Bam Interim Report - 3
April 11, 2004
Dear Fellow Fundraisers and Contributors,
Thanks to our community’s incredible
efforts, I am happy to inform you that ERFO was successful in raising
and sending $620,000 to Iran in response to the Bam earthquake.
We did so within the 90 days time limit imposed by OFAC and the
United States Government.
In this period, Mrs. Massy Farivar
from Boston and Mr. Jamal Farivar ERFO director in Iran traveled
to Bam where we set up tent for more than two months. Jamal, a group
of volunteer social workers, and his family worked round the clock
every day including the holidays and Nowruz to finish the necessary
paper work, open individual bank accounts and deliver saving deposits
to children and their guardians. Please read the field report by
Jamal on this site.
We were able to identify and financially
adopt more than 500 orphans who have lost both parents as a result
of this earthquake. These children had the greatest need for help
and had relatives willing to accept responsibility for becoming
their legal guardians according to ERFO criteria. We asked the guardians
to sign an affidavit to do their best for welfare of children under
their care. They agreed to shelter, feed, clothe, educate and care
for health and well being of the child to the best of their ability
and to the extent of available services in the area. They also agreed
that in case of breach of contract, if necessary, they may be replaced.
Massy is currently back in Bam trying
to sign up more children who have come forward for help, and to
increase financial help for others now that we have all the donated
money in Iran. If we get more funds and get an extended license,
for which we have applied, we will try to shelter even more orphans.
As you know, more than 1200 orphans have lost both parents and are
in dire need of help.
To find out more about the children,
please check the children section on this site. This will be updated
as more information becomes available.
As for an account of our fundraising
efforts, it is going to be difficult to recognize the incredible
hard work of so many volunteers over the past three months. Below
I will try to provide a brief chronology of the people who supported
our activities, the events they staged, and the funds they raised.
Immediately after the December 27th
earthquake, Mrs. Massy Farivar left Boston for Bam to deliver urgent
help, to be “a mother and a sister”, and to assess how best we could
respond. Before the sanctions were lifted on December 30th, Drs.
Azi Kuchekzadeh and Karan Lotfi, Dr. Leela Ghaffari, Mr. Akbar Sherkat,
Dr. Mehran Shahsavari and Mrs. Forough Dadban made funds available
in Iran to help the orphans of Bam if necessary. ERFO wired the
first $90,000 in donations for the earthquake orphans on January
5th to Iran. Mohandes Akbar Sherkat, an old friend and a member
of the ERFO Advisory Board from Vancouver, Canada, contacted his
friends very early on and was instrumental in raising thousands
Mr. Kamran Kohanloo, the Iranian
philanthropist in the Boston area who owns the International Car
Parts, Inc. and is a long time supporter of ERFO, called on members
of the Iranian Society of New England and Iranian Association of
Boston (IAB) to gather in Movlana Restaurant in Watertown, on January
8th. Mr. Ali Zarifian donated all $360 cash that he collected as
gratuity & Mr. Kohanloo donated $20,000. I believe that these two
specific donations, depicting generosity in spirit and heart of
these individuals, raised the bar for everyone present resulting
in more than $70,000 in donations and pledges that night. The Movlana
restaurant owners Mr. Mohsen Tehrani and Mr. Hadi Eghbali provided
a free and delicious buffet dinner and the Tabrizi bakery brought
in delicious Persian sweets for the guests. Movlana restaurant and
the Tabrizi bakery also provided CheloKabob and desert on February
29th for the dinner party that we had arranged to thank the medical
team from Boston area hospitals who had flown to Bam for emergency
Soon after we heard the news about
the earthquake, Mr. Mehrdad Horri and Mr. Homayoun Ehsassi of Cenoba
Technology started working feverishly to update our nominal website
and send emails soliciting. Mr. Kami Razvan CEO of Click & Pledge
from Blacksburg, Virginia donated his company time and services
to make ERFO capable of receiving donations online by January 2nd.
The Soltani brothers Abdi and Amir helped draft and organize letters
to various editors while we campaigned to lift sanctions against
humanitarian help to Bam victims by December 30th. The Iranian Society
New England had a fundraising meeting in the Hellenic Center in
Watertown on January 11th, and we discussed how to best help orphans
in Bam. Mr. Bijan Mehr installed donation boxes in markets frequented
by Iranians in Boston including Super Heros, Tabrizi Bakery and
Moby Dick Restaurant.
The National Iranian American Council
(NIAC) in Washington and the Iranian American Medical Association
(IAMA) put ERFO on their website front page. NIAC started events
to help raise money in Washington, DC in January, and Santa Clara,
California in February. Mr. Trita Parsi of NIAC continues to support
and promote ERFO’s mission.
