A labourer in a stone quarry, Showkat Ali Wani, runs an NGO dealing with first aid and blood donations. With an O negative blood group, Wani himself is an active donor – just a call away in need. Shazia Yousuf reports.
His days comprise of hard physical labour in the quarries of Pantha Chowk. Occasionally, he takes a break – an hour or few- when he gets a call for someone in need of O negative blood. In that case, Showkat Ahmad Wani rushes to the hospital, donates blood if needed, and returns – to his work. He is unlettered and poor to take up a better job, but that does not stop him from doing social work.
He has already donated more than 60 units of blood, and runs an NGO, launched in the year 2000, that organises free medical camps, awareness, and blood donation camps.
Showkat extended arms for blood donation first in 1987. It was for her mother then. He has not retracted his arms since.
In 1990, Showkat joined Ahle-Bait-e-Tahireen Charitable Trust and Blood Bank, an NGO would organise camps for blood donation, first aid and awareness.
After volunteering with the trust as worker and donor for 10 years, Showkat came up with his own organisation – Ahsan Mankind First Aid and HIV Awareness Centre J&K.
The organisation is chaired by a doctor – Safdar Ali. “I am an illiterate. I cannot do documentation part,” Showkat says.
Though the organisation is open to donations, Showkat has to often dig into his pockets. “This year I spent Rs. 14,000 from my pocket for organising four blood donation camps. Donations came to about Rs 2,000,” informs Showkat.
Back home Showkat has to feed family of six. His four children, three sons and a daughter are studying. Apart from the financial strain that his activities put on their small resources, the family is also concerned about his health. Mostly, he won’t tell his family, that he has made a blood donation.
“But somehow my 12 year old daughter senses it. When I return from a blood donation, she asks, ‘Abba have you donated blood’,” says Showkat.
“My wife says, ‘you are a labourer, what will your family do if something happens to your health’. I reply that I break mountains, loss of some blood won’t damage my health.”
Showkat knows that after donation of one pint blood, one should wait a minimum of 100 days for another. But a few times he has breached the advice. Though he donates only when someone is in need, and never during blood donation camps because of his rare blood group, he has ended up donating three pints in less than two months.
“I had donated a blood pint to a patient at a nursing home in Pulwama. Then after 20 days I got another call from LD hospital, I didn’t tell doctors about previous donation and the lady’s life was saved. Then after some days, in Ramadhan, I was on fast and received another call during my work, again a lady in some village health centre. I went and donated one more unit,” Showkat says.
Mostly he ignores the hassles. For going to Pulwama, he borrowed Rs 100 from a co-worker, while returning from the third donation during his fast he boarded an overloaded bus back to work.
His NGO works in coordination with government and private hospitals and Red Cross, “We provide blood to Red Cross, they provide us vehicles for our medical and first aid camps,” Showkat says.
“Same is the case with hospitals, we have given our contact numbers to hospital authorities, they call me in the middle of the night during emergencies, and in exchange they will provide doctors for our medical camps without any charges. This is how we work,” he explains.
The NGO has around 300 volunteers, most of them students, and some co-labourers from the stone quarry. Friday, the only holiday of week, Showkat calls all the volunteers and plans the programmes.
Showkat’s contact number is available at almost all hospitals and health centres of valley. He even circulates it among doctors. Dozens of the times, Showkat gets urgent calls, and he is picked up from his work or home and dropped back after blood donation.
Almost every blood unit he has donated has saved a life. He donates only when he is sure it is needed, even if it means a long wait.
“Just few days back I received a call in the middle of night from GB Pant hospital. Twin babies required blood. Hospital authorities asked me to donate blood and leave as they were not sure whether they require it or not. I replied that I will wait. I waited till morning prayers and left only when doctors said that they do not need any blood,” says Showkat.
During donation if Showkat or the volunteers spot some poor patient, they try to help him. “If they don’t have money for hiring a vehicle, we recommend their name and hospital provides them free ambulance,” says Showkat. He even recommends concessions to poor patients in private hospitals.
He wants to help people in more ways, but is short of resources. People, he says, have lost trust in NGO’s with many dubious ones in operation. This, he explains, hinders the work of those who desire to contribute.