20 March, 2019

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M. S. H. Mohomed Is Our Hero

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

It all began two years ago. A man called M. S. H. Mohomed wanted his son, diagnosed with a cancerous condition called osteosarcoma, cured. He took his son, Humaid, to a hospital in Chennai. The hospital had facilities and the latest technical expertise, but cost a lot. And so the father spent. Throughout 2014, he sold three of his properties, dug into his pockets, and tried a cure. Nothing worked.

He thus brought his son back to Sri Lanka. He was admitted to a private hospital for six months. Again, the bills kept on mounting and nothing happened, despite two surgeries on his lungs. Desperate and against all odds, his father then admitted him to the National Cancer Institute in Maharagama.

The Institute wasn’t privately owned. For someone like M. S. H. Mohomed, it was a last resort you’d run to when you’d run out of options. In other words, a place associated with squalor and lack of quality. The same horror stories associated with every other institution owned by the state, one can add. For Mohomed, though, a few days and weeks were enough to open his eyes. “The doctors were kind, the service was excellent, and the nurses were courteous,” he remembers. The same amenities they’d experienced before, minus the cost.M. S. H. Mohomed PET Sacner

Because of this, he wanted to give back. He wanted to appreciate and let others know. He picked on a key item which the NCI lacked: a PET (Positron Emission Topography) Scanner, used to differentiate between malignant and normal tissue when detecting cancer (something the machines that the Institute had couldn’t do). The scanner was available at private hospitals, but for better or worse (I prefer not to take sides) they were and continue to be run at a profit. For this reason, tests were expensive. At the very least, getting a scan at one of those hospitals cost about 150,000 rupees, clearly outside the reach of a great many people.

So Mohomad got to work. He had contacts. He had money. He used both. For the next few months, he drove a campaign which was unparalleled in that it didn’t receive the kind of recognition it should have from the government. People responded. Citizens, be they Sinhala, Muslim, or Tamil, got together. Where the government failed, the people delivered. They needed to raise 200 million. Hefty, but not impossible.

Along the way, they got more support. An anonymous donor gave 35 million rupees. A prominent TV station gave airtime and was behind the campaign, proving that the media wasn’t as unethical as the government and certain people who support it claimed. At a time when ministers were quibbling over vehicle permits, when the worst bout of floods for decades had come without as much as a proper salvage operation by the government, the people came out. An organisation founded by Mohomad, the Kadijah Foundation, was used to collect funds.

On June 13 the campaign was over. They’d reached 200 million.Dambara Amila himi

Roughly a month later, on Sunday July 10 at the Hotel Galadari in Colombo, the Foundation will hold a seminar on how to further the campaign it’s started. Among those’ll be participating are Dr Palitha Mahipala, Director General of Health Services, and Dr M. Y. K. Wilfraad, Consultant Medical Director at the Cancer Institute. It’s more a consciousness-raiser than seminar, and for this reason the discussion won’t be limited to what has already been done.

In the meantime, we can reflect.

It’s a shame that PET scans hadn’t (until now) been available at the one place where the poor could have afforded them, but now’s not the time to delve into that. What’s important is what M. S. H. Mohomad taught us. What’s important is the afterword it compels. And how we can be part of that afterword. The Foundation didn’t end with the PET Scanner, let’s not forget, and there’s no reason to think that it will.

There are tons of things wrong with this country. Lots of things. Starting with ourselves. We laugh at and condition ourselves to ignore tragedy. What doesn’t affect us doesn’t move us. Politicians are no better, not even when they’re directly elected. But at a time of need, when we ought to set aside differences and come out, we almost always do. Not because we’re driven by a need for popularity, but because the movement catches on so well that it makes us forget ourselves even for a minute.

In the meantime, our government pretends not to know what’s going on. Typical. We have officials, after all, who complain about aching spines to sugarcoat their demands for luxury vehicles, who lambast the media and then self-righteously say that the government already has ordered PET Scanners (without as much as substantiating that claim). Ministers don’t feel the people, not because they can’t but because when they are in need of something (be it healthcare or education), they have the best and get the best.