Dr. Reza Hedayati & Dr. Farhad Talebian
of the Iranian American Society of New York (IAS) invited their
members in the New York and New Jersey area for a fundraising dinner
in the Persian Tea Room in Long Island, New York on February 6th.
Through the efforts of Dr. Reza Hedayati and Mrs. Nahid Hedayati,
Dr. Farhad Talebian, and Mrs. Manijeh Talebian, Dr. Nasser and Mrs.
Parichehr Ghassemi, Mr. Arash and Mrs. Maryam Yaraghi, Mrs. Mesbahzadeh,
and the rest of IAS Board members close to 150 guests donated a
total of $38,000 for the survivors to IAS, all of which was subsequently
given to ERFO.
Dr. Reza Naghavi with his wife Dr.
Setareh Khan, and Dr. Azita Naghavi with her husband Dr. Sabeeh
Khan, were among the guests at the Persian Tea Room. They donated
$6,000 that night and, on March 14th, the Naghavis as friends of
ERFO in New York had their own fundraising gala in Old Westbury,
Dr. Bahram Ghassemi and Mrs. Soheila
Shafai of the IAB Board attended the first fundraising at the Movlana
Restaurant. They volunteered to raise funds by approaching IAB members
for orphans’ benefit. Subsequently, on February 21st in a private
concert/auction/dinner arranged by IAB in the Henderson Mansion
in Weston, Massachusetts, with Mr. Hooshmand Aghili as Singer/MC,
IAB raised $28,000.
Mr. Babak Bina and Mrs. Azita Bina
the owners of Lala Rokh Restaurant (Persian cuisine) in Back Bay,
Boston offered free special desert of rice pudding topped with quince
jam called “the Bam desert” for a month. Customers were asked to
pay any amount they want for the benefit of Bam victims. Additionally
on February 24th they invited select American patrons to enjoy a
night of Persian classical music and a buffet of truly delicious
Iranian foods and drinks. The Binas of Lala Rokh raised total of
$14,553.97 from dessert sales and the dinner party. We have since
received another $4,500 from patrons of Lala Rokh.
In San Francisco, Mrs. Kimia Zabetian
Zucker felt an urge to help orphans of Bam in thanksgiving for her
own healthy and beautiful children. She started researching different
organizations that were mushrooming all over by then and soliciting
help for the Bam victims. When researching, this diligent and astute
lady in charge of research for Barclays Global Investment, Kimia,
chose ERFO. She called and we discussed her plans to raise money
on ERFO’s behalf in San Francisco and Northern California. She immediately
formed a team of devoted young professionals calling themselves
friends of ERFO in San Francisco. Within a month they had put together
a benefit concert for the children of Bam sponsored by Barclays
Global Investors, Morgan Stanley and Chevron Texaco. Tickets for
this event were sold by TicketWeb online, a logo was born for ERFO
and a professional poster was made to advertise the concert. More
than 800 Iranians and Americans attended the concert to help orphans,
enjoy an evening filled with dance, music, performances by a number
of famous Iranian and American singers, and bid on a number of gift
items donated by individuals for auction. San Francisco brought
in more than $60,000 and donations continue to flow in. Everyone
involved especially Kimia and Abdi Soltani deserve a special hurrah
for putting together this first class event.
Mrs. Farivar and I along with Mr.
Farid Farjad and his wife Mrs. Mitra Tavakkoli flew from San Francisco
to New York the next day to attend the Old Westbury fundraising.
The Naghavi family including Drs.
Reza, Setare, Azita, Orchideh, Arezu and Dr. Sabbeh Khan, Azita’s
husband had organized a formal fund raising Ball at the beautiful
de Seversky Mansion on March 14th in Old Westbury, NY.
That night at the de Seversky Center
Professor Ehsan Yarshater of Colombia University gave a moving speech
supporting ERFO activities. Mr. Farid Farjad mesmerized guests with
his violin, playing old Persian melodies. Ostad Mahmood Farshchian
donated some of limited edition calligraphies of his painting and
books, and Mr. Shahram Nazeri showed up to announce his support
of ERFO. I felt lucky to be under the same roof that night with
some of the best minds and talents Iran has produced. Invited guests
included mostly the American and Pakistani friends of Naghavi clan.
Similar to IAB party, guests paid $250 per person to attend and
were aggressive on bidding on auction items to help ERFO. The Naghavis
(Khans included) through their friends in Pakistani society were
instrumental in obtaining more than $38,000, money collected by
the American Pakistani Society of North America for the Bam children.
In total, the Naghavi-Khan family was responsible for close to $100,000
in funds raised by ERFO.
