FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE ACTION FOUNDATION
Bold Idea: Break the barriers that prevent the inclusion of children with disabilities in informal settlements, by supporting them to attend mainstream schools, training teachers on inclusion methods, facilitating community-based rehabilitation, and advocating for their rights at grassroots and national levels.
Path to Metis: Maria believes that children with disabilities deserve to be included in all aspects of society and access high quality education. Maria grew up with a visually impaired cousin and while attending Kenyatta University, she volunteered with Special Olympics Kenya, a sporting event for children with disabilities. These experiences opened her eyes to the challenges they faced, and inspired her to co-found the Action Foundation in her second year of university. The Foundation equips teachers with skills to support students with disabilities, runs extracurricular activities in schools to promote inclusion, provides counseling and occupational therapy for children with disabilities, and equips them with strategies for self-advocacy. The Foundation also has a revenue generating stream that makes and sells accessories. Maria is currently setting up a community inclusion hub for children with and without disabilities in Kibera. The hub will enable children with disabilities who have previously been isolated and hidden to access educational opportunities. It will provide assistive devices, rehabilitation, resources, and social activities that will ease their transition to school. Maria has a background in public health, as she was a health coach and trainer for Abha Light Foundation, where she supported women living with HIV and AIDS in informal settlements. She also worked with Kenyatta National Hospital and the Kenya Ministry of Health, and volunteers at a home for disabled children in Kibera. She is a Grant Advisor for the Pollination Project, which provides seed-stage grants to social entrepreneurs. Maria is a 2013 Akili Dada Fellow, YGAP Entrepreneur, ADA International Fellow in Inclusive Education, and US Department of State Professional Fellow. In 2014 she won the Social Entrepreneurs Transforming Africa award and in 2016, was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 most influential women in Kenya by Business Daily.