On the other hand, the best they get needn’t be the best we should get. As M. S. Mohomed has testified, the Cancer Institute is as good a hospital as you can get anywhere else, here or elsewhere. That you can get every service free of charge doesn’t mean there’s lack of quality. The role of citizenry should be to improve on what we already have. Not build something we can’t.

I think the man who spearheaded this campaign says it best: “We should upgrade the Institute. We should get together and improve on this place so that others can come here and get a better service. Why waste millions of rupees on private institutions when you can get the same standard for free, after all?” Sri Lankans, I feel, are woefully short-sighted in their appreciation of what they have, but as time goes by I’m sure they’ll understand. After all, we have about 15,000 to 25,000 people diagnosed with cancer every year. About 13,000 were diagnosed at the Cancer Institute alone in 2015. I’m sure some of them would prefer to go to private hospitals, but for the rest (the vast majority) that’s a luxury they can’t afford. We need a solution, clearly. And we are on our way to finding one.

Which is why M. S. H. Mohomed is a hero. Our hero. A citizen of the world and Sri Lanka, someone who chose to do something for his people. He taught us many things and along the way made it clear that there’s much more we need to do. On that count, he wins my respect. As he should yours.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com. His articles can be accessed at fragmenteyes.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 17
    0

    Thank you for a story that gives us hope.

    • 12
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      Uditha Devapriya

      RE: M. S. H. Mohomed Is Our Hero

      “So Mohomad got to work. He had contacts. He had money. He used both. For the next few months, he drove a campaign which was unparalleled in that it didn’t receive the kind of recognition it should have from the government. People responded. Citizens, be they Sinhala, Muslim, or Tamil, got together. Where the government failed, the people delivered. They needed to raise 200 million. Hefty, but not impossible.”

      “Along the way, they got more support. An anonymous donor gave 35 million rupees. A prominent TV station gave airtime and was behind the campaign, proving that the media wasn’t as unethical as the government and certain people who support it claimed. At a time when ministers were quibbling over vehicle permits, when the worst bout of floods for decades had come without as much as a proper salvage operation by the government, the people came out. An organisation founded by Mohomad, the Kadijah Foundation, was used to collect funds.”

      “On June 13 the campaign was over. They’d reached 200 million.”

      Absolutely. A Sri Lankan Hero.

      Thanks for the write up an summary. Please spread the word. There must be hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans out there you could emulate Mr.M. S. H. Mohomed, Our Hero. They should all be tapped.

      Did any of the Politicians who stole peoples money give even one Rupee?

      Let’s replicate for the other needy causes, and put the money to use where it is needed, not on luxury cars for Politicians.

      Yes, promote, promote and promote this story.

      Also on the sideline expose, expose and expose the politicians. However, the politicians have no shame, it will likely have minimal effect.

  • 15
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    A man with a conscious and a good citizen; Jayavewa.

  • 7
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    What happened to the son, the patient?
    What was the diagnosis, and treatment?

    Private health care sector thrives because of deficiencies in the state health care system, of which, one is the absence of up-to-date equipment – like a PET scanner.

  • 18
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    Well done Uditha.Excellent article.Tamil,Sinhala, Muslim, Burgher etc are labels we have chosen to put on ourselves to feel different from one another.Inside we are all the same.The pain we feel is the same.Mr Mohomed had done much more than provide this machine.He has brought out through this act the best of humanity.It is a lesson for all extremist like Ghandassara and his goondas and all other religious extremists.

    I would say that Mohomed is our hero for his magnanimity and Uditha is our hero too for this article and so is Colombo Telegraph for carrying it.How many of our so called mainstream media will carry this article is well worth seeing.

  • 14
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    What an inspiring story Uditha! If an individual can create awareness that solve issues rather than add more misery, that is what good governance sadly lacking with politicians who think, work on narrow minded selfish agenda.

    Trust Uditha will bring more such opportunities in to print & electronic media so that vast majority of people get to read and help those in need.

  • 13
    0

    Uditha,

    Thank you. This story brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t know that this man started the wheel turning and spearheaded the move to organise the funds. This man is indeed a hero. This country needs more heros.

  • 7
    0

    Thank you Uditha for enlightening us.

