I wanted to share with you my firsthand personal experience I had visiting one out of numerous operations MAP is running helping children in Iran. This was an awakening moment for me. Just reading summarized project reports about supporting “n” number of children does not come close to meeting and interacting with just one child for even a few hours. In Kerman, I met a dedicated professional staff that are working hard to meet each child’s day to day mental and physical needs. They rely on us to support them by providing the funds they need to enable their good work to carry on. No amount of contribution is too small, and no amount is too large. Generosity and kindness has neither upper nor lower bounds.
I invite you to join team MAP and become a virtual parent to as many of these children as you can.
More about my trip
Back in May 2021, I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany Delfarib on her trip to Kerman to visit firsthand one of the three “shephe-
khanevade” aka orphanage houses that are owned and directly operated by MAP. Along with the children, I had a chance to meet the caring staff running the day to day operation of the house as well as Ashkan & Fatemeh who had also flown in to meet with us.
First, what is “shephe-khanevade” vs orphanage? Shephe khanevadeh, is the new term to better describe what MAP is striving to do, pioneered by the work of Ashkan. Where parvareshgah historically only attempted to host a maximum number of children only to satisfy a minimalist set of their basic needs, (such as shelter, food and formal school till age of 18 and then goodbye), shephe-khanevadeh tries to do the reverse. This is done by creating an environment that closely reconstructs and resembles every aspect of a child living in a normal family. This starts with the architecture of the house which looks like a normal house as opposed to facilities designed to service large groups in an assembly line like efficiency. The goal is to limit the total number of children to 10 (though in reality they are currently housing 16 because there are far more children in need than there are resources.) The intention is to give each child as much love, time and attention as they need to help them reach their maximum potential. And just like no family lets go of their children as they turn 18, shephe-khanevade children remain under MAP protection for as long as they need to turn into fully functioning adults and beyond. These are MAP’s children forever.
I was so impressed by how loving the interaction of “baba” Ashkan and “khale” Fatemeh was with the children. Coveted endearing term of “baba” was only reserved for Ashkan who clearly deserves it. He knew and would call each one of the children by their first name and would make one on one contact with each of them. I only rose to “Amoo Nima” for a few and most of them called me “Agha Nima”. I soon realized I had to work harder to gain their trust. Who could blame them? The drama each one was suffering was well beyond their tender age. There were many other khaleh’s around the clock who would oversee every child’s personal needs. And various tutors and coaches such as a math tutor, English tutor, art tutor and so on had their spot on the weekly calendar. The dedication and their love for each child was admirable.
All of the children come from broken homes and have been subjected to physical abuse, mental abuse, neglect, drugs or any combination of these. Each child has a file that details her history and is updated weekly upon psychologist visits. The objective for every child is to make them whole and restore her mental and physical health by providing a new nourishing family environment in which they can thrive. A lofty goal which requires a village.
Despite the tragic life they have had, they were eager to connect and engage. We rented a van and went to a toy store which was exclusively reserved for our visit so the girls could buy a toy of their choosing. I learned later that this was the first time in one year that the girls were allowed to leave the house. This was only due to COVID concerns and extra precaution requirements imposed by the government. Prior to COVID, they had regular picnics or trips. They were shy, but curious. One of them, a 9-year old girl named Setayesh, who physically looked like 6, brought her “Ketabe – Farsi” and read it to me for 20-minutes straight. The girls were fighting each other on who could play with “agha-Nima” which I found flattering. Towards the end of day, they started playing the movie The Ice Age which everyone sat down on the floor to watch in a neat 3 rows formation. Another girl, coincidentally named Setayesh as well, brought her notebook and while others were watching t.v, she wanted me to write down the English alphabet and its equivalent sound in Persian for her. I realized that beyond the abstract reports about the children lies a small vulnerable child, who is just starting life.
Despite their tragic beginnings, these children are strong. They are warriors and they are determined. They are full of hopes and dreams. When I asked them what they want to do when they grow up, they responded nurse, policewoman, teacher. They are working hard to make it and they need our help.
This was my experience with just one shephe- khanevadeh. MAP is in the process of opening two more of these houses in Iran, one for 12-18 year old girls in Kerman, and another for 6-12 year old boys in Gilan. On behalf of the children who so desperately need our support, I ask you to contribute what you can. No amount is too small. And no amount is too large.