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MAITS Disability Charity

963. Geraldine O'Grady

Geraldine O’Grady, from Essex, is a special needs teacher whose voluntary work in special schools in India inspired the creation of a charity dedicated to sharing skills internationally to support people working with developmental disabilities.

Geraldine O'Grady

Geraldine began travelling to India with the support of the ‘Rangoonwala Foundation’ in 2008 to meet and train teachers how to work with children with special needs and ensure young people were supported and more likely to access and stay in education. The impact of her work inspired the foundation to create the ‘Multi Agency International Training and Support (MAITS)’ disability charity in order to deliver training to even more education and healthcare professionals across more countries. With Geraldine as a founding trustee, ‘MAITS’ now operates in 21 countries and has trained over 5,000 staff working in the disability sector including therapists, nurses, doctors, special educators, staff working in children’s homes and community health workers. This work has helped over 600,000 people living with disabilities in developing countries.

Geraldine is one of six volunteers specially recognised to coincide with the Global Disability Summit, co-hosted by the UK’s Department for International Development with the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya and taking place on the 24 July at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. The summit will bring together leaders from the private sector, governments, donor agencies and charities to raise awareness and show a commitment to transform the lives of people with disabilities.

As part of the build-up to the summit, Geraldine was invited to a roundtable hosted at the Department for International Development by Lord Bates, Minister of State for International Development, where she was also presented with her award.

In a personal letter to Geraldine, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Your decision to volunteer your skills in Indian special schools has done so much to support children with developmental disabilities to be able to access education. Your work inspired an entire charity and now, as a result of your ideas and energy, hundreds of thousands of people have benefitted across the world.”

Geraldine said:

“I am so thrilled to have been awarded the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award. I am pleased and humbled and incredibly grateful that my work is being acknowledged in this way. I want to say thank you to ‘MAITS’, the international disability charity which nominated me.  They certainly kept that quiet! I can’t quite believe that what started off as some voluntary work in India led to the setting up of a charity that would go on to train over 5,000 educators and therapists in 20 countries and reach 600,000 people. I was passionate about sharing skills and I am so proud that this led to so many more people being able to do the same.

“My sincere appreciation to the ‘ZVM Rangoonwala Foundation’ who matched us up with the college and schools where I first volunteered and without whom that early voluntary work would not have been possible. Asif and Meheen Rangoonwala saw the positive changes that providing training to those supporting people with special educational needs and disabilities could bring about and enabled this to happen, as co-founding trustees and funders of ‘MAITS’. I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues at Whitefield Schools in Waltham Forest and Niels Chapman, who along with me, volunteered in India. I would also like to thank DFID and Number 10 for giving me this award.  It’s a real honour!

“Back in 2008, my colleagues and I really wanted to do something to share our knowledge in developing countries. Volunteering to support people with disabilities overseas has been very rewarding, allowing me to experience different ways of working, meeting wonderful dedicated people and to feel like, actually, it is possible to bring about positive change within a community.  Volunteering is something that I would highly recommend and I never dreamed about the path it would take me on.”

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The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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