I am so pleased to share some details of my recent trip to Iran. Our travels began in Kerman, near the southeast of Iran. There, several friends and board members from the United States joined the Nikgaman Jamshid team and me on a wonderfully successful visit to our very own private orphanage called Khaneh Golha.
We established this home 5 years ago thanks to the generosity of the Tahbazof Family Foundation and the support of several other donors created a safe space for 17 abandoned and abused orphaned girls aged 6 to 12. This home is run by a loving staff, trained psychologists, social workers, and a manager. I was so delighted to see the girls thriving in this loving environment, thus happy to report that the girls are all healthy, joyful, and eager to learn.
Despite the challenges faced during the COVID-19 outbreak, the girls had studied very hard and exceeded in their studies. Therefore, the highlight of this visit was witnessing the excitement of the girls when they were rewarded with a trip to a toy store. Their joy and excitement on returning from the store with hands full of prizes were so wonderful to witness, and it will hold a special place in our memories for a long time!
Our next destination in Kerman was an orphanage currently undergoing reconstruction. Once the building is completed it will be home for 10 girls aged 13 to 18. These girls can live and study in a safe and peaceful environment under the guidance of their coaches while gaining the life skills they need to become independent young adults.
From Kerman, we went on to Gilan, where we visited a 3-classroom school in the village of Saravan. This school is one of the dozen schools we currently have under construction throughout Iran. Next, we went to visit the building that will be an orphanage and home for abused boys aged 6 – 12. Upon completion, the building will be home to 10 children and equipped in the same way as our children’s homes in Kerman. This center will be run by another specialized staff so that our children are safe, happy, and can learn in this stable environment.
From the north of the country, we traveled west to the Kurdistan province. There we inaugurated our 4-classroom primary school in the village of Ajgareh, built by the generosity of Shahab and Nazila Tehrani. The celebrations included the children and their families, as well as the directors and teachers from the province’s education office. During the visit, we became aware of some additional needs for the school, thus committing to purchasing science and sports equipment requested by the students and teachers.
Next, we visited another rural location in Sanandaj where we plan to build an art school. Also in Kurdistan, we visited a nursery which we had built and equipped 8 years ago by the generosity of the Tahbazof family. We continue to support the orphanage with a monthly assistance program geared to their needs, such as the provision of food and basic supplies. Furthermore, we met with the nursery staff and the managers from the welfare organization and it was another successful visit. Spending time with the children warmed our hearts, and leaving them was not easy for any of us.
Our trip continued and everywhere we went, we found ourselves surrounded by the warm hospitality that is an integral part of Iranian culture and tradition. We left the Kurdistan province and made our way to the Kermanshah province. There, we visited the construction site of a large dormitory for girls, which we are building at the Razi University of Kermanshah – a well-known university in Iran. Afterward, we were graciously hosted by the university administrators and faculty members at a warm and informative meeting. I am happy to report that as a result of this project, the girls who have strived so hard to gain acceptance at the university and who come from remote and rural areas of Kermanshah will be housed in the safe and secure environment of the dormitory so that they can pursue higher education.
Next, we visited a nursery, where we learned how our monthly basic needs assistance program provides a lifeline of food and other vital basic supplies for infants and children. Finally, we had an opportunity to visit a shelter for boys ages 6-14 years old, rescued from forced labor, and are now offered a chance to live in a safe environment and be educated.
We then traveled from the westernmost provinces of the country to the easternmost province of the country. Our journey started in Zahedan which is located in the Sistan and Baluchistan province. Known as Shirabad, this is a severely impoverished area. There, we visited needlework empowerment workshops for women and we agreed to equip two further workshops to help provide skills and means for an income for the women living in the area.
The need in the area was so great and evident that it broke my heart. There we discussed the construction of a school and health clinic in the area, as well as projects to help meet the most vital needs of the community like the lack of water. We all felt so connected to this region and look forward to seeing our involvement support their needs.
In Tehran, we visited centers that support child laborers, orphanages, and rehabilitation centers, which we provide continuous support for. During these visits, we reviewed the vital needs of the centers and agreed to provide them with the necessary items. In addition, I should also mention the impactful education project we completed last year where we distributed 1,000 tablets and smartphones to impoverished children across the country.
Our trip was filled with joy and sorrow. We were able to see the immense impact of our work and to experience the gracious hospitality everywhere we went. We also witnessed the need for us to continue our vital work.
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