Rickshaw puller Joynal Abedin, 55, saw his father suffer and die without any treatment 25 long years ago. It was because they were doomed in poverty coupled with dearth of health care service.
“So what?” many would say giving the fact that it is an everyday event for this country.
The thing that is not so regular is Joynal's extraordinary determination and courage to take up the mammoth task of setting up a charitable hospital and a free coaching centre for underprivileged children.
The shock and horror of losing his father, which later transformed into love and hope, motivated this man to think the unthinkable and most importantly make his dream possible.
This exceptional feat of character made the nation so proud that Joynal was titled as Sada Moner Manush (Man of a golden heart) in 2008.
Joynal Abedin, of Taan Hashadia village in Paranganj union under sadar upazila of Mymensingh, however, has his personal odyssey to share.
After his father's death, Joynal and his wife moved to the capital to try their luck. He pulled rickshaw for relentless days and nights for around 14 years while his wife Lal Banu managed a job at a clinic.
“I shared my dream with my wife and she helped me beyond anyone's expectation in the venture,” said Joynal.
The family went through countless hardships but squeezed every penny possible from their meagre earning to save for a charitable hospital. The couple saved money in two separate bank accounts for 12 years.
In 2001, Joynal and Lal Banu drew their whole savings of Tk 2.84 lakh and retuned to village. They bought 23 decimals of land and constructed a house to live with their two children.
“With rest of the savings I opened a four-bed hospital in my house and named it after my daughter Momtaz,” said Joynal.
Momtaz Hospital soon drew the attention of the villagers and people far beyond. On an average, the hospital offers first aid to around 25 patients a day while handing out pain killers, oral saline, paracetamol, metronidazol, antacid and de-wormers.
Despite recognition from different quarters for his noble endeavour, Joynal finds it extremely difficult to run the hospital. From the very beginning, a local paramedic has helped Joynal treat patients while at a later stage an MBBS doctor agreed to pay occasional visits to the hospital in exchange of Tk 500 for a day's consultation.
In 2006, the local administration and the social welfare directorate donated Tk 30,000 for the hospital. In 2005, a Bangladeshi woman living in the USA gave him Tk 70,000 and World Vision, an NGO, supported with some medicines. Eminent personality Abdullah Abu Sayeed also extended help with Tk 10,000 and some medicines in 2004.
“For the last five years I have not received much help from anyone. With the price of medicines spiralling several folds during the time, running the hospital is now at stake. The hospital needs at least Tk 300 a day to function,” Joynal said.
Alongside the hospital, Joynal has also started a free coaching centre and a maktab (Arabic learning centre) for poor primary school-goers. Around 50 children regularly receive tuition here.
He pays each of the two teachers -- Md Aiyub and Khalilur Rahman of the coaching Tk 3,500 a month. But this remuneration is very hard to bear for Joynal on a regular basis.
“I want to cling to my goal till I breathe the last and seek nothing more for me and my family,” said the poor man with eyes glittering in hope.
He, however, said that the thought of asking people to help the hospital haunts him. He said “Many people pledged me of many things while some even invited me for help and I came out of there labelled as a greedy fraud.”
Once the people who pledged him help wanted to hand him over to police as a criminal. Recalling the incident Joynal said in a sulk tone, “Sometimes I don't want any help from others and become even more helpless.”
“Coming of age, I have become unable to pull rickshaw anymore and there is no steady fund to run the hospital,” said Joynal.
The villagers and the people of neighbouring villages adore and respect Joynal's initiative. Talking to The Daily Star many of the villagers expressed sympathy for the poor rickshaw puller.
Fazar Ali and Ayub Ali of neighbouring Foliamari village said, “Momtaz Hospital may appear as nothing to the urban society, but the people here are greatly benefited form it as they have to go several miles for medicine from other places.”
Many parents of the locality termed Jaynal's learning centre a privilege for the underprivileged children.
Sabuj, Salma, Amena, Mithun, Amirul and Selina, all primary students who come to Joynal's coaching centre regularly, said they are given lesson without any fee and sometimes they are provided with free pencils, pen and paper.