Our People

Read about our trustees and advisers.
These are the people behind DeafKidz International

Rt Hon Lord Bruce of Bennachie

Honorary President of DeafKidz International

Sir Malcolm Bruce was the Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon from June 1983 until the election in May 2015 when he stood down from Parliament.

Prior to being an MP, Malcolm worked in marketing, economic development and journalism. He was the economic officer to the North East of Scotland Development Authority when oil was first discovered in the North Sea and went on to establish, with a partner, Aberdeen Petroleum Publishing in 1981.

Throughout this time he has acquired has a detailed knowledge of the oil and gas industry, and in particular, its relations with Government.

Malcolm was also Chair of the influential International Development Select Committee from 2005 – 2015. He led many inquiries into the work of the Department for International Development and has travelled widely in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

Malcolm was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Party from January 2014 – May 2015.

Prior to this he was Party spokesman on Trade and Industry, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Treasury. He has also been a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, the Trade and Industry Select Committee, the Committee for Standards and Privileges and Treasury Select Committee.

Malcolm has been Scottish Affairs Spokesman and Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (1988-92) and played a key role in shaping the devolution settlement through the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

As the father of a grown-up deaf daughter Malcolm has long campaigned on deafness issues in Parliament. Malcolm was the founding Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Deafness. He is also President of the Grampian Branch and a National Vice President of the National Deaf Children's Society and a Vice President of Action on Hearing Loss. In November 2014 he was honoured to receive the prestigious Joseph Maitland Robinson Award for Outstanding Contribution as part of the Signature Annual Awards.

He was made a Privy Councillor in 2006, was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2012 and was made a life peer in the Dissolution Honours list in August 2015.

Steve Crump

Chief Executive Officer

A global health professional, Steve has worked at senior level in a number of international development, relief and health organisations including ICRC, MAG and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Steve is also a former Trustee of War Child UK and currently sits on the Board of MICAIA, a development charity that is delivering new solutions to the injustice of poverty in Mozambique.

Profoundly deaf himself, Steve originated and founded DeafKidz International when he learned of the appalling abuse endured by D/deaf children in Uganda. Resolving to do something, the result was DeafKidz International.

Lucky Lowe

Chair of the Board

Lucky has held senior programme management positions with Practical Action, Circles Network, WaterAid and VSO where she has been exposed to a range of diverse cultures and operational environments.

Having worked in Europe, Africa and Asia leading people in strategic, business and operational planning, Lucky uses collaborative processes, partnerships and contractual arrangements to deliver basic infrastructure, communal service, research, knowledge sharing and training activities that make a difference to the most marginalised and disenfranchised.

An accomplished linguist and capable communicator, Lucky enjoys working with a range of communications media to advocate for social justice. Previously a board member with a national UK housing association and an international NGO, Lucky will contribute significantly to the development of DeafKidz International’s programmatic agenda.

David Thomson


A Chartered Accountant for more than 50 years, David worked as a partner with the Rugby based CH Ivens & Co. before retiring and ceding the business to Cottons & Co.

David continues as a consultant for Cottons and for a number of other Warwickshire based concerns including the Old Laurentian Society and the Percival Guildhouse Adult Education Centre.

Drawing upon David’s huge experience, DeafKidz International is working to develop a financial architecture that ensures the confidence of both donors and partners alike. One that enables accurate financial management, analysis and stewardship.

Ruth Wilkin


Ruth has 20 years of experience of communications and marketing in the health and social care sector. She is currently an executive director of a large NHS acute and community Trust where she heads up the Trust's charity that seeks to enhance the experience of patients and their families often at their most difficult times, as well as investing in programmes to better support marginalised communities across Birmingham and the Black Country. She runs a large volunteer service linking up with third sector organisations to provide wrap around care for.

Ruth has a keen interest in international development and has worked with a charity in the slums of Brazil, in an education programme for children up to age 12, as well as work with street kids in Rio de Janeiro. She is married to a proud Zulu, from Durban, South Africa and has two children.

With the DeafKidz International team and its partner network, Ruth will be working to oversee the development of the DeafKidz International brand, its messaging and its engagement with key global safeguarding and protection decision makers. All of which will affirm our positioning as the global leader for the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children.

Andre Ferguson


Andre was born and raised in Mandeville, Jamaica, and earned his degree in IT from the Northern Caribbean University.

He has lived in London for the last 15 years, where he has worked in the fitness industry, qualifying as a Level 2 football coach. Andre is a qualified British Sign Language user and is passionate about the inclusion of D/deaf children in football. His tireless efforts earning him the Inclusion Partner of the Year award from the London Football Association.

