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.

Claudia Gordon

Global Ambassador

Claudia Gordon is a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities. She currently serves as the Director of Government and Compliance with Sprint Accessibility, a business unit within Sprint Corporation that seeks to remove communication barriers for customers with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, or have a speech disability.

She’s held a number of senior leadership positions at agencies such as the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center, National Council on Disability, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. During the Obama Administration, she served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Associate Director of Public Engagement for the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Claudia has been recognized as a leader by the American Association of People with Disabilities, Google, and The Root 100.

As a global Ambassador to DeafKidz International, Claudia will support the organisation’s advocacy work at the highest level, representing the needs of D/deaf children to nation state governments, partner agencies, investors and donors throughout. “One in four deaf girls experiences sexual violence” observed Claudia. “I plan to use my ambassadorship to focus attention on this issue and to especially address the challenge of Gender Based Violence against deaf girls and young women. An area where DeafKidz has already done much valuable work”.

Steve Crump

Founder / Chief Executive Officer

A global health and development 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. In addition, he has worked as a consultant for organisations such as the Start Network and Babylon Health.

Steve is also a former Trustee of War Child UK and 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 sub-Saharan Africa. Resolving to address this injustice, the result was DeafKidz International which is today, emerging as the global leader for the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children; lauded by academics, 'The fastest growing charity in the UK" (University of Sheffield) and political decision makers alike, "I praise the work of DeafKidz International' (The Rt. Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development 2017 - 2019).

Steve has lectured and presented extensively on the protection of D/deaf children including Yale University (Ct USA), World Health Summit (Berlin), World Humanitarian Forum (London), World Health Organisation (Geneva) and UNICEF (New York).

Liz Avital

Chair of the Board

With over 20 years’ experience in global health and social development, Dr Liz Avital has held senior positions at the London based Royal College of Physicians, the National Guideline Centre, the Joint Royal College of Physicians Training Board and North London Strategic Health Authority. Working, variously, with nation state governments, Ministries of Health, funding agencies, healthcare investors and other key stakeholders in Jamaica, Ghana, India, Australia and Tanzania to, both, advance patient care and develop healthcare infrastructures that are both robust and sustainable.

Currently principle consultant for Bruit Global, Liz brings a strong track record of policy, programmes and people leadership; delivering results at the global level and measurable changes at the national and community level. Liz has specialist expertise in cross cultural appropriateness and the utility of knowledge translation frameworks. In addition, extensive experience of patient, user and beneficiary safety in a range of low resource and complex health settings. She also has extensive experience of guidelines and framework development as well as empirically led evaluation and impact analysis.

Long committed to the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children, Liz brings an academic, analytical and results based perspective to the Board of DeafKidz International.

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.

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 former Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt. Honourable Penny Mordaunt MP, Emma Gilbert is a Detective Inspector with Greater Manchester Police and has previously served as an investigating officer in the National Crime Agency and Leicestershire 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 coordinates the UK's innovative Police Link Officers for Deaf people (PLOD) network.

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 has been 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.

Aarti Joshi


London based Aarti is a Tax Professional with 12 years’ experience in UK and International Tax. She has managed the Tax department of a FTSE250 Media/Technology company and has particular expertise of UK, US and Canadian tax systems. She has led on the structuring of large scale acquisitions and is a Chartered Accountant.

Passionate about working to help disadvantaged D/deaf young adults and children, particularly in complex settings, Aarti, as our Board treasurer, will work to develop robust financial systems that will confirm DeafKidz International as the safeguarding and protection partner of choice for the global humanitarian, development and health community.

David Weeds


With 20 years' experience in the commercial sector, David has a strong track record of developing and leading high-performing operations and change management teams for some of the world’s top investment banks.

David first became interested in the communication between D/deaf and hearing people in 2006 when he began learning British Sign Language (BSL), in which he currently holds a Level 3 NVQ. He developed a keen interest in the equality of D/deaf and hearing people, which in 2011 led him to volunteer at Deaf-led social enterprise SignVideo, the leading Video Relay Services (VRS) and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) provider in the UK. He later took up the role of Operations Manager, where he led the operational transformation of the organisation.

David has been a long-time supporter of D/deaf children's charities. He has undertaken challenge events that have seen him successfully complete a marathon on every continent of the world, raising over £20,000.

He now devotes himself to the third sector, applying his broad experience as an operational change specialist.

Passionate about the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children and young people, David brings strategic project planning and execution skills, analytical thinking and complex problem solving skills, plus a strong continual improvement mindset.

Chris Underhill MBE

Organisational Development Consultant

Chris is working to support the development of our core governance, systems and approach as 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 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.

Steve Early

Management Accountant

Steve is a qualified accountant who has worked in a number of commercial and third sector settings. In addition, he has lectured on accounting and finance at Brighton City College and Northbrook College of Further Education. He has also worked to provide training and advisory / mentoring services to the Brighton and Hove Enterprise Agency, and Business Link Sussex.

Over the last 20 years Steve has worked with a wide variety of small charities, mostly in a management support and management information role, developing internal systems, internal reporting to management and trustees, assisting with budgeting / forecasting, assisting with reporting to funders and financial training for non-financial managers and trustees. These have included organisations working in Mental Health, The Arts, Disabilities, Social Welfare and International Development.

His work is now mainly focused within the charity sector, and he combines this with a passion for playing saxophone within the local music scene in Sussex.

Gemma Twitchen

Lead Consultant

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.

Stuart Harrison

Lead Consultant

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dr Mahmood Bhutta


Mahmood is Consultant and Academic Lead in ENT surgery at Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals, where he specialises in disorders of ear and hearing. He has a long-standing interest in global health, and is founder of the Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group, which works to protect labour rights in healthcare supply chains. He also has an interest in capacity development in ear and hearing care, and has trained health workers in Cambodia, Nepal and Uganda. He is the lead author for the World Health Organisation Ear and Hearing Care Manual.