dalaiLama with-Djavad Mowafaghian

A jovial 87-year-old has parlayed a huge construction business in Iran into a Canadian philanthropic legacy that will continue long after he is gone.

His Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation has given away tens of millions of his personal wealth to improve children hospitals — building a mental health facility and oncology wing in Vancouver — and building schools for children in Africa, Asia and Haiti. Most ambitious, his Foundation has built a new $68.8-million center for brain health at the University of BC with 500 scientists working on diseases like alzheimer’s.

Djavad Mowafaghian, who is passionate about children, education and health, was one of three B.C. philanthropists honored last fall with a humanitarian award from Vancouver’s Dalai Lama Centre.

Also honored as a humanitarian was philanthropist John Volken, who immigrated from Germany in 1960, at the age of 18, with only a small amount of pocket-money. He spent more than 20 years building the 150-store United Furniture Warehouse, and now gives away all the money he earned after selling the business.

“Once we have provided for our families, we should then work for the good of all,” said Volken who founded the John Volken Foundation to provide people in need with the opportunity to help themselves become successful, contributing members of society.

His wealth has funded three long-term residential drug and alcohol treatment facilities in Vancouver, Phoenix, and Seattle that go well beyond just helping with addiction. Another initiative funded entirely by his Foundation is Lift the Children, which helps the poorest of the poor in Africa in their struggle not only to survive, but also to become self-sufficient.

The third recipient of the award was Vancouver businessman Frank Giustra, whose main focus these days is his Clinton-Giustra Enterprise Partnership, launched in 2007 with $100 million to help communities in developing countries build sustainable economies.

(WATCH a video about Mowafaghian)

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