Letter from the ChairpersonDear friends,
I hope you have had a bountiful Norooz. In this newsletter, I am thrilled to announce PARSA Community Foundation’s new Executive Director and to feature the impressive philanthropic work of San Diego, California.
It is my pleasure to introduce Abdi Soltani who joined PARSA CF as Executive Director in March. Abdi comes most recently from the Campaign for College Opportunity where he served as Executive Director for four years. Prior to CCO, Abdi served as ED for Californians for Justice where he was instrumental in defeating a ballot measure that would have restricted civil rights and equal opportunity. Abdi, who is a graduate of Stanford University, has been active in the social sector from an early age and has received numerous awards including the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship. Born in Los Angeles when his parents were on a fellowship, Abdi lived in Iran as a child and moved permanently to the United States when he was 9 years old. We are delighted to have Abdi apply his passion for social progress and 14 years of hands-on experience in grassroots organizing to Persian philanthropy and non-profits. Abdi joins PARSA CF’s dedicated staff members who include Radha Blackman, Director of Development and Outreach, Mariam Hosseini, Manager of Grants and Donor Services, and Laili Javid, Director of Events.
At this time I also want to acknowledge the heroic, sacrificing, and honest work of Anouk Lim who was instrumental in the conception of Meadowood Social Venture Fund in April of 2005 and its eventual evolution to PARSA Community Foundation. Anouk served as PARSA CF’s Executive Director during 2007, often working seventy-hour weeks and wearing many hats to get this formidable venture off the ground. Her unrelenting work ethic, pure heart and reassuring smile attracted and motivated Perisan and non-Persian staff members and volunteers. All of us at PARSA CF, and indeed, all Persians, owe a debt of gratitude to Anouk Lim who was affectionately called “honorary Iranian,” “Anoukeh,” and “Anouk jaan.”
San Diego is another boon to the Persian community.
In all my travels and research into Iranian diaspora civil society, I have seen tremendous camaraderie, respect and communication. The Iranian American community in San Diego exemplifies these qualities admirably.
One of the most striking elements of this cohesive community is that people of all faiths work together to keep our culture alive. Whether Jewish, Baha’i, Muslim, practicing another faith or no faith at all, Iranians in San Diego have worked together in a range of constructive projects based on their shared love for Persian culture. As quoted in an article about the Persian Cultural Center in the San Diego Union Tribune, “diversity is the key to everything that we do.”
Their work embraces the whole community across languages and generations. At a conference organized annually by Faezeh and Hassan Firoozi and their colleagues, the workshops are offered in two tracks, one in English and one in Persian, ensuring maximum participation of first generation youth and elderly immigrants. A pleasant ambiance is created by marking the breaks between sessions with music and dancing, welcoming all to partake. The Mehrgan Cultural Foundation conferences are not just about imparting information, they are about group learning and bonding.
The level of cooperation is striking in that it occurs not just inside organizations but between them as well. People representing various nonprofits volunteer at each other's events providing hands-on support on vital causes. Perhaps this can be credited to the fact that local organizations have carved out clear niches, each complementing the role and work of the others.
The philanthropic landscape reflects a diverse funding pool rather than depending on a few donors. The Persian Cultural Center of San Diego, or Kanoon, relies on tuition from classes, membership fees, individual donations and institutional support such as a recent grant from PARSA Community Foundation.
Among the many ideas of what the Persian community in San Diego may pursue next is a retirement community to help break the isolation that so many of Persian elders face in our adopted country.
In our for-profit endeavors, we emphasize competition. In building civil society, we must emphasize cooperation. Our survival depends on it.