STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — As the Middle Eastern nation that fared the worst during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran has been facing quite the catastrophe in recent years, with real GDP per capita in 2020-2021 deflating to its 2004-2005 levels. Compared to other developing countries, Iran receives very little foreign aid from large donors like the U.S. government and therefore needs further attention to improve its prospects. Moms Against Poverty (MAP), thankfully, has been a huge player in the fight against Iran’s impoverishment, providing the basic necessities for malnourished Iranian children alongside crucial life skills that set the foundation for a prosperous future. This aid is consistent, even during the pandemic, and the organization gathers donors and students alike to help them implement their assistance. Outside of its main operation in Iran, one can see Moms Against Poverty’s impact in 15 other countries and its initiatives range from hunger relief to comprehensive education.
Moms Against Poverty chooses which countries to invest in by considering both the magnitude of need and the magnitude of aid already coming into a certain area. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Sam Alavi of MAP claimed that “we [at Moms Against Poverty]identify countries to invest by need, but we also do our best to focus on countries that have been ignored or forgotten by other international aid organizations and governments.” The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has granted only a few U.S. groups permits for Iranian aid, with MAP being among them. This nation’s international neglect is a significant part of the reason why the organization focuses on it, alongside the founder’s personal connections to the region. When MAP’s CEO, Delfarib Fanaie, was adopting her daughter in Iran, one of her child’s fellow orphan-mates became sad by the fact that her acquaintance was receiving acknowledgment but she was not. Such concerns made an impression on Ms. Fanaie and she pledged to amplify the voices of the world’s poor children, catalyzing the NGO.
A prime example of this dedication to Iran is the opening of an orphanage in Kerman that aimed to cater to teenage girls, to provide them with support and technical training, readying these young women for the careers before them. Ms. Alavi explained some of the rationales behind this project, stating that “older girls typically age out of traditional orphanages and are left to fend for themselves, leaving them vulnerable to child marriage and extreme poverty.” Delaying these ladies’ independence is not only beneficial in the sense that it can prevent critical socio-economic concerns, but it also leaves room for technical training. The Kerman orphanage is equipped with computer labs, cooking stations, and sewing machines, opening up a variety of career paths to these girls and underlining Moms Against Poverty’s impact.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Given the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequent lockdowns, the folks at MAP felt it important to take action. In Senegal, Nepal and Ghana they “doubled down” on their hunger relief measures and in Sierra Leone they constructed “hand-washing stations at 10 schools and provided child-sized cloth face masks to 400 children,” Ms. Alavi highlighted. Back in Iran, the organization stepped in by delivering ill-equipped hospitals “ventilators, oxygen tanks, and pulse oximeters” and by “providing 3,000,000 N95 masks and 18,000 liters of sanitizers,” Sam continued. MAP has a long track record of disaster relief and thus its associates were able to quickly create a plan of action. Findings soon determined that donating medical equipment to needy facilities and quenching hunger was the optimal way to enhance Moms Against Poverty’s impact.
There have also been several domestic projects as of late, such as a STEM program in California that introduces young girls to coding and robotics, highlights key women in STEM, and increases female enthusiasm toward the field. This local philanthropy is certainly not the bulk of the NGO’s work, however, after all the group spent more than 15 times more abroad in 2017, but such endeavors discount the age-old concern that assistive bodies, whether they are private or public, focus on the dilemmas overseas and ignore the concerns at home.
Addressing the plight of those near and far are not mutually exclusive concepts, and MAP shows this. The organization received the 2022 Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for “Outstanding Public Service Benefiting a Local Community,” reinforcing the fact that the entire global has experienced Moms Against Poverty’s impact. “Winning the national award and being recognized as a top organization doing important work in the US and globally to support children, was truly special,” Sam Alavi reflected.
As an annual tradition, MAP holds a fundraising gala to gain funds for various projects and to garner support for its mission and initiatives. Composed of a dinner, dance and auction, donors not only have a good time but also put their money behind an influential cause they truly believe in. One donor at the 2015 gala, Doosa Sobouti, proclaimed “What better way to celebrate life than to give to people who really need it?” Building these connections with donors and fostering public backing is critical to the NGO. When asked what MAP could do to improve, Ms. Alavi said that “it’s a shame more people don’t know about our work.” The group, therefore, has a commitment to hosting events like the gala and has also recently hired a marketing and social media coordinator to help spread awareness of their endeavors.
MAP Student Squad is a group of young men and women who help implement relief efforts and is a recent addition to the organization’s operations. “We believe that in every way, today’s youth are the key to the future,” Sam Alavi added, and the expected tasks of these high school and college students are multifaceted, preparing the young minds for a potential future in humanitarian aid. These volunteers must get one of their school’s organizations involved in fundraising for MAP, prepare/guide an annual fundraising event, attend biweekly meetings with directors and dedicate two to three hours a week to their role along with other things of the sort.
As seen by some of MAP’s initiatives in Iran, the organization has its eyes on long-term relief moving forward, with hopes of implementing aid that not only addresses current needs but also factors in sustainability and how these improvements to the quality of life can be long-lasting. “These [long-term projects] include building schools where children otherwise wouldn’t have access to schools, investing in vocational programs that allow adults to seek living wage jobs, and coupling our hunger relief programs with education about heart health, nutrition, and hypertension,” Ms. Alavi states. Proper education, technical training and nutritional awareness allow a country to have an educated, skilled and healthy population for years to come. From Iran to Sierra Leone, Moms Against Poverty’s impact has transformed the lives of the world’s poor children by providing necessities and resources that will better them both today and tomorrow. Moms Against Poverty generously offers the aid regardless of which global catastrophes may occur, and MAP is building a coalition of donors and students to help them bring this mission to fruition.
– Jacob Lawhern