The hearing father of a Deaf child, Andre is the founder of the South East London based Meaka Bears. A social enterprise which works to overcome barriers to D/deaf children through a range of activities such as swimming and football. All of which allow D/deaf children the opportunity to develop self confidence, communication skills and the means to address the challenges they face in everyday life. In addition, Andre has worked to establish the Meaka Bites Deaf community café and the 'Deaf is Cool' fashion brand. Both of which offer apprenticeship opportunities for young D/deaf people not in employment or education training.

Andre sits on the inclusion board of the London Football Association, as well as the disabilities board of Southwark and Lambeth councils.

DeafKidz International is delighted to have Andre join the Board as its lead for Jamaica and the Caribbean. In addition, we will be working with Andre to licence the Meaka Bears swimming and football programmes for use across the wider DeafKidz International footprint.

Christine McPherson


Christine is a Mental Health Social Worker by professional background, having worked in specialist Deaf Mental Health Services as well later having been responsible as a Team Manager for mainstream Mental Health, Duty and complex Learning Disability social work across South Birmingham.

In addition to these roles she was also responsible as an Approved Social Worker (ASW) and then Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) for co-ordinating and managing assessments for people who might need compulsory detention in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 and then the 2007 amended Mental Health Act.

When working in specialist Deaf Mental Health Services Christine qualified as a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and worked for some years in provision of psychotherapy. Christine also developed training materials for assessment of Deaf people experiencing mental ill health and has delivered this training on AMHP qualification courses across England.

She also works with Birmingham University on their Deafness and Mental Health postgraduate diploma course.

Emma Gilbert


Pictured with Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt. Honourable Penny Morduant MP, Emma Gilbert is a Detective Inspector currently serving with Greater Manchester Police. She has extensive experience of response, community and criminal investigation policing. She is a specialist in the safeguarding and protection of children and young people. In addition to these duties, Emma manages the UK's innovative Police Link Officers for Deaf people (PLOD) scheme.

An integral member of the DeafKidz International team and a vigorous champion for the rights of D/deaf children, Emma’s progressive work in South Africa, Kenya and Jamaica was recently recognised by the Points of Light Award she received from the Prime Minister and which was presented by the Secretary of State. Emma is the Board and organisational lead for safeguarding and child protection.

Chris Underhill MBE

Organisational Development Consultant

Chris is working to support the development of our core governance, systems and approach has part of the Oak Foundation’s three year investment into DeafKidz International

Chris is a leading exponent on global mental health practice, a social entrepreneur, a mentor, a trainer in community-based facilitation technique, and regularly speaks at conferences worldwide. He is currently co-founding citiesRISE, which is a multi-stakeholder initiative designed to promote mental health by catalyzing collective actions across sectors within cities. Chris is the founder of BasicNeeds, the mental health charity working in developing countries, and previously founded Action on Disability and Development, and Thrive. He is the Chair of Spring Impact, a Global Director of Leaders Quest and the Chair of Carers Worldwide. A much sought-after mentor, his mentees currently work in mental health, organisational management, executive search, models of change in childhood deprivation, human trafficking, the psychology of gangs, Fair Trade, prisons and prisoners, leadership and executive search. He is a Senior Fellow of the Ashoka Fellowship, a recipient of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Salzburg Global Fellow. In 2000 Chris received the MBE from the Queen for his services to disability and development.

Jaz Mann

Head of Global Programmes

Jaz works to manage the design, implementation, monitoring & evaluation of DeafKidz International’s existing and developing programmatic work.

With a background in service design and project management in a variety of community and low resource settings, Jaz oversees our work in West, East and Southern Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

As the organisational lead for our partnerships with Comic Relief, Child Helpline International, Marie Stopes International and more, he will drive the development of a D/deaf and Hearing staff team, skilled at working in low resource health and complex humanitarian settings.

A fluent BSL user, Jaz is profoundly Deaf, the parent of a Deaf child and a Governor of the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby.

Stuart Harrison


Stuart is a qualified teacher of the Deaf and a former deputy head teacher. With extensive and proven experience in child rights, child protection and safeguarding, Stuart worked globally to develop DeafKidz International's early stage programmatic activities with a range of partners including Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Childline South Africa and IPSCAN. He was instrumental in establishing our programmatic approach, Stuart authored our critically acclaimed research report; ‘Behind the Green Door. The Abuse and Exploitation of Deaf Children and Young People in South Africa’. A prolific commentator and writer, his book 'Same Spirit Different Team - The Politicisation of the Deaflympics' was published in 2014.

