Many people feel fortunate to have one passion in life. Los Altos resident Cyrus Parvini has several.
After a career in the import-export industry and in real estate development, Parvini became a filmmaker. Then he and his family founded the now-thriving Little Prodigy Preschool in Mountain View. And for the past several years, he and his wife, Simin, have run the nonprofit Children Education Foundation, supporting orphanages in Nepal and schools in Rwanda and Brazil. He calls the foundation his true calling.
A philanthropist and entrepreneur, Parvini said he’s always tried to involve himself in humanitarian work.
“Now I’m getting older, so more of my concentration and my time goes in that direction,” he said.
Parvini came to the Bay Area from Iran approximately 50 years ago and earned a degree in industrial management from Hayward State University. He spent 10 years as an export manager for an American company in Los Angeles and later worked in real estate development, both in Southern California and for a few years in Victoria and Vancouver, Canada. Twenty-six years ago, he and Simin returned to the Bay Area, first to Sunnyvale before designing and building their current home in Los Altos.
The Parvinis have two children and five grandchildren. Their son Shervin is a chiropractor and has two children; daughter Tina Golestani is co-owner and director of Mountain View’s Little Prodigy preschool and mother of three.
Lending a hand around the globe
Parvini’s greatest passion these days is the nonprofit organization he founded nine years ago, the Children Education Foundation. Daughter Tina played a part in the idea. Although she already had one child and another on the way, she was thinking about adopting.
“We were sitting and talking, and she said, ‘Dad, I really want to adopt an orphan child. Because, besides my own children, I want to save a child somewhere,’” Parvini recalled. “I said, … ‘How about if I start a foundation, and our foundation will actually help a lot more orphan children in the future, rather than only one?’”
Another impetus for the foundation was their acquaintance with the owner of an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal – NECO Home – which they wanted to support.
“It had about 19 children at that time. Now we have 34 children,” Parvini said. “I did have a trip to Kathmandu about five years ago, and I spent two weeks with these children – beautiful, lovely kids – from almost 6 years to 15 years at that time.”
In addition to financial support, Parvini applied his real estate experience in practical tasks such as painting and creating a comfortable environment for the children.
The government in Nepal does not allow the children at NECO Home to be adopted due to the threat of human trafficking, but the Parvinis said the children have a good life there, with activities such as taekwondo, dance, computers and English classes. Self-confidence is another goal, to build a successful foundation for the rest of their lives.
As word about the Children Education Foundation spread, another orphanage in Nepal, this one in Nepalgunj, contacted them.
“They said, ‘Can you help us?’” Parvini said. “There were nine children, now there are 13 children – gradually growing.”
The foundation’s reach continued to expand, next with a school in Rwanda and most recently with an organization in Brazil that helps 300 children in the Amazon.
“So now … we are involved in four different organizations in three countries,” Parvini said.
To further spread the word, Parvini said he recently produced a nine-minute documentary on the Children Education Foundation, chronicling “how we are helping, and the problems in the world and these four organizations.” He noted there is room for expansion at each of them, and they hope the film will attract grant writers and donors so they can help more people.
Simin added that the foundation’s administrators are volunteers who do not receive any pay. When donating to charitable organizations, she said, people wonder where the money goes.
“In our foundation, we make sure the whole thing goes (to the cause),” she said.
The Parvinis are in communication with the children and continue to provide support after they leave the orphanage at age 18. So far, two have gone to nursing school and one is now in hotel management.
“So they’re getting to university now – it’s the next phase,” Parvini said. “Hopefully we’re going to see them get married. … It’s a good feeling.”
Parvini said that in addition to contributions from the family (including Tina and Shervin), Little Prodigy Preschool is another major donor.
“From the beginning, we decided, for every child that we register, we pay $5 toward these foundations,” he said. “But now we changed it to $10 per child that is at our school per month.”
The idea for Little Prodigy Preschool came about when Tina was studying psychology with a concentration in child development.
“We partnered completely with our daughter and her husband,” Parvini said. “So we started building Little Prodigy Preschool 11 years ago and gradually expanded and bought the property next door. … Now we have about 150 children and 35 to 40 teachers and staff.”
Simin, having long worked in accounting, including at her own accounting and bookkeeping firm, was a natural for the financial side of the new business. She still works there but now employs a full-time bookkeeper.
Parvini, who designed the building at 830 E. El Camino Real in Mountain View, continues to work there every day as operations manager.
What sets Little Prodigy apart from other local preschools, Parvini said, is the teaching of virtues in addition to academics.
“Each week, they talk about a certain virtue – love, caring, service, help – all kinds of things that help them,” he said. “We believe that through these virtues, the children build character that can be healthy for the community and the world, and they can give it back to the community.”
Another is the care that comes from being a local, family-run business.
“Simin is really concerned with organic foods and proper health – everything we do for our own grandchildren, we do it for them,” Parvini said. “Also, a strong and loving relationship between us and the employees.”
“It’s like a big family,” Simin added.
In 1985, Parvini formed Radiant Century Productions in Los Angeles. He initially became interested in film when he offered to promote movies his Los Angeles Baha’i friends were making. He came up with the idea of making documentary films and took some courses at UCLA.
He produced his first documentary, “The Promise of World Peace: A Baha’i Perspective,” in 1986, and managed to have it distributed on satellite television. He later revised and expanded it, and enlisted actress Eva LaRue (formerly on “All My Children”) to narrate.
His biggest film to date is 2016’s “The Miller Prediction,” which won awards including Best Picture at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival, Best Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Madrid International Film Festival and Best Film at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema Berlin. It has been translated into six languages.
“Around 1844,” Parvini explained, “William Miller, a Baptist preacher in the Massachusetts-New York area … thought the spirit of Christ was going to come back about that time. (Miller traveled the country preaching that the world would end Oct. 22, 1844.) … Simultaneously in Persia, 1844, Baha’is believe that the person everybody was expecting to come, for the unification of mankind and the establishment of world peace, (came) in part of Persia at that time.”
In the film, the two historical events converge through a meeting of a grandchild of William Miller with some of the followers of the Baha’i faith. Set in 1870 in the Palestine area, it was actually filmed in Albuquerque on an Indian reservation. Approximately 80 people were involved in the production, he said.
Service to humanity
When they eventually “retire,” the Parvinis hope “to do more in the service to humanity,” he said, adding, “that’s our goal and purpose.”
While he noted that their foundation is small compared with many major organizations, they are doing what they can.
“So that is truly our passion to do this for the rest of our lives … to help these organizations,” he said.
For more information on Children Education Foundation, visit childreneducationfoundation.org.
To view the documentary on the foundation, visit youtube.com/watch?v=tsY5NobJT8M.