Mankind’s best gift
AQUARTER of a century ago, a young South African doctor received an instruction from his spiritual teacher in Istanbul. He was to return home and devote his life to the service of others, because the best among people are those who benefit mankind.
Imtiaz Sooliman returned home to Pietermartizburg and did just that, seeing neither race, creed or colour as he put together a disaster relief and humanitarian organisation, the likes of which had never been seen on the continent.
Since August 6, 1992, the Gift of the Givers has distributed more than R2.1 billion in aid to recipients in 43 countries, including our own. Much of the work goes undocumented, like the poverty relief, drilling for water and food programmes in provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.
Some of the most enduring work takes place in Gauteng, in some of the most desperate townships, serving South Africans and the African immigrant diaspora alike, keeping them from the edge of malnutrition.
It doesn’t matter where the crisis is, you can be assured that the Gift of the Givers will be there; Bosnia, Haiti, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines, etc. Perhaps the great proof of Sooliman’s success can be seen in the calibre of people who answer the call every time he rings, giving their time for free; highly trained surgeons, specialists, nurses, relief workers, ordinary men and women compelled to breathe life into the injunction his spiritual leader gave him that night in Istanbul: “Help all people of all races or all religions, of all classes, of all colours, of all geographical locations. Treat people with love, kindness, compassion and mercy. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide water for the thirsty. Wipe the tear of a grieving child, caress the head of an orphan, say words of good counsel to a widow; that costs nothing.
“Best among people are those that benefit mankind.” Oh, but we could all do the same. We salute Imtiaz Sooliman, a South African in the finest tradition of our country. You make us proud, Doc. All the best for the next 25 years of service to mankind.