Barbara Nyangairi


Barbra Nyangairi is a human rights activist in Zimbabwe. She holds a Masters in Forced Migration, a BSc Honors in Public Administration and a Diploma in Education. She has extensive experience in research in areas of human rights, democracy, governance, gender and education. She has a keen interest in the rights of people with disabilities particularly people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. She has published papers on education, democracy, elections, the police and corruption, gender, women and politics among others. Barbra is a co-founder of Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, Development Research Centre of Southern Africa and a Director of The Witness Media Company (Private) Limited.

Amy Rowe


Amy Rowe is a former journalist who now runs a content marketing agency, Foco. She was born with hearing loss and wears hearing aids in both ears. Passionate about diversity in the workplace, she has written for the Independent, PR Careers and PR Week about the many challenges the D/deaf face at work and in social situations. Amy now uses her understanding of the D/deaf community and experience in communications to support the vital work of DeafKidz International.

Chris Haigh


Chris Haigh holds over 20 years experience as a qualified peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf and more recently has worked as an Educational Audiologist after gaining a distinction in her MSc Educational Audiology course from Oxford Brookes University (2014).

Chris is also a Module Leader on the Post Graduate Diploma course (University of Hertfordshire) at Mary Hare Training Services where she leads on the Audiology content of the teacher training course

Throughout her career Chris has provided both advisory and pre-school support to the families of newly diagnosed babies and toddlers and holds teaching experience with deaf youngsters ranging from nursery age group through to HND level supporting in both oral and sign methods of communication.

More recently she has both taught as a volunteer and led Teacher of the Deaf teaching teams out in rural Ugandan Schools for the Deaf.

Having originally obtained a BSc (Hons) in Geography and African Politics her current interests include deaf education research, Audiology, education within low resource settings and in her spare time mastering the piano.

Saleyah Ahsan


Having served her three year term as a trustee, Saleyah now supports the work of DeafKidz International as one of our expert advisers, leading on broadcast media. An emergency medicine doctor and a freelance filmmaker with a passion for current and foreign affairs, Saleyha currently presents for the BBC series ‘Trust Me I'm A Doctor’ and the BBC's ‘One Show’.

A former British Army officer, Saleyha served with the Royal Army Medical Corps, which included a tour of Bosnia in 1997 as part of the NATO Stablisation Force (SFOR). She studied medicine upon leaving the army and qualified as an Accident and Emergency doctor.

Her work in journalism continued with Saleyha reporting in Palestine and Kashmir for BBC 5 Live in addition to reporting for Newsnight and Panorama. Saleyha has a strong interest in stories related to the military, civil liberties, conflict, global health, development and law. Saleyha was awarded her LLM in International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law from Essex University in 2011. She also writes for radio has written a number of plays for Radio 4.

Passionately committed to the work of DeafKidz International. Saleyha has been instrumental in shaping our response to the needs of D/deaf children trapped in current European refugee crisis. Saleyha is the founder of the Phoenix Project which works to support children affected by burns in conflict.

Gemma Twitchen


Gemma has 14 years’ experience of working as an audiologist and has worked both within the NHS working with adults and children and within a number of third sector organisations. She has worked at the UKs largest charity, Action on Hearing Loss, representing people with hearing loss, D/deafness and tinnitus, for over 6 years, working within the research and policy team, providing audiology expertise across the organisation.

Gemma has a passion for improving ear and hearing health in low resource and complex settings. In 2015, she took a sabbatical and volunteered for six months in Zambia, supporting the only audiologist within the country to develop and teach a one-year audiology diploma course to students from across Africa. She continues to volunteer as an audiologist on the Sound Seekers project Committee.

In addition, Gemma chairs the British Society of Audiology (BSA) Global Outreach Specialist Interest Group and was responsible for organising the first ever international conference in the UK dedicated to global health for hearing loss in collaboration with ENT UK.

As DeafKidz International’s audiology lead, she has been working to deliver the DFID funded Early Hearing Detection and Intervention programme in Pakistan which is testing new models of screening and integrated care response. All of which is aimed at ensuring the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable children and ensuring parental support is provided to those children and young people who are formally diagnosed as Deaf. To this end, Gemma is working to develop the skills and capacity of our Gujrat based audiology team.

Lynne Awbery


Lynne has over 25 years as a qualified Teacher of the Deaf, formerly in a bi-lingual school for the Deaf as Head of Inclusion and then for 16 years as a peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf in various London Boroughs. She has specialised in working with pre-school children and their families and is a qualified Family Sign Language Tutor. Lynne has been an outside supervisor for the University of Hertfordshire, training the next generation of Teachers of the Deaf and spoken about her work on a range of teacher training courses at different universities. Lynne has provided bespoke educational materials for a school for Deaf children in Uganda and has shared this practice with other professionals and overseas educational development agencies working with Deaf children. Through her work in inner London boroughs, working with families and their newly diagnosed deaf children, Lynne was inspired to complete a Masters Degree in Refugee Studies to reflect the communities with whom she worked. She has worked as an advocate for trafficked young people and retains a particular interest in this field.

