This is part of a limited, annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
Dr. Ruth Pfau is a German-Pakistani nun who has dedicated fifty years of her life in trying to combat leprosy in Pakistan.
Many Pakistanis don’t know about the existence of the disease itself or the havoc it wreaks in the affected individual’s life.
Leprosy, also referred to as Hansen’s Disease, is an infection that is caused by a bacteria. The disease does not initially present with symptoms and it can remain this way for anything between five to twenty years. Eventually, when symptoms do surface, they are seen to be in a granulomatous form. It can lead to severe disfigurement and deformities if left untreated. Fortunately, the disease is curable. And that’s where Dr. Ruth Pfau and her years of tireless service step in for Pakistan.
Born in Leipzig, Germany on September 9th, 1929, a young, compassionate Ruth Pfau always had greatness written in her destiny.
After escaping to West Germany in the wake of World War II, she chose medicine as a career and eventually began her journey to Pakistan. In 1960, she decided that she wanted to help those suffering from leprosy in Pakistan, after visiting a leprosy colony in Karachi. Thus began her mission. What started as a small hut where she would treat patients eventually led to the formation of The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre where Dr. I. K. Gill also helped the venture alongside.
Dr. Ruth Pfau would travel to remote areas where access to medical facilities was nearly impossible for leprosy patients.
She collected donations and imparted her knowledge to hospitals along the way.
In 2016, it was reported that The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre alone registers 500 patients every year.
MALC officials also stated that the situation seemed like it would remain unchanged for the next two decades. It is in times like these where individuals like Dr. Ruth become so integral to the framework of our society. Leprosy patients are often forsaken by their families. They are ostracized and written off as outcasts. People fear that they are contagious. However, passionate individuals like Dr. Ruth break those barriers by working closely with these patients. Her work encourages others to do the same.
Dr. Ruth has rightfully been lauded for her selfless service over the course of five decades in Pakistan.
She has received numerous honors and awards for being the courageous inspiration that she is. Awards such as the Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Pakistan and the Jinnah Award are just a few to name.
In 1988, Dr. Pfau was awarded the Pakistani citizenship in recognition for her service to the country.
In a country that has seemingly lost its way in bloodshed, hatred and mindless battles, let us celebrate remarkable beings like Dr. Ruth Pfau. People like her make others want to believe in humanity. Individuals like her give us hope that nothing can be a barrier for compassion – not even monumental matters like boundaries and religion. May we all find the Ruth Pfaus that reside somewhere within us and hope to paint the world with love and empathy in our strides.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories“.
Cover image via alchetron.com