2010 Mehrgan: Humanitarian and Community Education Organizations


PARSA CF Awards Grants to Humanitarian and Community Education Organizations

May 17, 2011

PARSA Community Foundation is thrilled to announce grants totaling more than $500,000 to organizations working on humanitarian and community education causes benefiting Iranians, Iranian-Americans, and the community at large.

PARSA CF awarded a $100,000 grant to the Kahrizak Foundation for the Noor Active Living Center. Kahrizak Foundation was conceived to provide elderly care for the Iranian Diaspora as well as grow support for Kahrizak in Iran. Noor Active Living Center is the result of many years of fundraising and savings and it is created to bring peace, tranquility and dignity to the elderly in their golden age. The center has Persian speaking trained staff and provides Persian food to the residents.

The grant from PARSA CF made it possible to renovate a large activity room, PARSA Activity Room, for the residents where they can enjoy various daytime activities such as exercise, games, poetry reading, events, outside visits, and so on. As a part of its noble mission, Noor will also provide services to the elderly individuals who are not residents at the facility. During daytime, Noor staff will pick up non-residents to bring them to the PARSA Activity Room to enjoy a welcoming and warm environment in the company of their friends.

Moms Against Poverty (MAP), an organization founded by mothers who have adopted children from Iran and have a common vision of working towards improving every child's life, was awarded two grants. PARSA CF awarded a $60,000 grant to MAP's Helping Hand project. The Helping Hand project provides food, provisions, and advocacy support to children in low-income families. MAP has partnered with other organizations to provide such support in various communities across the U.S. During November and December of 2010 alone, MAP provided food, toys and essential needs to 2,500 children in families in need.

PARSA CF has always tried to support Persian speaking communities in other countries, and is pleased to award a $20,000 grant for MAP to support the girls at Rokhshana High School in Afghanistan.  Given the overall hardship in the country, it is essential to educate Afghan girls so that in the long run they can get jobs and sustain their own lives and those of their families. Through MAP's Computer Education Program, these girls are receiving the latest educational tools as well as connectivity to the internet. The affiliate Environmental Education program is guiding the girls to identify local environmental problems and local food resources as well as tackle challenges in their surroundings.

Another important and usually very underserved area is creating the infrastructure for systematic management of social service cases for low-income Iranian and Persian-speaking families. PARSA CF has awarded a $39,000 grant to Access California Services (AccessCal) which has been providing service to families from different ethnic groups and has been receiving case referrals for Iranian families from the county, mosques, and ethnic businesses because there has been no other similar organization familiar with the culture and language. With funding from PARSA CF, AccessCal has hired a Persian case manager who is fluent in Persian and is culturally aware of the Persian/Iranian culture and community.  Her role is to link low-income and isolated individuals and families to a realm of social services including but not limited to: health coverage and quality health care, housing, emergency financial assistance, immigration, counseling, education, and employment services.  Two of her primary foci are to reach out to the Persian community and increase their awareness about existing services and to help unemployed or underemployed clients attain part-time or full-time jobs.  AccessCal has hired a consultant who specializes in workforce development to train Persian case managers and supporting staff to provide employment services in an effective manner to the community.

Grief counseling and support is another aspect of humanitarian efforts that usually does not get enough attention. The impact of divorce or death of a spouse can be devastating, especially for mothers with children. Founded by an Iranian, Universal Love Foundation (ULF) has been helping disadvantage single mothers from various ethnic backgrounds in such situations since 2000.  They help families who have lost a parent hold on to their employment and not get further devastated. PARSA CF is thrilled to award a $30,000 grant to ULF's House of Hope which was opened in 2007, to restore hope and provide grief counseling and assistance to families and children. Different types of services are tailored to children (2-13 years of age), adolescents (13-18 years), and adults (18+). They provide group therapy sessions, along with individual therapy on an as-needed basis. The House of Hope has also been a four-year sponsor of the annual Childhood Grief and Traumatic Loss conference, "Restoring Joy to Children and Their Families."

Refugees and immigrants are another group which deserves special care and attention. PARSA CF has awarded a $30,000 grant to License to Freedom (L2F), an organization helping San Diego's refugee and immigrant community. L2F founders realized that an unacceptable number of women and children in that community were subject to violence and abuse in their own families. They understood that the beliefs and practices that many refugees and immigrants brought to their new home continued to promote such violence by accepting it as part of the natural order of relationships and family life. Additionally, women who had no access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services were unlikely to receive meaningful assistance.

Since its inception in 2002, L2F has served approximately 1600 immigrants and refugees in East and North County San Diego. The grant from PARSA CF enables L2F to expand its "Community Dialog for Change" program, which aims to create long term impact and fundamental changes in the area of domestic violence in Middle Eastern refugee and immigrant families by partnering up with local resources such as mosques and community centers and providing safe spaces in which participants can raise and discuss questions about family and gender relations and family violence, and illuminate beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, and ways of living that can then be examined and questioned. L2F just started to create a small library which includes many Persian books, supervised by one of the Iranian members.

PARSA CF recognizes the urgent humanitarian issues that Iranian LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex) community members who seek refugee and asylum status have to deal with. Due to cultural, religious, and government sensitivities many members of this minority group travel to Turkey and have to live under very hard conditions while trying to immigrate to another part of the world. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM) has been helping Iranian LGBTI refugees both in Turkey and in the US. They deal with many different issues, from assistance for food, housing, and emergency medical care, to legal representation and resettlement process.