Professor Aamir Ghafoor Khan


Professor Khan is a medical professor who works as our strategic lead for Pakistan, advising on relationships with a wide range of government and healthcare decision makers at, both, Federal and Provincial level.

Currently heading the Gastroenterology and Hepatology division at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Professor Aamir was till recently the Medical Director of the hospital, which is one of the largest tertiary care teaching Hospitals in the country. Besides being the focal person for Hepatology in KPK Province, Aamir is actively involved in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and is an examiner for MRCP(UK) and FCPS exams. In addition, he sits on the editorial boards of various Journals such as the Arab Journal of Gastroenterology, Hepatitis Journal of Iran, the Pakistan Journal of Gastroenterology and more.

Hugely committed to the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children in Pakistan, we are delighted to have Professor Aamir working with us to build long term and sustainable capacities that will make a real difference.

South Africa Programme – Signing Safe Futures South Africa!

Sikholiwe Siziba

Project Manager

Sikholiwe is a Social Worker by profession. She graduated from the University of Fort Hare in 2008 with a Bachelor of Social Work and she attained a Masters Degree in Social Development from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2014.

With immense experience of safeguarding and child protection, Sikholiwe has worked as a Social Worker, Case Manager, and a Training & Capacity Building Manager. She now manages the Signing Safe Futures South Africa! project and is based at Childline South Africa’s Durban office.

Sphindile Ngcobo

Project Co-ordinator

Sphindile is a qualified Social Worker, she attained her Bachelor of Social Work qualification from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (Howard College) in 2009 and began practicing as a Social Worker from February 2010 to date.

A passionate advocate for the rights of children everywhere, Sphindile has worked with children and families in both domestic and residential care settings. As an experienced trainer, she has conducted a raft of training activities including training on child protection and sexual offences related matters, Crisis Line counsellor training and skills development training for community care workers and supervisors.

Nompilo Khanyile

Project Co-ordinator

Nompilo is from Hammarsdale (KZN). She attended her primary and secondary education at the Schools for the Deaf and she completed her matric at VN Naik School for the Deaf. She has a certificate in assessor course and SASL training. Nompilo is profoundly Deaf and is fluent in South African Sign Language.

As an experienced trainer, Nompilo brings huge experience of working in Deaf and disability settings, having previously worked with the KZN Blind and Deaf Society as a Computer Trainer for Deaf Students. She was also involved in Teaching Adult Basic Education and Training as a Supervisor (Kha-Ri Gude ABET: Dept of Education).

Jamaica Programme – Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!

Dr Iris Soutar

Dr Soutar, as Executive Director of the Jamaican Association for the Deaf, oversees the delivery of the Comic Relief funded ‘Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!’ programme.

This is a multi-disciplinary programme that looks to develop a robust and tangible capability for the safeguarding of D/deaf children and young people in Jamaica. A qualified teacher for the D/deaf, Dr Soutar served as Teacher at Lister Mair/ Gilby High School for the Deaf from 1977 – 1983 and then as Principal from 1983 – 1989.

A passionate advocate for the rights of D/deaf children, Dr Soutar has led the Jamaican Association for the Deaf in spearheading many projects associated with Deaf Education and advocacy. This has included championing the recognition of Jamaican Sign Language (JSL), as a critical tool in instructional delivery and curriculum development.

Suffice to say, DeafKidz International finds itself privileged to be working with an eminent practitioner such as Dr. Soutar as, together, we work to ensure no D/deaf child is left behind.

Chantell Robinson

Chantell manages DKI’s GBV programme in Jamaica, ‘Signing Safe Futures Jamaica!’ This unique programme is funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and sees the use of martial arts and dance as platforms for protection and safeguarding work. As a Dance Educator for 7 years, Chantell is a double graduate from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. First receiving a Diploma in Dance Theatre and Production in 2006 and then earning her Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Dance Education in 2017.

Chantell first began working with D/deaf girls and young women as a member of the ‘Advancing Deaf Kidz Jamaica!’ project team. In her final year of study at the Edna Manley College, she conducted her teaching practicum experience at the Lister Mair Gilby High School for the Deaf, becoming the first student from the School of Dance to conduct their assessment at a special needs school.

Fluent in Jamaican Sign Language, Chantell’s work will see her train and mentor D/deaf female martial arts and dance coaches, who will work across the D/deaf community to ensure no D/deaf girl or young woman is subject to Gender Based Violence. Based in Kingston, Chantelle plans to pursue her MA in Special Education in 2018.