By Sara Samavati
March 23, 2021
“Eid gifts preparation for Baluch children. If you trust me, share this post.”
This was the caption of a recent Instagram post by Dr. Honey Mahmoudi, a psychologist seeking donations from her 28,000 followers for the people of Sistan and Baluchistan.
Last year, the cities and villages of this province were devastated by floods. Countless residents are still trying to rebuild their lives after the deluge. Dr. Mahmoudi does not live in Iran, but the disaster altered the course of her life: she has mobilized friends and fans all over the world to help support these vulnerable families, and most especially the children.
Dr. Honey Mahmoudi is a psychologist and life coach based in the US. Like many Iranians in the diaspora, she remains deeply concerned about the problems of her compatriots and fellow citizens. After Sistan and Baluchistan was hit by floods in early 2020, she and others scrambled to provide urgent assistance to the people of the region.
“This province has always been marginalized,” she said in an address her Instagram account, “and has lacked facilities in every period and situation, especially in the villages, where there are genuinely no basic provisions such as safe drinking water and facilities for children to go to primary school. After the recent floods caused serious damage in fifty-five villages, this situation worsened. Therefore, more than ever, there is a need for the support of our compatriots to help the people of these areas.”
Back in 2016, long before the disaster, Dr Mahmoudi had already decided to build a school for deprived children in rural Sistan and Baluchestan. Together with friends and family, she raised the funds for a six-grade facility in the village of Sarmich, which opened its doors to a first cohort of pupils in September 2017.
Sarmich is located in Lashar County where, like much of the rest of the province, a shortage of adequate school facilities blights children’s abilities to attain a good start in life. In some villages there are no schools at all, or children are taught in huts with no heating or ventilation systems. In May 2019, Mohammad Basit Darazehi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Education and Research Committee, warned that more than 100,000 children had dropped out of school prematurely in Sistan and Baluchistan.
With the school project completed, after the flood Dr. Mahmoudi turned her attention to other ways of supporting children in the province, and alighted on the idea of Eid gifts. A man who works on the project on the ground in Tehran, who asked not to be named, told IranWire: “I wish we could do something for all the children in deprived areas. But for now, with the resources we have, we’ve decided to try to make our schoolchildren happy.”
For the time being, the outreach program is focusing its efforts on Eid gifts for the children of Sistan and Baluchistan. Around 150 girls and boys have benefitted from its efforts so far, receiving fancy stationery, bags and toys. “Having a nice notebook or pencil was like a dream come true for some of these kids,” the volunteer says. “Because Dr. Mahmoudi is a psychologist, she has good knowledge of the spirits of these needy children, and she always emphasizes that 150 similar items should be provided so that they do not feel that some gifts have been better than others. All our efforts are to make the children happy.”
Dr. Mahmoudi also offers online group psychology training courses, called the “Virtual Championship Journey”, the proceeds of which are in turn spent on her projects benefitting the children of Sistan and Baluchistan.
Mona, one of the course’s former participants, tells IranWire: “The purpose of holding this course during the coronavirus outbreak was to satisfy the basic human need to travel. On this journey, we get closer to self-awareness and to achieving our goals.
“Most of those enrolled on the course participate in charity work in Sistan and Baluchestan as much as they can. After taking part myself, I realized how much understanding others and making them happy, especially children, can affect our own peace of mind. Many people have a useless physical presence and not only do they not cure their own pain, but they themselves sometimes become a problem. Others, through their virtual presence, become angels of peace, salvation and happiness for others.”