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Persian Center distributes 500 Wheelchairs in Iran

On Valentine's Day, a delegate of representatives from Persian Center, Wheelchair Foundation, and City of Berkeley, traveled to Iran to deliver the gift of love and mobility: 500 wheelchairs for the disabled in Iran. When Soheyl Modarressi, President of Oxford Development Group, visited a facility for the disabled in Tehran last year and discovered that there were 3 wheelchairs for the 700 patients, he was immediately prompted into action. He brought the Persian Center and Wheelchair Foundation together, who collectively raised and donated $150,000 toward the purchase of 1000 wheelchairs for Iran. The first shipment of 500 wheelchairs was made in December 2001, and a tour was scheduled for their delivery in February of 2002.

The team embarked on their mission at the Red Crescent where a variety of organizations--such as Kahrizak Foundation -were invited to collect a portion of 250 wheelchairs. "We are having a wonderful and amazing time," reacted Mark Rhoades, Berkeley's Planning Manager; he and his wife Erin Banks spent most of the first two days assisting disabled children into their new red wheelchairs, and felt it was "the most important and rewarding work" they had done in their life. Everyone felt the joy of one young girl, who began racing across the room and refused to stop turning and spinning, once she was set in her wheelchair. Echoing the general sentiment of the group, Patrick DeTemple, Electronic Media Manager for City of Berkeley, commented that "the team's efforts are a very clear response to a very direct need; there is no confusion that we are doing a good thing."

Haft-e Teer Charity, which houses 90 disabled girls, received the remaining 250 wheelchairs on the third day. They will be using 65 of the wheelchairs and distributing the remainder to Gorouheh Koodak, Mahak Charity, Behnam Daheshpour Cancer Institute, and Rofideh Organization. "Most patients would never be able to afford a low quality or used wheelchair at 1,500,000 Rials (~ $185), let alone a brand new, high quality one, costing over 3,000,000 Rials!" exclaimed Mohammad Naimi-Yazdi, President of Haft-e-Teer. "In many cases, these wheelchairs are the finest possessions they will ever own." No exact statistics are available regarding the need for wheelchairs in Iran, but it is estimated to be 6-10% of the population. Most of the five million disabled people are a result of inter-family marriages, inaccessibility to medical facilities at birth, or poor nutrition and care during infancy.

Despite numerous distributions worldwide, Fred Gerhard, Director of Wheelchair Foundation, was overcome with emotion when he received a painting completed by one of the wheelchair recipients who draws with his neck. "We came to give the people of Iran the gift of mobility," said Gerhard, "but instead we received a greater gift of love in their eyes!" The Wheelchair Foundation, founded in 2000 with a grant from the Kenneth E. Behring Foundation, has distributed over 35,000 wheelchairs in 74 countries.

"It is amazing how one wheelchair changes someone's life entirely, affects 7-10 people around them, and moves a community of over 50 people in their circle," said Shahin Tabrizi, board member of Persian Center, who had returned to Iran after 25 years. He and Modarressi are already planning a fundraising event with other goodwill ambassador's Ahmad Behjati, proprietor of Via Centro, and Mansour Hariri of Cyrus Travel. Persian Center hopes to continue raising awareness about this serious need in Iran and partner with the Wheelchair Foundation in delivering wheelchairs worldwide.

The Persian Center is a non-profit charitable organization, dedicated to providing an environment for education, cultural celebrations, and exhibitions to promote an understanding of the Persian culture and heritage, as well as peace through education and understanding.

The Persian Center

Related Article:

Persian Center raises $150,000 for Wheelchairs to Iran

... Payvand News - 2/22/02 ... --

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