On Sunday March 15th another speech
and fundraising activity was arranged in Noor-Va-Danesh Cultural
Institute by the chair of trustees and my good friend Dr. Reza Hedayati.
Children performances celebrating coming of Nowruz was wonderful.
It was at Noor-va-Danesh in Rutherford, New Jersey that we met Dr.
Cyrus and Dr. Mahshid Assadi. The Assadis liked what they heard
from Massy and I, and pledged to help ERFO raise money for orphans
of Bam. Dr. Cyrus Assadi has raised more than $40,000 subsequently
and has high aspirations for ERFO’s future.
Another family that deserves special
recognition is the Yaraghis (Arash, Maryam and Ahmad) the owners
of several beautiful and famous Safavieh Carpets showroom and stores
in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Mr. Arash Yaraghi a long
time supporter of ERFO donated several rugs and other decorative
items to be auctioned in fundraising by IAB, IAS and Old Westbury
fundraisers. In addition, Arash Yaraghi in his position as the treasurer
of the Oriental Rug Importers Association was instrumental in collecting
close to $50,000 from the Iranian Rug dealers across the U.S. for
Mrs. Elizabeth Bergl Alizadeh, ERFO’s
volunteer C.P.A for the last 14 years not only secured $5000 from
XL Foundation in Bermuda but $7500 donated by Sasan and Jody Anzolota
Alizadeh was matched 3 to one by the Soros Charity Funds effectively
bringing Jody’s donation to $30,000 and the Alizadehs to 35,000.
Perhaps the most intriguing fundraiser
was that of the 7 year old Nikan Vafa, and his brothers Farzan and
Kian. Nikan communicated his pain and sympathy to his classmates
and teachers and singly moved and mobilized the entire Park School
community in Brookline, Massachusetts to help the Bam orphans. They
invited Mrs. Farivar to talk about the orphans in Bam on February
25th. Donating their daily allowances (together with some borrowing
in advance from their parents), a grand total of $1,147 was donated
by students of the Park School.
Special thanks to Mehrdad Horri and
Homayoun Ehsassi of Cenoba Technology for spending their much needed
family and resting time working on this project with my changing
mind, rearranging and updating the website time and again, making
effective PowerPoint presentations related to Bam earthquake and
Massy’s trip there, and donating the bulk of their much deserved
Thanks to the Khachatoorians of Super
Heros and Mrs. Ojik Gregorian, manager of the central office of
the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), the ARS donated $5,000 to ERFO.
Under directorship of Afaridokht
Keshvari of the Kuwait English School, the students in Kuwait donated
$5184.43 under the name of project EMAD (Education Makes A Difference).
Our friends Shahla & Nader Ardalan have brought ERFO to Afi’s attention.
The Iranian students of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA; the Wellesley College
in Wellesley, MA; and the Northeastern University in Boston, MA
contributed what they had collected to ERFO.
Dr. Leela Ghaffari of New York City
not only approached her own, and her husband Mr. Shayegan Kheradpir’s
circle of friends to help, she also represented ERFO in several
meetings. She continues to send out receipt and thank you notes
for donations greater than $200.
It seems that Dr. Mehran Shahsavari
took this job very seriously. From the checks that I have received
from him it appears that he was calling all over the globe asking
for donation. Mehran and his brother Mehrdad have been long time
supporters of ERFO.
Mrs. Eghbal Alavi-Soltani, the mother
of Abdi and Amir two of my favorite young Iranians was busy in her
own right securing donations from colleagues and friends.
Thanks to Miss. Kamand Michelle Kohanloo
and Reza Peter Kohanloo and Ms. Gail Valente for their help in compiling
the donor lists and sending out mass emails.
Raising more than $600,000 in less
than three months requires lots of effort and commitment from numerous
devoted individuals, some more than others, all very important.
I am sure that I have not mentioned several of you who deserve special
recognition here. However, you know who you are and I beg of you
to forgive my memory’s shortcoming.
Finally, to all of you whom we met
and came in contact with during our fundraising travels around the
country, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts and
say we enjoyed meeting all of you. We can only pay you back for
your generosity by safe keeping your donations, making sure it goes
to where and whom you intended it to go to, and as soon as possible.
You should all be very happy and proud that your donation will make
a world of difference in the lives of many needy children.
donor list has been further updated and the children’s
names and bank account information are also posted on ERFO web
At the end, on behalf of the Iranian
community in the United States, we wish to extend our thanks to
our many friends in the United States - in schools and neighborhoods,
companies and offices, as well as in the media and government, for
caring about and helping support the people of Iran through this
difficult time. Together we have made and will continue to make
a difference in the lives of the children of Bam.
Mohammad Farivar, MD
Earthquake Relief Fund for Orphans