Iran Program Update
Child Foundation has exciting news for our supporters and sponsors of Iranian schoolchildren. Our team is sending our new OFAC application this week to the US Department of the Treasury and we are optimistic about its outcome.
In the meantime, the food package program is well on its way now. Several meetings a week are getting us closer to delivery. Many of our donors know that navigating the Iranian economy is challenging and, all the more so for an American organization abiding by US sanction regulations amidst the coronavirus outbreak. We continue to make progress and though the coronavirus presents a new hurdle, we are still optimistic that come late spring or early summer, children will be receiving much-needed relief with food packages. Thankfully, our organization has hands-on experience fine-tuning food import for our children in the past and we are putting that knowledge to work. This new system will be resilient, efficient, and impactful.
We are committed to a program that:
Reaches every student. It should not matter if a student lives in the center of Tehran or a small village in Sistan and Baluchestan province. Every child should have the same quality of and access to their food packages. Our program will be thorough and fair. For example, Haajar in Urmieh will receive her sponsor’s monthly contribution in the same way that Reza in Zabol will receive his.
Benefits students and their families. The Iranian government permits the import of four types of food:
• Meat (frozen)
• Legumes (beans and lentils)
Our food program never before included meat, but it is a priority now due to the crippling food price increases that are brutalizing family budgets and likely affecting nutrition. We will provide more details soon about each food category.
Operates efficiently. Instead of a Child Foundation program run from start to finish as we had before, we will utilize specialists and already established infrastructure to reduce costs and overhead. The old saying goes, “don’t recreate the wheel,” and our teams in the US and Iran are carefully controlling future overhead by keeping this in mind.
Withstands unexpected turbulence. We want to leave as little up to chance as possible. The economic and political environments often shift but our previous experience from the pre-2014 food package program is helping us build a more resilient and reliable system. From purchasing to customs and distribution, our program will be carefully designed so sponsors and children can count on each delivery.
Abides by regulations in both countries. The program must be coordinated between the Child Foundation office in the US and our sister organization in Iran. That means we are navigating complex networks and must consistently check in with lawyers and expert colleagues while the Iran office does the same. Our program will be viable from both the American government and Iranian government perspectives.
These are our commitments and we will not settle for anything less for our children because we know you will not either. Our donors have demonstrated ownership of the program and their obligations as sponsors. You have continued to sponsor children, share our mission, volunteer, and raise concerns to our staff and board about how the new program will serve the children. Thank you so much for your support and insights.
This is a worthwhile undertaking and we are so glad our children enjoy our donor community’s support and the expertise of our sister organization in Iran. Hundreds of children are waiting to be sponsored today. Sponsor a child now to begin a meaningful relationship and ensure their food package is on its way as soon as the system is in place.
Donations will be used to purchase food, coordinate import into Iran, and disburse the food either directly to families or nearby grocery stores where it can be collected.
Sponsorship dollars donated now will be held for the intended child until all components of the program are securely in place. We are conservatively estimating to begin delivery in late spring, early summer. The funds will then be released and used to purchase, import, and disburse food in packages. This may mean an actual delivery but we hope to use a debit card system that allows families to collect the food at their convenience.
Our sister organization in Iran is helping secure partial sponsors from inside Iran to provide each student with a small monetary supplement to the food packages. We applaud the progress of their sponsorship drive so far. Our sister organization office will report in the next week the percentage of our students that now have Iran-based co-sponsors.
Food insecurity affects families all over the world. We know that even some American children go to school hungry which hampers their ability to learn.
We are excited that food is not sanctioned by the US government because grocery costs represent a significant burden for the average Iranian household. Our donors likely already know that food prices in Iran have gone up dramatically over the last three years. The children who qualify for sponsorship are from especially vulnerable families where inflation and unemployment have wrecked even more havoc on day-to-day life. We can help put food in front of our sponsored children and so we will.
Between the efforts of our sister organization in Iran and our office in the US, we have dedicated problem solvers who care deeply about each and every child. Together with our donor community, we stand by our thousands of Iranian students. Donors can trust that positive impact is at the core of our mission and motivation.
