Jennifer Peters, Chair
Jennifer has had the privilege to serve as our Chair of Trustees since 2016. She is mother of two girls aged 3 and 8. Her eldest was diagnosed autistic in 2016 at the age of 4. Jennifer and her family have been part of the Skylarks family since 2014 when her family relocated to Richmond Borough. She brings to the board both her personal experience of raising a child on the spectrum, as well as her previous professional background as Global Human Resources Director for such brands as L’Oreal and LK Bennett.
She says: "After a short amount of time serving as a Trustee in 2016, I was asked to Chair the Board. It is my distinct honour and pleasure to serve in this capacity. Our job is to ensure that those who use our services are as informed, supported and empowered as they can possibly be. It takes a village to raise our special kids and Skylarks plays a brilliant role in providing help and support for our families."
Gale Davies, Secretary
Jack of all trades is what I am best described as by everyone that knows me well. I apply the same amount of passion and commitment to whatever comes my way, paid or as a volunteer. I love working with my community from all walks of life, supporting fundraising events and committees. I am a champion for charities such as Lions Club International, British Legion, Cathja Barge (a local mental health charity), Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Bridget’s of Sweden (I am member of the Church Council) and of course Skylarks where I am a Trustee and Secretary.
My first experience of Skylarks was attending a course on autism after my then 3-year-old son was diagnosed with ASD. At the sessions, I met other parents who were facing the same challenges as me. My happy, lively little toddler was going to have a very different route through life to the one that I had expected and I needed to get equipped for it! I’m widowed and have a daughter with ADHD, she handles her condition well and I expected my son to be similar. Not surprisingly, I had a lot to learn!
Having had a 25-year career in medical science, teaching at St Georges Hospital and then as a Vice–President in a Global Top 20 Pharmaceutical company, I thought that through researching all the information available I would find an “answer to this condition”. I did not! For me, the answer has been not only equipping myself with knowledge but accepting that I have a child with a lifelong condition and that I needed many new supportive friendships to navigate the path ahead.
I joined Skylarks as a Trustee as I believe it provides a vital community service to families. Where I hope to add to the amazing team of selfless individuals who serve as Trustees and volunteers is in the areas of NHS & Educational service development and fundraising to deliver the activities Skylarks provides to complement or fill gaps in publicly available services and support.
I have worked in asset management and banking for 20 years and five years ago became mum to Toby, who has spastic quadriplegia (and associated dystonia) and complex medical needs (recurrent chest infections, GORD). Toby now attends a private mainstream school along with his 8-year-old brother.
Following our own poor experiences I am now working with my Local Authority to improve its EHCP processes and working with my local CCG to improve performance measurement of therapists working with disabled children. I want to help ensure that all disabled children get what they need so that they can maximise their potential, rather than just those who have parents who can shout loudest or afford to have someone shout for them. We should be sharing best practice among all parents.
In addition, I am a member of the City Disability Group, a group of parents who work in the City who have disabled children. Our primary focus is the education of employers about what it means to have employees with disabled children (and later, help them understand they can have disabled employees!) but we are also helping each other from our own experiences. I lead the sub-group on Education, providing help and advice to other parents around the EHCP process.
I am a passionate believer in the equality of disabled children and recognise that we have to start influencing society now so that our children are more accepted into both society and the workplace and long-term care is better provided and supported. Parents of disabled children face tremendous emotional, financial and physical challenges. There are many easy “wins” that we can provide to help them, and we should.
I have been involved in Skylarks since 2006 (when my son attended the charity) and a Trustee since 2010. I am originally Lebanese but lived in Jordan until I moved to the UK in 2000. I am trilingual in Arabic, English and French. I have a son with additional needs. I am a private Doctor and have an MSc in Applied Psychology and Mental Health. I travel internationally speaking on such topics and helping other professionals. I have previously been the Chair of Richmond Parent Carers' Action Group, the parent forum for our area, and a committee member of the NAS (National Autistic Society) Richmond Branch. I worked heavily with the Richmond local authority on the implementation of the Children and Families Bill in 2012 to 2014, which is now the basis for our SEND law. I have regularly attended the council’s CYPwDLD (Children and Young People with Disability and Learning Difficulties) meeting, which is the local council services oversight group, to lobby to protect services for our community in the face of threatened or actual cuts. In May 2011, I completed the Three Peaks Challenge for Skylarks. My passion is working directly with children and changing attitudes towards those with additional needs.
I’ve worked for over 10 years in PR, marketing and communications for charities, public and private sector organisations. For the last five years I have been teaching these topics, currently at Kingston University. Following the diagnosis of my children with various conditions, I started to write a blog which has led to larger writing and speaking opportunities that both raise awareness and acceptance of various conditions and special educational needs and support other parents. These include writing articles for online SEND publications such as Special Needs Jungle and The Mighty site. I am an active member of the SEND local communities. I recently joined the parent panel for the MAT Auriga Trust for the two new SEN schools in the Richmond upon Thames Borough.
I've used the services of Skylarks for the last six years and hope to give back some of the assistance that I felt was so valuable for me and my family.
I am Dad to two girls. Our eldest daughter was diagnosed autism in 2016. I work for a privately owned pharma company in risk and internal audit.
Following my own battle with depression I also campaign and write for the national press about mental health and education. I believe that as a society that we should be helping those with additional needs to meet their full potential. Skylarks is a wonderful charity which has helped my own family and many more and I am delighted to be able to support their continued success.
I am a purpose-driven and results-oriented business leader and investor with 20+ years of work experience in Management Consulting and Private Equity investing. I currently lead a team that executes large cap leveraged buy-outs across Europe and I serve on the Board of invested companies, leading on strategy and financing topics.
I am a father of two daughters and one son and we live in the Richmond area. I believe that all children are different and special and all deserve to have the opportunity to have an education that fits their needs.
At Skylarks, I focus mainly on strategy and finance themes.
A trustee since 2017, Michelle heads up the operations committee and works with the core team to develop programs to support the Skylarks community. She has 10 years experience as a marketing director in FTSE 150 media companies and, more recently, works as a freelance head of marketing specialising in subscriptions, recruitment and events businesses.
Michelle found out about Skylarks when she was struggling to access services and secure an EHCP for her son. "Skylarks welcomed me, supported me and helped both me and my son to build new friendships. I feel privileged to be able to support such a wonderful local charity
Rajan Thevasagayam, Treasurer