting otherwise.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, May 8th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Farooq
    May 8, 2011 - 7:09PM

    Oh, I didn’t know that Dr. Haroon passed away. It’s shocking …. Another Pakistani who was trying to improve the well being of humans is no more. I first met him in 1986 as a student and in the coming years became well acquainted with him, meeting him off and on. I last bumped into him at the Colombo airport a few years ago. He was on his way to a conference and in no time he shared a joke about the situation in Pakistan… He had such a refined sense of humour. He was an excellent professional and above all a great human being… Hope the facilities would keep functioning. Is there anyone from the family in the field of psychiatry? All my prayers and thoughts are with the family.Recommend

  • Nimra
    May 8, 2011 - 8:21PM

    great article. does justice to a truly brilliant man.Recommend

  • Dr Waheed uz Zaman Tariq
    May 8, 2011 - 10:15PM

    He was the closes friend of mine. We studied together in the King Edward Medical College, Lahore and remained the fastest friends till he lived. He was a dedicated, selfless and accomplished person. As the time passed, he became more and more committed to his profession and service for humanity. I have seen him working untiredly for earthquake (2005) victimes and for Afghan displaced persons. He spent on Fountain Hosue whatever he earned and asked all his friends to contribute for that. His long hours of work, uniterrupted efforts and seriousness to his work, had made him physically exhausted and took toll of his energy. I may call him a saint or a spiritually elated person but he was above all that. As he died, I feel more and more lonely, as we shared our problems and took advice from each other. May Allah bless his soul.Recommend

  • Sehrish
    May 8, 2011 - 10:20PM

    Farooq,
    This is his daughter, Sehrish. You hadn’t heard about my father’s sad demise but even though it’s been 8 months, I still wake up every morning thinking he’s going to call me today. He had such a vivacious personality and such influential charisma that people can never forget his presence. My uncles are trying to fill my father’s footsteps in Fountain House. While my mother, Dr Mariam Haroon, is running his free Ahbab Clinic on wednesdays. Please do pray for my father’s soul and forgiveness and the highest ranks of Jannah. He was and is my best friend and the most amazing man I have come across. It’s unbelievable that all his patients have said the exact same thing about him and his role in their lives. What a man!Recommend

  • Mahvish Malik
    May 8, 2011 - 10:41PM

    all the respect in the world for Uncle. may he rest in peace. people like him are the like of a diamond in today’s world.Recommend

  • Sehrish
    May 8, 2011 - 11:23PM

    Farooq, This is his daughter Sehrish. My uncles are trying to fill his footsteps at Fountain House and my mother, Dr Mariam Haroon, is running his free Ahbab Clinic on wednesdays. Sadly there is so much more that he was doing for the people of Pakistan, Research in mental diseases, Free medical camps all over Pakistan atleast more than 8- 10 times a year, Representing Pakistan in conferences all around the world and Running Pak-India Psychiatric Society and so much more. No one can dedicate their lives to the field of psychiatry and the people of Pakistan like he did. Sadly all these institutions suffer his loss like us, his family and friends.Recommend

  • Sehrish
    May 8, 2011 - 11:31PM

    Dr Waheed,
    You wrote such beautifully about your friend, Dr Haroon, and also my father. He was an outstandingly sincere person who never failed to prove his alliance to all in all times. My mother, Dr Mariam Haroon, is consulting his patients in his clinic. She tells me that even though it has been 8 months now after his death but patients and their families come to the clinic crying for him. They say they feel they lost their father and not just a doctor. So many patients who were well and fully functioning in their lives and careers have relapsed after hearing about his death. It shows how much they relied on his wisdom and charisma. I hope and pray my ten month old son, Aariz, grows up to be just like him. May every mother’s son be like him. It is my prayer for all mankind.Recommend

  • z
    May 9, 2011 - 2:08AM

    Dr Haroon was definitely a gift of God for humanity. he made a difference in a million lives, gave them hope when they had nothing to look forward to, and most importantly, made them feel loved and cared for. He was a man of great ambitions, a man of dignity, who improved the lives of countless people that will pray for him for as long as they live

    his hard work, honesty, optimism, humor, the ability to motivate you in life made him a truly gifted person. he always left you hopeful, always gave you a reason to smile, and always taught you something. we have alot to learn from this great man, and we all owe him alot for contributing so much to the society. he was definitely a successful man in all spheres of life, with a heart made of gold, that always believed in giving, not taking!

    we miss you dr Haroon. and we sincerely pray to Allah to elevate you to the highest ranks in Jannat!Recommend

  • Saeed
    May 9, 2011 - 5:00AM

    @Sehrish:

    Very sad to hear about the death. May Allah recognise all the great work he did.
    Allah Karim!Recommend

  • liyaqat
    May 9, 2011 - 9:18AM

    may allah give him place in the haven.Recommend

  • Fatima Asad
    May 9, 2011 - 11:09AM

    Very well written Sehrish. Love you!Recommend

  • Zahid Amin
    May 9, 2011 - 1:14PM

    Dr Haroon in fact had an awesome personality and was always helpful to ones need.
    He was morethan a brother to me and we would always miss hom in our lives. GOD bless him
    ZahidRecommend

  • Dr Amjad Saqib
    May 9, 2011 - 2:11PM

    Haroon was a legend. A man full of life and always willing to make a difference in the lives of others. He was a jewel of our family. Allah may bless him. Sehrish, my compliments to you for writing such a nice article. We all will continue his mission, inshaAllh.
    Dr Amjad Saqib, Executive Director, AkhuwatRecommend

  • Farooq
    May 9, 2011 - 4:43PM

    @ Sehrish; I am so sorry about this but I do not live in Pakistan and got to know about this sad news only now. Condoling with a daughter over her father’s death…, words are simply meaningless. I would only say that I can perhaps understand your loss as I also lost my father recently … May God give you and the family the strength to live with this irreversible loss. AmeenRecommend

  • Sehrish
    May 12, 2011 - 2:52AM

    @Fatima Asad:
    Thanks Fatima. Really appreciate it. Please do remember to pray for my father whenever you pray. Thanks alot!Recommend

  • Sehrish
    May 12, 2011 - 2:55AM

    @z:
    All the things you said about my father really made me realize how deeply he touched everyone’s lives. Please do pray for him. Someone told me all good muslims can hear and see what people see about them after they leave. If abu could see all this, he would definitely be smiling.Recommend

  • Sehrish
    May 12, 2011 - 3:11AM

    @Dr Amjad Saqib:

    I am sure my father must be truly pleased with you especially for running Fountain House, something which was closer to him than his own family. Every eid, be it rain or sunshine, abu would wake up and go spend eid at Fountain House with the hundreds of unfortunate patients. Every event at Fountain House was more important to him than our birthdays or frivolous family celebrations. He spent his entire life valuing the patients at Fountain House as all of us, his family. Now I think about it and realize how unbelievably selfless and charitable he was. Who doesn’t enjoy his own family, everyone does. But it is extremely hard to sit and spend all important occasions with people who are mentally unwell and have been left behind by their own families. How hard is it to call them your own family and equate them with your own family. He managed to do the impossible and now his family of patients who he treated at Fountain House will make God give him the biggest House in heaven, bigger than Fountain House. inshAllah and Ameen.Recommend

  • Imran
    May 17, 2011 - 1:56AM

    @Saeed:

    May Allah be pleased with him. AminRecommend

  • Saeed
    May 17, 2011 - 2:13AM

    @liyaqat:

    InshAllahRecommend

  • Ali
    May 17, 2011 - 11:08PM

    @Imran:

    This is very very sad new,May Allah bless him.Recommend

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