Operation Mercy started working in Iran in 2002 when we responded to an earthquake in Qazvin, this was a 2-week relief effort. After the major earthquake in Bam on December 26, 2003, Operation Mercy distributed emergency kits and co-operated in a housing project for earthquake affected families as the earthquake left 20,000+ dead and 20,000 wounded.
Operation Mercy sent team members from Tajikistan and Afghanistan to start relief work which grew to feeding 2000 victims each month for two years. Then we began the Project for Bam Disabled community of more than 350 families with victims of spinal cord injuries. For four years, we provided relief aid including food, wheelchairs, medicine and physical therapy, as well as vocational training and we built a $90,000 facility for ongoing self-sustainability in a business plus services for the community.
Up until 2019 Operation Mercy worked among the large population of Afghan refugees and migrants in the capital city, Tehran through three main projects: The Afghan Empowerment Project (AEP), The Disabled Afghan Refugees Rehabilitation Project (DARP), and the NGOs Capacity Development project. In December 2019 Operation Mercy had to close our project office in Tehran, Iran. We enjoyed many years of fruitful collaboration with our Iranian partners and the government, and they have ensured us that we are welcome to return when our capacity allows for it.
We look back and share with you the highlights from our projects for the 17 years we were privileged to be welcomed in Iran:
The Afghan Empowerment Project (AEP) ran for 10 years and focused on socio-economic growth and poverty reduction within the community of Afghan refugees in south Tehran, through building strong foundations for income generation and strengthening community and civil society by empowering them.
The Business Start-up Project, an addition to AEP, started in December 2017. This was in response to the high unemployment rate and joblessness among refugees (especially women) to meet the needs of the refugees through the development of community business entrepreneurship in handicrafts.
The Disabled Afghan Refugees Rehabilitation Project (DARP) adopted a holistic, community-based approach of rehabilitation for Afghan refugees with disabilities and their families. Various specialized services were provided to about 200 Afghan refugees with disabilities and their families yearly, including speech and occupational therapy, support-groups for project participants and/or caregivers, group and individual counselling, seminars, specialized classes (literacy for hearing impaired), referrals, home visits, home-based rehabilitation services, transportation, medical and assistive devices support and self-employment support.
In January 2017 the first rehabilitation centre based on the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) model for Afghan refugees was opened. At the core of this project was a desire to see policy change with regards to how Afghan refugees with disabilities were integrated into the local systems and society. By empowering the refugees through educating them about their disability, refugee and child rights, teaching them about disability and providing them with an introduction to rehabilitation with speech and occupational therapy as well as through advocacy and lobbying with various governmental and private bodies for their inclusion, this project acted as a crucial bridge to enhance their inclusion.
The Disabled Afghan Refugees Rehabilitation Project (DARP) also ran self-employment initiatives. An Afghan refugee (a former student of another Operation Mercy project) was trained and commissioned to manufacture fruit driers which were used by Afghan households to dry fruit for marketing. Skills in leather work and knitting were also taught in the project, allowing the participants to work from home and gain an income.
Since 2009 Operation Mercy carried out training for local NGOs and Government Offices on project cycle management, financial management, leadership development, disaster preparedness and response and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment as well as addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Operation Mercy also been provided tailored consultancy for local NGOs.
This led to the launching of the NGOs and Government Offices Capacity Development Project in 2010, and later the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) was introduced as our official counterpart to implement the project in 2012.
Operation Mercy became a training hub for the capacity development of over 1000 active NGO workers and government officials. From 2014 Operation Mercy Iran focused its capacity development training on local NGOs dealing with addiction-related issues and carried out training on addiction prevention, recovery and rehabilitation.
This led to Operation Mercy’s increasing credibility in training civil society activists in addiction related fields. In addition, in 2017, we launched a new project named the Professional Recovery Coach Program (PRCP) (for the first time in Iran) in partnership with a local NGO named “The Society for Recovery Support” (SRS).
Operation Mercy would like to thank all of our former partners and employees in Iran. We are so privileged that together we were able to build capacity, restore hope and build community among the Afghan refugees and migrants in Tehran.