The founding story of Ashadeep Association revolves very much around the life of one extraordinary lady, Dr. Adelheid Hüffer. Born on the 26th of October 1915 in Muenster, Germany, Adelheir studied social work and medicine which she completed in 1945 after which she practiced as a Doctor in the St. Franziskus Hospital in her home town, Muenster.
In 1951, her social work took her to Rhodesia, Southern Africa to work amongst the poor and ill under the inspiration of the Bishop of Muenster. Whilst working here, Bishop Westermann of Odisha succeeded in persuading her to come and continue her work in his diocese of Kalunga, India in 1952.
Whilst in India, she immersed herself into the social and medical work among the rural population; and even founded a hospital in Batki, Madhya Pradesh, known as Pushpa Hospital. Leaving her work and hospital in trusted hands, in 1976 she moved from the rural areas to the new challenges of Mumbai where she initially began with a small makeshift clinic in the Kajuwadi slums at Andheri. It was here that she was subjected to a staggering amount of sickness, mortality, alcoholism, poverty, unemployment and many untold miseries of the slums as well as the complete lack of basic amenities. This subjection inspired her to help more and eventually led to the foundation of Ashadeep. She also took the help of 7 Indians and 7 Europeans living in Mumbai, to become founder members of Ashadeep Association, so that its continuous work in the future will be assured.
Back in Muenster, Germany “Hilfswerkfür Ashadeep Association” was initiated as a base for financial support from European allies, who in fact still actively raise funds for the organisation.
Initially, the organisation conducted outreach activities in the slums in order to offer their help to more people. Nowadays however, word about the organisation has spread to the slums in and around Andheri. It was no surprise then to see people from the slums come in to pay their respects to her the day I visited, 1st July 2014 – which turned out to be her 14th death anniversary!
In 1983, Dr. Adelheid Hüffer was presented with the “Award of Officer’s Cross Of The Order Of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany”. Not surprising for someone who has literally dedicated her life to touching and enhancing the lives of thousands of people.
Her presence is surely still amongst the people who proudly continue her work, aspiring to live up to the standard she did. The immense love and respect for her and her work will never be lost or forgotten as her legacy lives on through each child, mother and family being touched by Ashadeep’s incredible work.