Majority of people turn a blind eye to a destitute lying on railway platform, bus stand, pavement, footpath or outside a hospital. Some drop them a rupee or two or offer food and used clothes out of compassion. But a man in Ujjain always waits for such destitute or any information about them from any part of the country. Since 1989 he has given lifetime shelter to 363 disabled, mentally retarded, lepers, paralytic, cancer, TB, HIV/AIDS patients, etc. This man is Sudhir Bhai Goel who runs Sewadham Ashram for the helpless.
We come across many homeless or dying destitute at public places like railway platforms, bus stand, pavements, footpaths, etc. Behind each grooved eye or wrinkled face there is a painful story of sufferings. With no near or dear ones they are left to lead an almost non-existent life. We generally do have a pity for them. Compassion may sometimes lead us to drop them a rupee or two or better still humanity may force us to give them some food and used clothes. So engaged we are in our own daily mundane chores that their condition doesn’t stir any further feeling within us and we have accepted them as a casual entity in daily scenario of the society, not bothering any further for this suffering humanity.
But there is a man who all the time moves around the city of Ujjain searching for such destitute people. When found he respectfully brings them ‘home’. This stirring soul is Sudhir Bhai Goel who runs Sewadham Ashram in Ujjain, a lifelong home for destitute and helpless. He has given up the comforts, luxuries and effluence of his family business for his passion. Over the years due to his relentless and untiring efforts with love, care and compassion, the Ashram has blossomed into a lifetime shelter for more than 350 helpless people who include old parents (abandoned by their own children) and other young and old disabled; mentally and physically retarded; orphaned children; lepers; paralyses and polio, cancer, TB., HIV/AIDS patients; oppressed and unwed mothers; the victims of natural calamities and other dying destitutes.
The happenings that led him into the field of service are no less moving. Born on August 19, 1957 in Indore, a science graduate Sudhir Bhai wanted to become a medical doctor. Under the guidance and inspirations he drew from Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1974, he pledged to serve the underprivileged throughout his life. Along with his five-pronged social service through sewa (service) shiksha (education) swasthya (health) swawlamban (self reliance) sadbhav (communal harmony), he carried on his family business successfully. After establishing Ujjaini Senior Citizens’ Forum (USCF) in Ujjain in January, 1986, an organisation for the utilisation of the skills, experience and knowledge and talents of the elderly persons for the benefit of the society, he came into contact with a dying leprosy patient Narayan. The intimate association that he developed while serving him very closely and warmly in his garage, resulted in changing his entire approach towards social service and led him to eventually form a leprosy service centre at Hamukhedi on the outskirts of Ujjain. The intimate interactions he had with Baba Amte in 1988, resulted in strengthening his earlier vow to serve the under privileged, the poor and the dying destitute till his last breath.
In order to accelerate this work, Sudhir Bhai founded Sewadham Ashram in January 1989 at Ambodia village on Barnagar Road, about 15 kms from Ujjain. He embarked on this journey with only resources being—inspirations from the suffering of these people and his own one acre land. The Ashram today runs Leprosy Service Centre (started in 1986), Health Services (1987), Welfare and Care Programme for Elderly Persons (1991), Sevanjali Badhir Vidyalaya (1993), Medicine Help Centre (2002), Sewadham Bal Shramik Vidyalaya (2002), Sewadham Kamdhenu Milk Scheme (2004), Sewadham Day Care Centre, Ujjain (2008), and Sewadham Day Care Centre, Indore (2009).
The Ashram is now a unique example of motivating poorest of the poor and dying destitute to come forward in the help of their suffering fellow beings by donation of 150 pairs of eyes by such persons after their deaths and thus providing visions to 300 blind persons and donation of more than 100 bodies after their deaths to medical colleges and helping in studies of deserving future doctors. It also organised 160 eye and health camps in the rural and backward areas benefitting over 2 lakh people. It has been a house full of love, care and compassion for more than 4,000 such persons, since its inception. It carried out last rites of above 1,000 persons as per their religion and customs. It carried out last rites of above 40 people as per Baba Amte’s “Life after Death” concept in Ashram complex.
Shri Goel has suffered hugely in his personal life—loss of his only son aged seven, murder of his only sister by her husband and the loss of his left eye while saving the life of some children. But none of these could weaken his resolve to serve suffering humanity. His initiative has been acclaimed by many eminent personalities like Baba Amte, former Presidents of India Smt Pratibha Patil and the late Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi Ila Gandhi, etc. The list of felicitations bestowed on the Ashram is also very long.
Shri Goel also worked immensely for earthquake victims in Gujarat for 13 months. “We got a child, Raju, during earthquake in Bhuj. He was buried under the ruins of five story building. When discovered he had 32 multiple fractures on this his body. But we could save him,” says Shri Goel while talking to Organiser. Today he has destitute people from many states including Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Delhi, Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and even from Nepal and Bangladesh. The only objective is to provide them shelter throughout their life.