As a boy growing up in southeast India, Hayath Javeed loved taking walks with his father. "He could explain anything to you," the 47-year-old Pasco physician said. "Everything was an education. Even taking a walk."
His father, Mohamed Burham, was a police detective. He had earned a degree in science but always regretted he was never able to go further. The oldest of 15 children, Burham ended up the breadwinner after his own father died at age 55.
So after helping raise his siblings, Burham indulged his passion for learning by building a small schoolhouse in the small city of Channapatna, known for its wooden toys and a culture that accepts 5-year-olds cleaning up garbage or working in restaurant kitchens for as little as $1 per day.
"He believed kids should not be forced to work before finishing their education," Javeed said. "There are (child labor) rules, but in small towns no one follows them, and no one really cares what happens."
Since 1995, Hayath Habeeb Memorial School has given children from the area's poorest families a chance to avoid their parents' fates. When health problems prevented Burham from managing the school, Javeed took on that responsibility, in addition to maintaining his private medical practice in Holiday. His work, often done late at night and on weekends, earned him a local Frist Humanitarian Award from Healthcare Corporation of America, the parent company of Medical Center of Trinity, one of several hospitals where Javeed, who specializes in internal medicine, has privileges.
"When it's night here it's day there," explained Javeed, who estimates he gets about five to six hours of sleep a night.
Javeed's journey to the Tampa Bay area began when his father moved to the United States in 1974 for a better salary to support his family. His family later joined him in New Jersey, where Javeed completed his residency after graduating from medical school in India. In 1996, after visiting a friend and liking the warm weather and laid-back atmosphere, the entire family moved to a home in Tarpon Springs. Javeed established a west Pasco practice with his sister, Shahina, also an internal medicine specialist.
At least once a year, Javeed visits the school his father founded back in India. It has grown from a primary school for prekindergarten through first grade to a program that serves nearly 600 students through 10th-grade, the final one in India before college.
Families pay nothing for their children to attend. But space is limited, so not everyone is accepted. A committee interviews each year's crop of preschool applicants to choose the next class.
"They do interviews to see how intelligent and serious they are," he said.
Students learn multiplication and study three languages — English, Kannada, spoken locally, and Urdu, the language of Pakistan — by the first grade. Graduates over the past six years have gone on to pursue higher education degrees in medicine, law and engineering. Through his leadership, the school has added new libraries, computer labs, technology and more teachers, with 100 percent of the financing coming from Javeed himself.
When he visits the school, he stays for several weeks. While there, he works on building maintenance and expansion issues, programming and personnel. An on-site principal manages day to day affairs of the school, which has 45 teachers and 46 support staffers.
"When I'm there I work from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., he said.
When he's in India, his sister and partner, Dr. Shahina Javeed, covers for him at the office. His wife and two teenage sons share a home in Tarpon Springs with his parents, as well as his younger brother, cardiologist Najam Javeed, his wife and two daughters. When he's away, relatives help out on the home front.
Javeed has even more plans for the school. He'd like to start a food program and a medical clinic.
"Some of these kids come from homes that don't even have electricity," he said.