July 1st 2019 is a warm summer evening in Tehran. Months of preparation have gone into the second UNICEF Corporate Partnership Event in Iran. At Eyvan Hall inside the Espinas Palace Hotel situated in north-west Tehran, everything is ready. UNICEF Iran’s Communication and Partnership teams are checking the final details, from the flowers on the dining tables to the audio-visual system and the location of guest ushers. In a couple of moments, the second Corporate Partnership Event jointly organized by UNICEF Iran and the Tehran Chamber of Commerce will officially start.
About 150 guests, mainly Iran’s top business leaders as well as diplomatic missions and celebrities are invited to attend the event. Upon arrival, the guests receive a pack of UNICEF branded items, including the country programme information pack, UNICEF Iran’s 70th anniversary booklet as well as UNICEF notebooks, pens and cotton bags. UNICEF staff interact with the guests to explain the agency’s mission and their own work. Head of UNICEF Iran’s Office, Dr Will Parks, personally receives the guests and walks with them to a UNICEF photo stand where guests join with celebrities to take photos.
As UNICEF Iran Goodwill Ambassador, Ms Mahtab Keramati, walks in together with Iran’s most famous soccer star, Mr Ali Karimi, all heads turn towards them and some guests walk up to take photos.
Once the guests are all seated, the recitation of verses from the holy Quran followed by the national anthem are played on the screen. The event begins with a brilliant professional music performance by a group of 12 to 14-year-old adolescent boys and girls from Pars Music Institute in Tehran. The end of their performance is greeted by long applause from the audience who are all highly impressed by such young talents.
“In a world filled with sufferers, blessed are those who give peace to the heart of a sufferer.” Dr Parks opens his speech with this beautiful verse from the Iranian poetess, Ms Parvin Etesami. He then recognizes the contributions made by each of UNICEF Iran’s 10 corporate partner, individually appreciating their support. He adds: “Children are part of the communities and environments in which business operates. Through their products and services, manufacturing and marketing methods, supply chains, and distribution practices, as well as through their environmental impact and investments in local communities, business can have a powerful, and if channeled appropriately, extremely positive influence on development for children and youth.”
UNICEF supports all children, but especially vulnerable children such as children with disabilities. A few months back in November 2018, UNICEF Iran collaborated with the State Welfare Organization to hold the first National Conference on Children with Disability which was accompanied by a nationwide communication campaign on removing stigma and discrimination against these children. Such awareness raising has become an integral part of UNICEF Iran’s events and the second Corporate Partnership Event is no exception. A group of children, aged 8 to 14, living with different physical and mental disabilities, supported by Aftabe-Sabz NGO, make a stunning performance of music, light and singing. In part of their performance, children engage the audience and invite them to the stage to sing with them. Their performance sends out a message of ‘focus on our abilities rather than disabilities’.
“Tonight, we have all gathered here to get familiar with UNICEF’s programs for helping children in need in Iran and offer as much help as we can,” announces Dr Fatemeh Moghimi, member of the Board of Directors of Tehran Chamber of Commerce. She adds: “UNICEF needs our help to better carry out its humanitarian and charitable programs for children and I’m confident that you will provide support with utmost willingness as you have proven in the past.”
Tejarat Bank, one of UNICEF’s corporate partners, provided a number of mobile banking devices to help receive donations for UNICEF during the event. The devices are warmly welcomed by the guests who are eager to support UNICEF programmes in Iran. As a symbolic gesture, UNICEF staff also make their donations to vulnerable groups of children and communities via the devices.
But what distinguishes this event from any other UNICEF-supported event in Iran, is its fundraising auction. For the first time and with the help of UNICEF Iran Goodwill Ambassador, Ms Keramati and famous Iranian soccer player Ali Karimi, a ball signed by players of the popular Persepolis team and a framed photograph of Ms Keramati are sold in an auction to the benefit of UNICEF programmes for the children of Iran.
As the event approaches its final moments, the guests clearly look more energetic and impressed. Some walk to the UNICEF Representative and express their interest to become partners. Others lined up to donate. UNICEF staff guide the guests to sign a UNICEF-branded guest book which was placed on a UNICEF stand near the exit doors. The guest book was produced as part of UNICEF-Espinas Hotel Group partnership and is available in all Espinas Hotels for guests to leave comments for UNICEF.
July 1st 2019 will remain a unique date in UNICEF Iran’s history, not only for creating wonderful memories among the guests that evening, especially the children who performed, but also the great opportunities for child-centred corporate partnership it added for the UNICEF Iran Office.