    Kadijah Foundation initiated by Sri Lankan hero, can now join the struggle agaist cancer especially air pollution. I have seen burning polythene even at the Colombo Fort Railway Station. The government has allowed the Provincial Councils, Town Councils and Village Councils to do the same. So we need to enlighten the authorities responsible to implement project on proper waste disposal management.

  • 13
    0

    A very inspiring article and a fitting tribute to a man who has ventured out to think differently and make a difference to people’s lives..especially the sick who have no hope. Thank you Uditha for an eye-opener – I never fail to read your articles – always worth reading and assimilating into our own lives.

  • 11
    0

    Great Job by Both Hero.

    There are many Sri lankan Heros like Mr. Mohammed but the lacking is Hero like Mr. Uditha Devapriya to bring them to screen.

  • 4
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    For once a good story. Well done MSH Mohamed and well done Uditha.

    I wish the ilks of Gnanasara will also start thinking of doing something good or something constructive and give up their errant destructive ways.

    • 0
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      BBS Rep

      “I wish the ilks of Gnanasara will also start thinking of doing something good or something constructive and give up their errant destructive ways “

      If Ganasara Thero is circumcised, he may change. Until then, no hope.

      • 0
        0

        Amarey
        A bit difficult to circumcise Gnanasra, he has got thick skin.

  • 0
    0

    It is heart warming to see that we have people like Dashrath Manjhi from India

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashrath_Manjhi

    Also see this for inspiration

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf1VA5jqmRo

    Thank you Uditha for sharing

  • 6
    0

    Awesome article – Uditha

    Dear friend Mohammed,

    You and your organization are inspiration to All Sri Lankans. You are a true citizen of Sri Lanka. What you have done has bigger meaning in so many ways than fund raising for a PET scanner. You are showing all of Sri Lankans the true color of unity, people power, leadership, humanity, humbleness and many more. We need more like you in all walks of our nation. I wish you and your family soon be blessed with good health.

    Lalindra Batuwantudawe

  • 5
    0

    Dear Uditha,
    An excellent, well-written article. I wonder where all the resident Muslim-bashers are?

  • 2
    0

    Mohamed’s story reminded me of the Pakistani hero Edhi who passed away last week…..When I met Edhi
    Sameen Tahir Khan | Published — Monday 11 July 2016

    NATIONAL HERO: Abdul Sattar Edhi collects donations for the poor in Karachi.
    OHIO: I had lived in Karachi for over decades, but this was my first (and only) visit to Mithadar. The year was 2004. I had come to meet Abdul Sattar Edhi in his office. I felt transported back in time, his office was so bare.
    It had a few antiquated chairs and tables. There was another visitor, a girl draped in a white chadar. She had fresh henna on her hands and her fingers dazzled with gold rings. I was curious, what was she doing there? She said, “I was just married two days ago, I had a tough time getting out of the house. I didn’t even tell them where I am going. I just wanted to give Edhi the cash I received at my wedding. She carried a wad of cash in a big brown bag under her chadar.
    Edhi walked in — a small man, who grew in stature every minute. The girl went up to him, almost trembling with reverence. “I can’t tell you how much we love you and your work. Please accept this money and I am studying law, when I become a lawyer, I want to work for you.” Edhi looked almost humble and grateful as he accepted the cash and said he would get her a receipt. The girl almost said with anguish, “No!” and left.
    Edhi left a deep impact on whoever met him. People trusted him totally even at a time when Pakistan was considered the world’s second most corrupt nation. Edhi ran Pakistan’s largest charitable organization solely on charity. When he asked for money, millions were collected within hours. And he was very proud and thankful for that. He told me, that Pakistanis were the most generous when it came to charity, in ratio to how much they made or had.
    Edhi went to school only till second grade and did not come from a rich family. When Edhi started his first dispensary in 1951, in Karachi, the city had only one ambulance! By the year 2000, Edhi’s charitable foundation entered the Guinness book of world record for having the largest fleet of emergency services — 1,800 ambulances, 28 rescue boats and two planes.
    Edhi gave all the credit for what he achieved to his mother. He said his mother would give him two paisa (monetary unit in India) when he went to school, urging him to spend one paisa on himself and the other on a needy person. When he was no longer in school, she would ask him what he had done to help someone that day.
    “If I had not done anything, she would not give me lunch. We used to live close to a railway station, so I would quickly run over there and offer porter services for free to a needy passenger. Then go home and tell her.”
    Edhi’s mother keenly observed who the poor and needy were around their neighborhood. She would then make packets of food or money and give it to Edhi, emphasizing that the best charity was where the left hand did not know what the right hand gave.
    So, Edhi would secretly leave a package at the door knock on it and run and hide before the knock was answered. His mother also told him that it was his duty to give charity to the deserving, therefore he really had to research to make sure he was giving it to the right person.
    Edhi said the lesson his mother taught him, combined with the super simple lifestyle they led, contributed to his thinking about the needy. He took up selling paan (betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant), and other wares on the street, just to raise money so he could open a dispensary. Ultimately, he even fund raised on the streets. He gave people receipts which said if they were dissatisfied with what Edhi was doing with their donation, they could get that money back, anytime.
    It was not always easy to run even a charitable institution in Pakistan. The corrupt officials did not spare even Edhi. He said someone had donated a piece of land to Edhi. Karachi Development Authority (KDA) officials would not transfer the deed easily. They asked for a bribe. They said, what do you care Edhi, you get so much donation, it is not your money, give us a little bit. You can always get more. Edhi said he had to appeal to the president to get the work done.
    How did it feel to be the one of the most loved and trusted person in Pakistan? Edhi laughed it off saying, he had been rejected by seven women, before Bilqees agreed to marry him. They rejected him because he had nothing to offer them. He owned two pair of outfits, a thin mattress, a kerosene stove and a few utensils.
    Edhi died at age 88 on Friday July 8. Dramatic headlines only confirmed how loved he was. “Pakistan becomes an orphan — Edhi dead”, “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa dies.” One man, frail, poor, uneducated showed us that if there is a will, there will be a way.

