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Ashraf Ghandehari's Devotion to the Disabled and Elderly

Source: PARSA Community Foundation

When Ashraf Ghandehari first contacted the late Dr. Mohammad Reza Hakimzadeh of Kahrizak in 1972 to serve the elderly and disabled of Tehran, she had no idea what a pioneering journey she would embark on. From just one patient and one room, to a 1,600-bed, 400,000-square meter, state-of-the-art center, Mrs. Ghandehari has been instrumental in transforming Kahrizak Charity Foundation, an Iranian non-governmental organization, into one of the most high-impact and entrepreneurial nonprofits in the world. There, physically handicapped or elderly individuals with no financial resources are cared for, free of charge.

In support of Kahrizak, Ghandehari co-founded Ladies Charitable Society (LCS) in 1973 with a group of dedicated women to coordinate their philanthropic efforts. Headquartered in Tehran, the group now boasts over 2,000 volunteers in Iran, UK, U.S. and Canada.  Besides raising funds, volunteers travel to the center to offer their services and provide educational, artistic and cultural programs.  They help bathe, dress and assist residents in their everyday lives, services that speak volumes about the altruism of the volunteers. Thanks to Ghandehari’s selfless efforts, Kahrizak has become one of the largest and most advanced centers of its kind in the Middle East; a city within a city.  “Volunteering is inherent in the Iranian culture and is encouraged as a duty by all Iranians of all financial dispositions,” says Ghandehari.  While US sanctions preclude Americans from donating to charities in Iran such as Kahrizak, there is no embargo on volunteering.

Regardless of ability, Kahrizak finds their physically handicapped residents meaningful work; from growing herbs to weaving baskets, residents are encouraged to earn an income.  Many that were stigmatized and hidden by their own families before Kahrizak now send money back home and are a source of pride for their relatives.  Kahrizak has challenged preconceived notions of what physically handicapped people can do to take care of themselves and be productive members of society.  Its sustainable model has inspired similar institutions to emerge in other provinces in Iran.

Under Mrs. Ghandehari’s leadership, LCS founded and operates Home of the Mother and Child, an affiliate of Kahrizak set up in response to the devastating earthquake in 1990 in Roodbar, Gilan. Home of the Mother and Child assumed responsibility for 550 children orphaned by the disaster, and continues to support them until they become self-sufficient adults. Their latest major project is “Children of Bam,” where they have launched a similar program as the one in Roodbar, sponsoring 400 children affected by the 2003 earthquake in Bam.  LCS also enjoys a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, granted in 1998. In addition, Ghandehari and LCS were pivotal in launching Iran’s first International Conference on Aging in 1999. Ghandehari attributes her penchant for philanthropy to her familial upbringing: “Assisting the destitute and the less privileged was a fundamental principle that was adamantly taught and practiced in my family.” 

Mrs. Ghandehari is probably the most famous Persian social entrepreneur.  Her ability to foster teamwork, scale citizen action and develop a sustainable business model has made Kahrizak a household name among Iranians worldwide. 

Visit: Kahrizak Charity Foundation


... Payvand News - 6/25/07 ... --

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