Rudi Bakhtiar interviews co-founder of Mother's Against Poverty, Delfarib Fanaie
Every five seconds, one child under the age of five dies from hunger related
Every five seconds.
According to a yearly report by UNICEF, malnutrition contributes to the deaths of about 5.6 million children under five in the developing world yearly. One out of every four children under five (146 million children) is underweight for his or her age, which increases his or her risk of dying from an otherwise preventable and treatable illness such as diarrhea or measles.
Economist Jeffrey Sachs, once dubbed the most important economist of our time by The New York Times, says we have the power to end poverty and hunger in our lifetime. In his book, "The End of Poverty", Sachs lays out a multi-layered global roadmap, engaging governments and institutions from all over the world to eradicate poverty by the year 2025. But even Sachs says, in the end, it comes back to us as individuals.
"Individuals working in unison form and shape societies. Social commitments are commitments of individuals. Great social forces, Robert Kennedy powerfully reminded us, are the mere accumulation of individual actions."
Mothers Against Poverty (or MAP), a young non-profit organization, is testament to how a small group of Iranian American mothers with a minimal budget can champion the needs of poverty stricken children in three different corners of the world.
MAP has already entered into a mutual partnership to take over a recently established school in Kabul, Afghanistan, funding teacher training classes, as well as peace and literacy programs. MAP has also partnered up with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley to enhance the life of children in foster programs here in the US; and is funding a number of diverse educational and health related programs for children living in a safe house in Cambodia.
Today I sit down with Tehran native and MAP co-founder Delfarib Fanaie to talk about the organizations achievements so far.
Rudi: How did you come up with the idea for Mothers Against Poverty?
Delfarib: You know, MAP's conception
and creation is as simple and beautiful as the organization's mission and its
vision. On a warm summer afternoon, a group of close friends sat around a
kitchen table. As three of us are mothers of children adopted from the
orphanages of Iran, we had experienced and knew too well of the tragedies inside
these broken down institutions. We spoke of our passions and learned of each
other's intolerance for the insufferable conditions endured by these children.
Passions were stirred, thoughts were exchanged, and an idea took shape. We knew
that even a handful of concerned mothers passionate about the life of every
child in need will be able to make a difference, one child at a time.
And thus the idea for MAP was born out of compassion, a sense of responsibility
and the purest desire for the wellbeing of every child born to the human race.
Rudi: Who else is involved in MAP?
Delfarib: MAP is co-founded by Maryam
Refahie, Nooshin Hakimi, Touria Javid, and Taraneh Nowroozi. Our Board of
Directors include Azizeh Rezaiyan, Maryam Winas and Ladan Judge.
Rudi: What are the goals of your
Delfarib: MAP came into existence
through a synergy of compassion and love for humanity and one that continues to
thrive and succeed due to its unwavering belief that every child in this world
deserves a chance of a healthy, fulfilling life. To these children MAP has made
a silent vow to always lend a helping hand.
MAP initiated its operation in June of 2008. At the present time MAP is present
in three countries around the world. Our vision is to build a solid foundation
that will allow MAP to be recognized as an unyielding organization with the
single mission to help disadvantaged children around the world.
Rudi: The worst thing about poverty is
how it robs innocent children of their dignity, self respect, and hope. What are
some of the ways MAP is working directly to combat that?
Delfarib: MAP has entered into a mutual
partnership to take over a recently established school in a Kabul neighborhood
in Afghanistan. Rokshana opens its doors every morning to 30 young girls eager
to have been given a chance to attend school. In a country broken down by
poverty, war and deprivation, education is a privilege not easily granted to
many children and especially difficult to seek for young girls. In 2008, MAP
provided funding for teacher training classes, as well as peace and literacy
programs for the 2009 school year.
MAP is also actively involved in a very unique home for children in Cambodia. A
safe house, Aziza's Place is home to 22 children who had spent most of their
lives rummaging through mountains of trash that constituted their towns, their
lives and their families' livelihood. MAP has put its arms around this special
home and in 2008 provided funding for a number of diverse educational and health
related programs for the children in Aziza's Place.
Rudi: When did you come to America?
Delfarib: I left Iran as a young
student in the summer of 1976 to continue my education abroad. My destiny took
me to Pitman College in England were I received my degree in Office Management.
I returned to Iran to work for a Swedish company and took a position as
assistant to the president rather quickly because of my educational background
and fluency in English. However, in a few months the storms of the revolution
were upon us. I applied for a student visa and within days I left Iran headed
for the US to continue my studies. I remember landing in the US and hearing that
the Tehran Airport had been entirely shut down just a few days after my
departure. So luck was certainly on my side and I felt that there was a reason
for my being here in America.
The Bay Area therefore became my new home. I worked during the day and attended
classes in the evenings, building a life anew here in the United States.
Rudi: What can an organization like
PAAIA do to help an organization like yours?
Delfarib: One of the biggest ways PAAIA
can assist is in our quest to retain the permits necessary from OFAC to be able
to work directly with the children of Iran in the near future.
Rudi: You not only work with MAP to
help children all over the world, but you have adopted three beautiful children
as well, which was not an easy feat, was it?
Delfarib: No. My husband Farshid and I
have three adopted children from Iran. We got married in 1992, both of us
believing in forming a family through adoption. It took us 7 years before we
decided to have our family. We were told from the on start that adoption from
Iran would be close to impossible, but driven by our conviction we traveled to
Iran to explore the idea ourselves in 1999.
I remember clearly when we first walked into the Ameneh orphanage, we were not welcomed, and it took two weeks before the staff warmed up to us and opened their hearts and minds to the idea of us adopting a child. This experience of our first adoption, the profound connection that I felt to the children of the orphanage and the staff, became the start of my journey and that of MAP's conception.
Yasaman is our first child; a beautiful, healthy, smart child whose joyfulness
and aptitude for love has changed our lives forever. Our son Kourosh is our
second adoption. When we finally held Koroush in our arms ready to come home, I
remember being told by the Center's director never to forget Kourosh's friends,
all the other children that had to be left behind. I have tried every day to
remember them all.
During Koroush's adoption in 2005, I met my eldest daughter Nasreen; a shy ten
year old who radiated love. Her adoption was completed in 2006. Nasreen is our
teacher; she expands our capacity to love and teaches us patience. Her strength
and her pure heart makes me believe she is an old soul.
"Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills - against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence...Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation..."
MAP is a grass-roots organization; it is a volunteer base, non-profit foundation, it has no overhead costs and over 95% of our income goes directly to the children.
If you would like to help Mothers Against Poverty or find out more information about the organization, please go to www.momsagainstpoverty.org.
... Payvand News - 02/21/09 ... --