Dozens of community members—many of them Iranian-American—gathered at The Laundry, a swanky Mission event space on 26th Street, on Saturday night to raise money and awareness for Moms Against Poverty, a non-profit founded in 2008 by an Iranian-American determined to do something about poverty.
Although most of the organization has given heavily to projects in Iran and other countries, it also wants to increase its domestic presence.
“It’s so important that we impact our home in the U.S.,” said 60-year-old Delfarib Fanaie, who sits on the Moms Against Poverty board, as she mingled in the crowd filled with Persian, Spanish and English speakers.
Moms Against Poverty, known by its acronym, MAP, works in about 10 countries, including Iran, Cambodia, Senegal, and the United States, but Saturday night’s affair was an effort to broaden its base beyond the Iranian-American community, Fanaie said.
“There is a lot of negative feeling about Iran,” she explained, “and I don’t want to make this political, because we are not a political organization.”
“Race, color, nationality—doesn’t matter to us,” she said.
Saturday’s event succeeded in drawing a fair number of people who were learning about MAP for the first time.
Bianca Nicolosi, who works at a health tech startup, discovered the event on Facebook. She decided to attend thanks to the free wine and art and the fact that “it seemed like it was hosted by a group that was for a good cause.”
The Bay Area-based health and wellness company for which Nicolosi works is focused on the United States. MAP “seemed to have a little bit more of a global view that I don’t necessarily get,” she said.
Hayward resident Zoe Tran, who went to Boston University with Nicolosi, said she enjoyed the evening.
“There’s food and art and a nice, cozy environment,” she said.
Their friend Rocio Chavez, who grew up in the Bay Area and attended San Francisco State University, was interested in the fundraising aspect of the event. “I do fund-raising for my gym,” she said, adding that it is a non-profit based in Oakland and free for low-income kids.
U.S. Navy veteran and first-year UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Darryl Diptee and his wife, Summer Naranjo, have supported MAP since attending its fundraiser last October.
“I’m actually thinking of doing some volunteer work in Cambodia this summer with my daughter if I can convince her to go to Cambodia with me,” said Diptee. “She’s an artist.”
“We’re very humanitarian and socially-aware people, so this is right up our alley,” he said. After decades in the military, he added, he’s “trying to balance out my life a little bit.”
Even though five mothers founded MAP, the organization now counts fathers, adults with no children and non-Iranians among its supporters.
Locally, the organization has contributed philanthropically to hygiene, nutrition and toy donations. For example, it has raised money to buy freezers and food for Bay Area residents in need. In 2017, it gave more than $35,000 to domestic projects.
MAP contributed about $555,000 abroad that same year.
Most recently, MAP funded a campaign to replace 257 heaters inside pre-school centers located in the desolate and sparsely populated Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran.
“Baluchestan is absolutely impoverished,” said Fanaie, who left Iran in her late teens and settled in the United States about two years later. “No Iranian really goes there. There’s a lot of sandstorms, drugs.”
Three children died inside one of these centers when they were burned by antiquated heaters powered by oil, she said.
Fanaie said the funds for the electric heaters came largely from Bay Area-based Iranian-American donors.
When asked about her plans for MAP’s future, she said her goal was to eradicate global hunger among children.
“Is it possible? No!” She laughed. But, she added, “[our goal is] to impact the world as much as can possibly be done by an organization, by doing it right….”
Fanaie said the night achieved its fundraising goals. Attendees bought five or six pieces of art that were on display, and the wine tasting also contributed to the evening’s success for MAP, she said.