  • 4
    0

    A noble and selfless person, there are billionaires and millionaires in Sri lanka who could make a big difference to the less fortunate. Instead greed and selfishness has blinded some of the individuals.
    True generosity and empathy will supersede discrimination. We are all one. CANCER DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE!

  • 1
    0

    Mohamed showed a huge portion of civil courage. My big appreciation: Hats off.
    I really hope that no politician or politically motivated organization try to jump into the boat to make profit out of this noble deed showed by a moral citizen. Or even worse that the false patriots like BBS start cliaming that the Muslims are using the funds meant for the general public only for themselves.

  • 1
    0

    Mohamed showed a huge portion of civil courage. My big appreciation: Hats off.
    I really hope that no politician or politically motivated organization try to jump into the boat to make profit out of this noble deed showed by a moral citizen. Or even worse that the false patriots like BBS start cliaming that the Muslims are using the funds meant for the general public only for themselves.
    The young journalist deserves a big applause for his sense of real patriotism. Thanks uditha!

  • 2
    0

    Thank you Uditha Devapriya. Mr.M.S.H.Mohomed is indeed a true hero. When it comes to Health and Education there should be no boundaries. Except for a few instances promoted by the likes of Gnanasara Thera, the overwhelming majority follow this through. We also have generous philanthropists on a par with any other rich country. The measure of it could be observed by the number of advertisements in the press seeking help. Philanthropists must have been responding. I must also add that our free hospitals are equal if not better than the costly private ones. I have only one experience with Kalubowila Hospital when on an emergency I took my nephew to have his infected appendix removed about 7 years ago. The service all round was absolutely marvellous.

  • 3
    0

    Mohamed you are a true son of Sri Lanka. I hope the newspapers will pick up this story from CT and give it all the publicity so that many of the type of this benefactor will come forward for such National causes.
    Thank You Mr.Mohamed you are a shining example of if there is a will there is a way

  • 2
    0

    I know Mr. Mohammed. He brought another child who had a surgical misadventure and fortunately I was able to find the problem. He used to sit down at the consultation chamber and talk at length about his son who was at maharagama and how he had to sell his properties. But he never mentioned about his project.

    Hats off to the man! Similar to the Jaffna Cancer project by a Sinhala and a Tamil with he from cricketers.

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