During my recent trip to Iran, I paid a visit to a charity organization in Tehran called "Hafte Tir Center." How did I pick this organization? This year through the efforts of Persian Center of San Francisco Bay Area (www.persiancenter.com) and Wheelchair Foundation (wheelchairfoundation.org), about 1000 wheelchairs were shipped to Iran and distributed among various charities. Before I left for Iran, I contacted Shahin Tabrizi of Persian Center and asked him if he could arrange a visit to one of these charity groups. I thought it would be nice to see how these wheelchairs are being used. Shahin, who had personally traveled to Iran to deliver the wheelchairs, suggested that I visit Hafte Tir. And as nothing comes for free, he immediately assigned a very important task to me :-) Shahin told me that each group that received wheelchairs had been given a disposable camera to take pictures of the wheelchair recipients. I was to pick up all the cameras and bring them back with me. After I had gladly accepted, Shahin gave me the contact names for Hafte Tir!
Our trip was almost over and I still hadn't been able to visit all the places that I wanted to visit. But I had to do this one. So a few days before our departure I finally called Hafte Tir and told them who I was and that I wanted to pay a visit and tour their facilities and also pick up the cameras. The person who answered the phone was very receptive and she made an appointment for me to visit them the next morning at 11 am.
Hafte Tir Center is located at Haleh alley off of Pol-e Rumi street in northern part of Tehran. The taxi driver that had been called for me had a hard time finding it. He stopped at least 6 times to ask for the address. He actually couldn't even find Pol-e Rumi which seemed pretty well known! I was wondering if he can read the street names? But we finally found Pol-e Rumi, and after going one full loop around the next street and almost giving up, we finally found a guy who pointed us in the right direction! Fate must have wanted it that way :-) I was there, and of course the driver wanted more money because he had driven me all over the place :-) No problem!
I went in and introduced myself to the receptionist and she asked me to have a sit. I sat with my back to the glass wall of the office of the big boss Ms. Haghighatgoo. She was on the phone, but I could clearly hear her. She was talking business, and she sounded very firm and strong. She raised the volume of her voice and I could feel that she is grilling the person she was talking to, which happened to be a man of course! Then after she had clearly outgunned that guy, she lowered her voice and talked very gently and finished the conversation. I think that guy, whoever he was, got the message who the boss is! And so did I! By then I was sweating and feeling nervous and was wondering what I was doing there :-)
It was then that the receptionist asked me to go in. I got up and entered the room and said hello. Ms. Haghighatgoo said hello and politely told me that in government offices women cannot shake hands with men. I said that's fine (I didn't dare to get close and shake hands anyway)! Then I took a sit and told her about myself and where I come from and how I had heard about them. I told her my purpose was to see the place and take some pictures and write a report. She looked at the camera and said it's not allowed to take pictures. I was disappointed, but said that's fine. But then as we started talking and she got to know me better, her stand softened. She said it depends on what I want to take pictures of. Then she clarified that as long as I don't zoom on the children's faces that would be ok. And that was just fine with me. So I was back in business!
She then talked about the organization and the services they provide. Hafte Tir houses about 90 physically disabled girls, mostly orphans. And it provides complete services to these girls (aged from 7 to 30 years) until they can leave the place and be on their own. The girls have a variety of physical problems for which they receive physiotherapy and orthopedic treatment. Twenty residents study in primary school at the center, fourteen are middle school students, sixteen go to high-school, and eight go to college. Also, five are studying to enter college.
Hafte Tir, which is the only residential center in Iran for physically challenged girls, is a non-profit organization dependent on donations. It has about 70 staff and facilities for providing physical therapy and many other services including complete elementary education. The educational facilities are in a separate building. There are five classrooms, library, computer room, sewing room, kitchen and an auditorium there.
We then started our tour of the place. We first passed the bedrooms. Each room is shared by two girls. The rooms were simple, clean and well lighted. We then visited the physical therapy room where two staff therapists were working with two girls. Next we visited a the living room where some girls were watching TV. Sometimes when the girls noticed me they would pull their scarves over their hairs. While some were shy, most would look at me and respond to my hello. They generally looked in good mood and well taken care of.
We then stopped briefly and looked at the dentist's room which was being renovated. And then visited the rooms in the second floor. After that we went to the next building which was used for educational purposes. There were several nicely designed and furnished classes on the first floor, along with a library and a computer room. Actually when we entered the building, the sound of daff (Persian percussion musical instrument) had filled the place. Ms. Haghighatgoo told me that the music class is practicing. But she said she doesn't want to interrupt since the instructor doesn't like that. I didn't think Ms. Haghighatgoo will be afraid of anyone :-) But still just hearing the music was a pleasure. And this beautiful music was being created by a group of disabled girls! That was one picture I wish I could have taken! We then went to the second floor to see the auditorium. And what a beautiful auditorium it was! Many schools in U.S. could learn a lesson from this place and the people who run it.
Judging from everything that I saw, I could tell this is a very well run place with hard-working and caring staff. And they deserve every support they can get.
Our last stop was at a newly built "taaftoon" bread bakery, a small building under a Persian mulberry tree on the side of the yard. Ms. Haghighatgoo explained to me that it was their wish to serve the girls fresh bread every day. And some caring people responded to their wish and their donations helped build the bakery. It was simply amazing and gave me a great feeling to just view the bakery.
We then went back to Ms. Haghighatgoo's office and she asked for drinks (sharbat) and fruits for us. We then talked some more and I asked about their needs. She said they have enough wheelchairs right now and are in good shape. But she was worried about their budget. According to her, charities like Hafte Tir had been holding a fundraising event every year. But the new government regulations no longer allows this. So her number one concern was budget shortfall that would cause interruptions to their programs and services.
After our talk ended, I took the bag of cameras and signed a receipt for that. We then said goodbye and this time around neither of us was afraid of a handshake. Not that one took place :-)
To contribute to the Hafte Tir Center, please contact:
Hafte Tir Center
Shari'ati Ave., Pol-e Rumi St., Akbari St., Haleh St. #4
... Payvand News - 12/11/02 ... --