WHEN he was a teenager, Chaudhry Sanaullah dreamed of helping the poor. Today, Mr. Sanaullah, a Karachi, Pakistan, businessman, is fulfilling that dream.
Through a trust, Sanaullah is giving half of his income to the poor and homeless of Karachi. Since 1984, Sanaullah, a building contractor, has given about $32,000 of his own funds.
"I get peace by helping the poor," says Sanaullah in an interview here, where he and his wife were accepting an award for their work. He says he believes the philanthropy "will be a benefit with God."
Philanthropy is not unusual in Pakistan, where individuals, for religious reasons, often give 5 to 10 percent of their income to charity. However, Dr. Riffat Hussain, the Minister of Information for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, says that anyone giving half of their income to charity "is more the exception than the rule."
Sanaullah gives the poor blankets and quilts to ward off the Karachi winters. He bought an ambulance to provide emergency service for the needy. And, he is contributing to the treatment of drug addicts. "Our greatest problem is the drug menace," he says, noting that Pakistan now has 2 million heroin addicts.
But a significant percentage of his spending is on ways to help the poor help themselves. He buys sewing machines for widows and pushcarts for the indigent to sell fruits and vegetables. He provides tuition, stationery, and textbooks for poor students. "Needy people should not depend on charity all their lives," Sanaullah says.
Some of his giving is unusual by Western standards: He has given $1,789 for dowries for orphaned and poor girls. "Providing a dowry is important so the girls can get married," says Sanaullah.
There is no bureaucracy administering the funds for the Sanaullah Welfare Trust. Instead, Sanaullah's wife, Talat Ayesha, handles the paperwork and Sanaullah often determines whether to give money on the basis of the look in a potential recipient's eyes.
In the future, Sanaullah hopes to build a 100-bed hospital for the treatment of drug addicts, AIDS victims, and poor patients. He also hopes to buy a fleet of 50 ambulances and build a home for the elderly poor. The Trust is also hoping to expand its services to the remote rural parts of the country. To finance this more ambitious agenda, the Sanaullahs have decided to accept donations from other sources.
The Sanaullahs' work has earned them overseas recognition. On December 7, the New York-based Community Action Network, a non-profit service organization, gave the couple a "special award" for solutions to multiple community social problems.
"If we had more people like the Sanaullahs there would be a lot less agony in the world," says Jim Mann, president of the organization.