Three MAITS volunteers win Prime Minister’s Award!

We are delighted that three MAITS volunteers have been awarded the Prime Minister’s Point of Light Award for their work with us!  Janet Ivin, John Carter and Geraldine O’Grady were three of only six people who received this award for their outstanding volunteer work for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Prime Minister’s daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers – people who are making positive changes in their communities and around the world, with recognition of these individuals being based on how their “actions have changed lives and how their stories can inspire thousands more to get involved or start their own initiatives”. These volunteers have been specially recognised to coincide with the first ever Global Disability Summit, co-hosted by the UK’s Department for International Development with the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya which took place on the 24th July at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. The summit brought 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.

Geraldine, John and Janet were invited to Whitehall for a round table meeting with Lord Michael Bates, the Minister of State, along with the three other winners, where they were presented with a certificate and a signed letter from the Prime Minister. During this meeting they were invited to speak about their voluntary work and had the chance to discuss why they view volunteering as important and how it can be expanded to have a further lasting impact.

Geraldine, who is an educator for children with special needs at Whitefield Schools in London, won the award for her inspirational training in a college and special schools in India, and her role in setting up MAITS. Since then, MAITS has worked in 21 countries and has trained over 4700 staff who have ultimately reached over 600,000 people living with disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy in developing countries. Along with Meheen and Asif Rangoonwala from the ZVM Rangoonwala Foundation, Geraldine went on to become one of the co-founders of MAITS in 2008.  On winning the award Geraldine said:

“I am so thrilled to have been given this award and am pleased, humbled and incredibly grateful that my work is being recognised in this way. Thank you to MAITS and Asif and Meheen who saw the positive changes that training on special needs could bring about and enabled this to happen, as co-founding trustees and funders of MAITS. Thanks too to my colleagues at Whitefield Schools in Waltham Forest and Niels Chapman, a former head teacher, 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! Volunteering is something that I would highly recommend, and I never dreamed about the path it would take me on.”

In a personal letter of thanks 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 benefited across the world.”

Janet and John received the award for their dedication and voluntary work training occupational therapists, physiotherapists and special needs teachers to make low-cost, therapy and rehabilitation equipment for children with disabilities out of paper and cardboard. This pioneering ‘Appropriate Paper-Based Technology’ (APT) is environmentally friendly and allows equipment such as specialised supportive chairs for children with cerebral palsy to be made to individual specifications from everyday items such as cardboard, newspaper and plastic bottles.

Commenting on receiving the award, Janet said:

“When I received the telephone call informing me that I had been chosen to receive the Points of Light award, I could not comprehend what I had just been told.  I feel very humbled and honoured that my passion for volunteering my skills in APT and occupational therapy has led to this award.  It has also been very affirming for me.”

John echoed this sense of surprise and said he was “shocked – flabbergasted – to be honoured with the Point of Light award. Volunteering is my passion. I love teaching APT to benefit disadvantaged people in developing countries, sharing my knowledge with others knowing that when I return home our students are enthused to share their new skills. I feel very humbled to be receiving this award. Thank you.”

Whilst the Prime minister thanked the pair with individual letters of thanks in which she heralded their training as “ground-breaking” and  “revolutionising the care therapists in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka can offer patients. With the ability to produce equipment quickly and inexpensively, local therapists are able to provide aides made to people’s individual specifications and transform lives.”

MAITS would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the winners of this prestigious award and also to acknowledge all the MAITS volunteers, without whom MAITS would not have been able to reach all the people we have.  We are inspired by and grateful to every single person who has volunteered their time with MAITS to help and support people with disabilities in developing countries. MAITS CEO Esther Hamilton says “It is an inspiration to work for a charity, in which people come together and volunteer their time to improve the lives of those with disabilities and we thank you all.

Feel like you would like to get involved and make a difference? MAITS is currently accepting applications for small grants to enable experienced disability professionals from all over the world to share their skills with those working with and caring for those with disabilities in low and middle-income countries. If you are an organisation in a developing country looking for training, we are always keen to hear from you. Both trainers and organisations receiving training can register with us and apply for small grants to cover costs that make the training possible.