Photographs by William Taufic.
Blossom Hill Foundation
“I am Iranian. I lived through the revolution in 1978 and a year of the Iran-Iraq War as well,” explains Shiva Sarram. “One day you are going to school and coming home and doing homework, and almost overnight the country was in such upheaval. I had to do homework by candlelight and was going to sleep to the sounds of bombings and sirens. I got home from school one day and my parents said, ‘Pack your bags. We are leaving and don’t know when we’ll be back.’ We left food in the fridge, stuffed animals on the bed.”
The seed was planted that day in the airport. “I knew I wanted to do something,” says Shiva, who was nine at the time. “I was able to escape and I knew so many couldn’t. Even though it was a short amount of time of conflict, war and turmoil, it marks you for life. My hope is that we can plant a brighter future for war-affected children.”
Courage Into Action
In 2009, Shiva, a New Canaan resident, founded Blossom Hill Foundation, with a goal of helping children from war-torn countries “feel safe and free to express themselves—to heal themselves—so that they may grow into thoughtful, productive women and men.” The alternative is grim, with so many children used as sex slaves and soldiers.
Shiva, who used to work on Wall Street at Tiger Management, formed a small board. “I served on the board of the Tiger Foundation, so I really understand good grant making,” she explains. Blossom Hill has raised $1.2 million to support programs for children from countries of conflict. “Two years ago, we added a fellowship for social entrepreneurs. We have funded sixteen fellows from eight different countries, implementing twelve different ideas,” says Shiva. Examples include science kits that transcend language barriers, art therapy for trauma victims and computer coding classes for girls in Afghanistan. Blossom Hill Foundation has touched and improved the lives of 45,000 children, and a new round of fellowships will be granted next year.
Susan Barr, who has been a donor since Blossom Hill’s inception, comments: “Shiva is incredibly passionate and sincere about helping others, especially children. Blossom Hill is an extension of Shiva’s caring and dedication, and the impactful work of the Foundation directly helps those in tragically war-torn areas and is a wonderful bright spot in our challenging world.”
Hopes & Dreams
“We want to continue to light the path for a better future, plant the seeds, so that these children can blossom,” says Shiva. “They are capable of so much and are so resilient. They are bright, eager and hardworking. They just need opportunities.”