• 23 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 1 Comments
  • Culture

Reza

A year ago, Reza Pakravan went on a three-week trip to Madagascar as part of a volunteer campaign with the charity group Afazady. What he experienced during his trip would change him forever.

“Living in a tent, eating rice and beans for every meal, using a bucket shower and working a demanding construction job with primitive tools would have been enough to put most people off from repeating the experience.” But for Pakravan, this experience was a calling to give back.

Realizing the difficulty of everyday life for people on the island, Pakravan decided to raise money to build two new schools in Madagascar. And so, along with friend Marco Gustapane, he launched “the Jellybabies on a bike campaign”—a 10-day 1,000 km cycling expedition across the Himalayas. The name originated when he offered children in Agnena village “Jellybabies” pastilles and was consequently referred to as “Jellybabies” by the entire village.

The schools that Pakravan visited in his time in Madagascar were typically overcrowded, and children were forced to walk at least 12 miles through crocodile-infested rivers to get there. Frequent floods often make these rivers impassable.

The 35-year-old credit risk analyst managed to raise a considerable amount of money online for the school, but not enough to build the two schools he had promised. So in April Pakravan and his friend Marco Gustapane embarked on their cycling expedition to raise the remainder.

Gustapane’s flight from England was stalled due to volcanic ash from Iceland, forcing Pakravan to cycle the first week alone. In this portion of his trip, a Maoist protest brought the entire country of Nepal to a standstill.

However, these protests actually worked in Pakravan’s favor by emptying Nepal’s normally busy roads.

Four days in, his food and water supply had greatly diminished. Pale, hungry, and with his ration packs all but finished, Pakravan found himself in a remote part of Nepal. Eventually he came across a few peasants eating on the side of the road. “As soon as they saw my state they invited me to eat with them and offered me water,” Pakravand said. “I was saved by such lovely people.”

With that, his urge to quit vanished. Motivated to soldier on, the duo finished the trip and raised an addition $12,000.

In a country with desperate need for clean water, roads, electricity and health care, Pakravan’s efforts have provided a glimmer of hope for many in an often forgotten part of the world. Enough money has now been raised to finish one school and start on the second.  When asked if Pakravan was planning on raising more money to help fight desperate conditions in Madagascar, he replied, “currently I am planning a mega-expedition with aiming of raising $450,000.”

Pakravan and the Afazady foundation are currently just over $10,000 short having enough to finish the second school. “Iranians have been so generous in helping me achieving my goal,” he says. He hopes that Iranians everywhere will continue to show their humanitarian spirit by aiding in such projects.

Posted By Shawn Amoei

    One Response to “Iranian Adventurer on a Quest to Help Malagasy Children”

  1. Pirouz says:

    One of my Iranian-French cousins lives and works in Rwanda.

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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