Mujtaba Askari graduated from Osmania University in 1990 and, like most of us, he aspired to reach the very top of his field in the IT sector. He joined Infosys in 2000, started his growth curve, became a project manager but as of 2015, he quit this year and joined the “business” of saving lives — with the Helping Hand foundation.
The foundation, located at Banjara Hills and founded by Mujtaba, is open to anyone and everyone in need of medical help. “Be it cancer, surgery or kidney failure, we help people who can’t afford sky-rocketing medical bills. We do that by raising money through social media campaigns,” he says. More than 50 people walk in every day and so far, the foundation has helped nearly 10,000 poor people in need of urgent medical help from across the country.
Recently, Mujtaba helped a temple priest from Ramanthapur, Venkateshwar Rao, who was diagnosed with brain tumour (meningioma glioma) and required immediate neurosurgery.
“The estimated bill stood at Rs 4 lakh. His family approached us for help and we took up the case with our panel’s neurosurgeon and got the operation done at a significantly lesser cost after mobilising the funds from our wellwishers,” says Mujtaba. Talking about how it all began, he says, “It all started when I was working at Infosys, Gachibowli. At work, I used to organise these fundraisers for the education of our support staff’s children. It was on a small scale but later on, we started taking up medical cases and moved into the healthcare sector,” Mujtaba explains.
So here’s how the foundation operates. When approached by a patient, they go through medical records, check the family’s background, understand the gravity of the situation with the help of virtual team of doctors, send in field specialists to do a background verification and, once everything has been approved, the team focusses on raising funds.
“This virtual team of doctors is from US, Scotland and other countries. They spare time to look into cases — some even come down to perform the surgeries free of cost and a few other doctors are my batchmates from Hyderabad Public School. We also have an MoU with hospitals in the city and they help us with subsidised surgery costs. Our first motive is to always recommend government hospitals but if the patients don’t want that, we shift focus to corporate hospitals,” he says.
But then, there have been times when they came up too late, with too less. “There was an 11-year-old who was suffering from plastic anemia — a disease akin to blood cancer and one that requires immediate help. At a hospital in Vellore, he was told he needs a bone marrow transplant, the cost for which was Rs 14 lakh. We initiated a campaign but could only raise Rs 3,70,000 — we were unable to raise any more. Fortunately, the family received money from the PM’s Relief Fund and even Ratan Tata helped the boy out. He is undergoing treatment. Our only regret is that we couldn’t raise the money on time and that the surgery was delayed by four months.”
And as time goes by, Mujtaba admits it has become a little easier to raise money. “But the demand is much more than supply. I quit my job because I was unable to fully focus on the mission. When I started, I didn’t know it would go so far. Currently, a few of my former colleagues from Infosys and family members are helping me. I do this because I feel much better... it’s fulfilling. And I hope to continue doing this as long as I can.”...