We have hundreds of children today who want to learn and qualify for sponsorship. Establishing your sponsorship right away allows you to get to know your sponsored child. Additionally, our office can set up your sponsorship in preparation for the first possible food package disbursement as soon as everything is ready.
While the previous stipend system is preferable, food packages are still beneficial to children trying to learn. Keep in mind that the economic conditions in Iran have worsened. Food prices have risen alarmingly, and the problematic economy has also resulted in some food and employment shortages.
Further, hungry children struggle to thrive in school. If you cancel your sponsorship, we will need to find a new sponsor to fund your child’s food packages.
The Iranian government allows the import of the following four types of food:
Legumes (beans and lentils)
Child Foundation and our sister organization in Iran want the distribution system to be highly transparent for everyone. In our previous program, we purchased food and our sister organization got it through customs, provided storage, contracted a packaging company when needed, engaged in a complicated distribution arrangement which included hiring trucks, and finally established local distribution centers to disburse allotted amounts to children. The price was the same for everyone. However, this system was expensive and not as reliable and resilient as what we are building now. Our lessons learned equip us to better design a smarter and more agile system.
At this time, many of the food package distribution system’s details are not certain and how the program is designed affects what we would report to donors. The current plan is to identify and approach the major foreign companies that already supply food to major chain grocery stores in Iran. We are exploring how they can deliver food on our behalf to these stores which can be collected by our children’s guardians. We hope to issue debit cards loaded with the allotted allowance and printed with instructions regarding the four types of food which can be acquired from the predesignated grocery stores.
Child Foundation’s strength is our donor’s dedication to the children of Iran. We fully expect donors to ask hard-to-answer questions and welcome each and every inquiry. Please be patient as we are also working out the answers in collaboration with our sister organization and amidst regulations and restrictions in both the US and Iran.
For many years, Child Foundation transferred your sponsorship funds to students as stipends. This money helped families manage various needs like rent, medical costs, and food, among other things. However, the specific license to continue was denied in late 2019. We formally requested an explanation of the decision but have not received a response yet.
Instead of shutting the program down, we are adapting to provide food as it will be beneficial and food is not sanctioned by the US government. Until we secure new permissions from OFAC, we will send food packages to our children. A new application is our top priority and already underway. We are confident that, given time and resources, we can clarify the significance of our mission and programs.
Child Foundation first applied and was awarded permission to disburse stipends in 2014. The US government’s sanctions on Iran do not permit sending funds without a license from Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC – controls the financial transactions related to sanctions). We have never before been denied an OFAC license before late November 2019.
Before 2019, each renewal application for the license awarded in 2014 was renewed with no delays or problems. The process in 2019 stretched an unprecedented number of months and OFAC did not provide an explanation that we can mitigate, a workable timeline, or guidance even after we submitted formal requests. There have been no significant changes to Child Foundation’s operations or delivery, nor are we aware of any changes in the requirements for issuing or renewing such a license, or any other administrative grounds for license delay or refusal. All documentation was submitted on time, well in advance of the former license’s expiration.
Regardless of this situation, we can use the OFAC General License E which allows us to send up to $500,000 to Iran for humanitarian aid and disaster relief every 12 months. We used this license to send funds after the Kermenshah earthquake in 2018 and the floods in the spring of 2019. Our current Sistan and Baluchestan fundraiser is possible because of this license and we intend to send the funds in the summer to help communities rebuild. https://www.childfoundation.org/page/flood
In a broader sense, we hope that better communication will beget increased OFAC transparency about their decision-making process. Given our experience, we are in an excellent position to champion more navigable and reasonable policies and procedures for sanction exemptions in the future. We hope many organizations doing excellent work may benefit from our insights, support, and advocacy for children living in sanctioned countries.
Child Foundation’s top priority is to reinstate the stipend system for our Iran program as soon as possible. The food package program is a stopgap measure to protect our vulnerable children the best we can. We are developing a new OFAC application as our legal team believes it is only a matter of time before we have permission again. This application is not a renewal of our old application and is an excellent opportunity for us to present an clearer snapshot of our programs.