PARSA CF is thrilled to award a $100,000 grant to ORAM to help the Iranian LGBTI in three key areas over the next two years: Legal representation in Turkey, direct and emergency assistance in Turkey, and resettlement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the US. Through this program the Iranian LGBTI asylum seekers in Turkey will receive counseling and legal representation. Individuals with exceptional and urgent needs awaiting adjudication will receive clothing, utilities, food, and medical care. The SF Bay Area pilot resettlement program will provide language and vocational training, housing and carrier assistance, community orientation, and trauma counseling. ORAM publishes reports on the issues this community has to deal with in order to raise awareness and build long term programs.

PARSA CF is pleased to award a $5,000 grant to the Glendale Association for the Retarded (GAR), which helps adults with developmental disabilities in the Glendale area. In 1995 GAR identified the need to help foreign born and non-English speaking individuals with learning vocational, social and independent-living skills required for successful participation and assimilation within their new communities. Currently 16 out of 30 of the GAR's multi-cultural clients are Iranians. This small grant helps GAR with their primary need which is to continue providing a full-time, multi-cultural/ESL instructor to meet the needs of the Persian speaking clients. Offering counseling, teaching services, ESL instruction, money management, cultural awareness, basic living skills and other critical topics will go far to improve the quality of life of our disabled compatriots

Afghan Friends Network (AFN) was awarded a $23,250 grant in this cycle, due to the critical need in Afghanistan to provide education for sustaining families and building a better future. AFN creates programs that promote self-sufficiency and empower Afghan girls, boys and women. The PARSA CF grant enables AFN to expand two Khurasan Learning Centers to host 450 girl students, fund scholarships for underprivileged graduates, and provide training programs for women.

Using the PARSA CF grant, AFN has already revised middle through high school curriculum, bolstered the girls' libraries with 150 English books and 15 Dari-English dictionaries provided by California high school girls, awarded 8 university scholarships to exemplary graduates, and taught literacy and handiwork skills to 80 women, many of them widows with little or no other sources of income. The team at AFN is very excited to announce that all 84 graduating girls passed their college entrance exams, which is a remarkable achievement considering just one year prior to opening the Khurasan Learning Centers, only one girl in the entire district passed the test.

"When the women first come to the literacy class, their psyche has been greatly affected by war and many years of turmoil.  They really struggle at first but 2-3 months into the program the women blossom. They start smiling, they tell jokes and they look happy.  I have been amazed by the transformation of these women in the AFN KLC literacy classes" said Fatema Mushtaq, Director of Khurasan Learning Centers.

Teachers Without Borders (TWB), an organization which advances human welfare through providing professional development for teachers worldwide, has found an interesting angle to combine such education with a much needed humanitarian aspect in the Middle East- Earthquake response training. TWB has developed courses to enable teachers to give science lessons related to earthquakes, develop their skills in scientific inquiry and the scientific method, and at the same time make them familiar with how to respond and react to potential earthquakes.

TWB received a $15,000 grant from PARSA CF in the Mehrgan Cycle for PARSQuake, an earthquake emergency education program for Persian-speaking teachers. The curriculum developed by TWB and used in the past (such as in response to the Sichuan 2008 earthquake in China) is being translated to Persian and customized to the cultures and local geography of the Persian speaking countries of the area, such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. With the help of the grant from PARSA, the work is already underway and PARSQuake team members from the US, Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan will meet in Dushanbe over the summer to co-teach an earthquake training workshop and plan the expansion of the training to their Persian speaking communities.

"The recent tragic events in Japan show that even well-prepared communities can face extreme hardship in the aftermath of earthquakes. By highlighting the benefits of cooperative efforts that span multiple countries now, we hope PARSA CF's support will enable us to lay a foundation that will facilitate timely responses to earthquakes that will inevitably strike Persian-speaking communities in the future" said Solmaz Mohadjer, Director of the Emergency Education Program at TWB. For more information see the 5 minute video about the PARSQuake project.

PARSA CF also recognizes the importance of leveraging technology in creating inexpensive ways to bring education in contemporary science, social sciences, and art to the next generation, specially the youth who have limited access to resources. PARSA CF has awarded a $100,000 grant to Online Persian College (OPC), a newly formed initiative to create an online service which leverages technology solutions such as mobile devices and social networking to provide free courses and educational material to Persian-speaking people in developing countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Subject matters will cover areas that are usually not available to high school and junior college student in these countries, but available to their peers in the west.

The content for the courses will be available in digital format only, readily available to download to computers and mobile devices even via low-bandwidth Internet access. Students will be able to share the content with each other using Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, which are already extremely popular and frequently used even in developing countries. The service acts as a library of content: Both subtitled/dubbed from freely available courses and lectures on the Internet, and originally created lectures in Persian. It will also provide a crowd-sourcing platform to let interested Iranians participate in the translation of the content to Persian Language.

As another initiative to support public science education, PARSA CF has awarded a $10,000 grant to Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), for a workshop which will take place in Isfahan: Two world-class telescope designers will teach 100 students to make 100 telescopes in 10 days. In addition to teaching the students about space observation and the techniques and skills to understand and build telescopes, the workshop will demonstrate the importance of practical science in everyday life, and will provide an example of organizing science workshops for students as a model for future workshops.

Preparations are being made and the workshop will take place towards the beginning of 2012. AWB has many young supporters and fans in Iran. Nojum Monthly (the word Nojum means Astronomy) is a contributor to the project, and Babak Tafreshi, the young yet well-known night sky photographer and winner of the 2009 Lennart Nilsson Award is a board member of AWB. One cannot help but admire his photos, like this long exposure night shot showing a faint trail of Hubble Space Telescope flying over Iran's highest peak, Damavand.


PARSA CF promotes strategic philanthropy and social entrepreneurship within the Persian-speaking communities around the globe. PARSA CF identifies organizations and projects with long term impact and supports them through grants and networking. To date, PARSA CF has awarded a total of $7.3M in grants through its general and donor-advised funds. To learn more about PARSA CF, please visit http://www.parsacf.org/.