Acting may be her day job, but Saye Yabandeh’s true passion is philanthropy, and working with children’s charities around the world. Baku got the low-down on her hectic life after she returned from a trip to Azerbaijan’s capital earlier this year
When did you visit Baku, and what were your impressions?
I was there in early May to attend the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which I was delighted to be a part of. It was my first time in Baku and whatever my expectations were, they were blown away by the beauty of the city. The Old Town was an especially moving place – the sense of history was incredible.
Azerbaijan is just across the Caspian from Iran, where I grew up, so it was amazing to be standing on the shores that I used to look at from afar as a child.
What is your most memorable moment from your time in Baku?
The best part of my trip was spending time with a group of young volunteers, who were so passionate about the conference and about sharing their interests and experiences with me. I love taking to younger generations and feel it is very important; so many of the young people in Baku had such confidence and curiosity – and their dignity and pride really came across.
I made wonderful connections with some of the girls, who inspired me with their intelligence and independence. We visited the Ateshgah Fire Temple after the conference. What a beautiful site – so steeped in history, and I loved learning about the Zoroastrian religion.
Tell us about your work as an ambassador for the Global Citizen Foundation (GCF).
This role is one that really means a lot to me. I attend forums, visit refugee camps, orphanages, community projects and disaster sites. I help GCF develop worldwide awareness and organise events which support and inform people about the foundation’s work. What we want to do is encourage everyone, especially global leaders, to behave and think like a citizen of the world, rather than of their own country or region. I’m heavily involved in organizing the foundation’s events and forums, and helping set up our projects.
What does your organisation saye.org do?
I’m devoted to working with children and empowering them through education and knowledge. Through my foundation, I’ve been able to meet many of their individual needs, such as purchasing a bus to take them to school every day. I’ve travelled a lot – 44 countries so far, including Cambodia, India and Vietnam – and worked alongside other foundations to help improve the lives of children worldwide. They are the future, and their wellbeing couldn’t be more important.
You’re clearly very busy!
That’s true, but there’s yet another project I’m particularly excited about: the Ahead With Horses foundation, based in Los Angeles, where I live, and they work with disabled or special needs children to teach them vaulting on horses – a very unusual form of animal therapy! It’s a wonderful thing to see a child with difficulties gain confidence and skills through working with horses, and I’m proud to be involved.
What else is in the pipeline for this year?
I have some film projects coming up – unfortunately I can’t reveal any more than that – and I’m helping organize the annual Global Citizen Forum in Doha later this year. I’d like to travel more, but there are so many places I want to go! I’m very lucky to work with the charities I’m involved with, though, so I just want to carry on doing this; it’s what I’m passionate about.
Words by Francesca Peak
Find out more about Saye’s work here