Maria Omare | Nairobi, Kenya

Maria is the executive director of The Action Foundation, an NGO that promotes inclusion of people with disabilities through community-based rehabilitation, advocacy, and art. The Action Foundation primarily works in Kibera, the largest slum agglomeration in Africa, where it provides local children with disabilities with occupational therapy, medical care, and resources for recreation.

As the most senior figure in The Action Foundation, Maria has a variety of leadership roles. Her tasks include formulation and implementation of projects and budgets, hiring and overseeing the organization’s workforce and a network of volunteers, performing monitoring and evaluation, and promoting The Action Foundation’s work locally and globally. She has also conducted work for the Ministry of Health of Kenya.

Prior to the ADA International Fellowship, Maria was selected to be a Ford Motor Company International Fellow. The fellowship gave her the opportunity to study nonprofit management and leadership at the Picker Center for Executive Education at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. During this time, Maria learned from investors and executives in New York and Michigan, strengthening her expertise in engaging the private sector in social entrepreneurship and advocacy for people with disabilities.

As an ADA International Fellow representing Kenya, Maria learned strategies to promote inclusive extracurricular activities in schools and strategies to cultivate self-advocacy among youth with disabilities. For her project, she held community training and events at student inclusion clubs that her organization has established in 13 locations across Kibera.

These clubs provide recreational activities and a space in which children with disabilities can connect with their peers outside classrooms, breaking down barriers among youth and expanding recreational opportunities for youth who are often excluded. Her project has enabled these clubs to conduct a more diverse range of activities, including student-organized community events and training in inclusive behaviors for youth with and without disabilities.

Maria pursued her Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) School for Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD) under the supervision of Dr. Valerie Karr.

To read Maria’s project progress report click here.