A three-year-old climbing down a mountain barefoot with his mother and a younger sibling to visit the newly-built maternity hospital – the only one – in Kohat was called over by a man sitting by the hospital. The man looked at the child’s feet and noticed they were bleeding, scraped from their walk to the hospital.
The man was Shahid Afridi, and it was at that moment that he knew he’d done the right thing by opening a hospital in his hometown.
On Friday, the cricketer launched the Shahid Afridi Foundation (SAF) in partnership with Habib Bank Limited (HBL) in Karachi.
“I looked at the child and I thought of my children,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune. “My village did not even have a road. On my request, former president Pervez Musharraf built a road here. But a hospital – that is nothing short of a dream come true.” Afridi’s father had previously built a mosque and madrassa for the locals here, but as his son says, “Health Hai Tou Sab Kuch Hai [Health is everything].”
The hospital was intended to be a one-room clinic. With the aid of family and friends, it has been developed into a 16-bed hospital. “I had only intended for a one-room clinic catering to expecting mothers in my hometown,” Afridi explained. The hospital is built on the site of Afridi’s fathers lands in the village of Tangi Banda at a cost of Rs16 million.
The Foundation’s philosophy is simple. “If Pakistan has given its citizens so much, why not give back to the country?” it asks. “I have received so much love and respect from my country and I want to give back to them by as much as I can. “I don’t want anything else but the prayers of my people,” Afridi said.
Afridi plans to initiate pilot projects in different villages focusing on health, education and sports. “Youngsters should be given opportunities in sports and so I will create those opportunities for them,” he said. Former celebrated squash player Jehangir Khan and ex-chief cricket selector Salahuddin Sallu were also present at Friday’s launch and a video statement from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan supporting Afridi’s initiative was shared at the event. “I’ve just gotten started and I have many more projects in the pipeline,” Afridi said.
Speaking with the media during the launch, Afridi remarked that a charity match should be organised and played in the country, with funds gathered for those displaced from North Waziristan due to Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Official spokesperson for the Foundation, Anila Weldon, said the hospital aims to train midwives in 14 villages in the area. “When Afridi came to me to ask for help I was worried he was planning for more sixers,” joked HBL’s head of strategy and investment Aman Siddiqui.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2014.