Given OFAC’s recent delays, we expect the review of our new application to take several months. The food package program will likely be our primary means of supporting Iranian children for about one year. We are prepared for the process to take longer and are ensuring the food package system is sustainable over time.
We are grateful that the sponsored Iranian children have been receiving support from our sister organization in Iran. Although it is a smaller stipend, children have not been dropped from the program due to the changes.
Our sister organization in Iran is doing a great job finding sponsors living in Iran so that children receive our food packages and a small supplemental stipend for other needs. The hope is that each student will soon have both types of support and significant progress has been made so far on that goal.
Our legal team advised Child Foundation to hold donations to sponsored children during that time until we have clear guidance from OFAC. We are requesting an expedited response and are optimistic that we will be able to use your donations to send food packages to your sponsored children. From Child Foundation’s perspective, that money belongs to the children it was intended for and should not be used for other efforts or children without donors’ express permission. Please be patient during this time. We will notify donors once we have more information.
No, the other countries we work in are not sanctioned like Iran. Your sponsorship dollars for children in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal, and Cambodia will be disbursed as they were before.
This is our favorite question. Child Foundation is prioritizing two projects: Finalizing the food package system and re-securing permissions to reinstate the previous stipend system. We have good reason to believe a new OFAC application will be favorably processed and are working hard on putting that together now.
To support our new application, we are developing a voluntary self-disclosure file which will provide OFAC a detailed account of our financial transactions, programs, projects, and processes for the past several years. This voluntary file will ensure OFAC has full and holistic visibility into every aspect of our humanitarian activities. Further, our legal team is waiting patiently for OFAC’s explanation and guidance as we have submitted the appropriate requests for more information.
This is a resource- and time-intensive process. Your support for Child Foundation and your children is extremely important.
This is the worst climate for humanitarian aid to Iran we have ever seen but our legal team is optimistic. We have no reason to believe our new application would be rejected. Based on information we received from our contacts in Washington, D.C., we know the OFAC office is understaffed at this time and, thus, taking longer and longer to assess requests and applications. It is a matter of time before we receive useful guidance and have a favorable decision in hand.
Communicate with your sponsored child: What a source of encouragement you can be to a student worrying about their future and struggling to remain motivated in school. Please send messages to us for them. You can express your faithful support and learn about them.
Support Child Foundation’s efforts: A generous gift above and beyond your regular sponsorship would also go a long way in supporting the children we all care for. The resources we need to secure, once again, permissions from OFAC will come from our General Fund. It is a resource-intensive process. We’ve worked for 25 years on behalf of Iranian children and feel privileged to be trusted by our thousands of sponsors and donors.
Volunteer: We need volunteers to step up during this complicated time: Translation, data management, graphics design, videography, communications, outreach, event planning for awareness, and fundraising event support.
Share ideas and insights: Our donors have shown real ownership of the program and their obligations as sponsors. They have offered expertise and raised concerns to our staff and board and continue to advocate on our behalf with their Congressional representatives and senators. Thank you so much for your support and insights. Please continue to share your thoughts and activites.
Sponsor a child: There are scores of children ready to be sponsored for the coming food packages. Our sister in Iran is making great progress in securing supplemental sponsorship support from Iran-based sponsors but that stipend amount will not be enough on its own. Our children want to stay in school and we hope you can help us keep them there.
You can contact our team at [email protected].
Yes, we still have access to the General License E from OFAC which allows us to raise and send funds for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. This license allows us to send up to $500,000 to Iran every 12 months. Our current fundraiser for recovery after the floods in Sistan and Baluchestan province can be found here
Nothing at all has changed regarding Child Foundation’s non-profit status. Our Tax-ID is 93-1148608. And we are still very proud to operate with great transparency for the good of children all around the world. Donors are welcome to examine Charity Navigator's top rating of our financials and transparency.
The only strict limitation we have right now is that we cannot send sponsorship money to Iran in the form of stipends. We still have permission from the Department of Treasury to send up to $500,000 humanitarian aid to Iran every 12 months (General License E from OFAC). Additionally, we help vulnerable children all over the world each day because we believe education is important for all children.