Our Volunteer Team

Core Team

Guy Shahar

Founder, CEO

Guy grew up in Wolverhampton in the 1980s. As a child and young adult, he had many undiagnosed autistic traits, especially affecting his social awareness and understanding. This continued into his 20s, but after he began practising Heartfulness meditation aged 27, many of the adverse effects of these traits began to recede and he slowly gained more command of his life and direction.  His own autism was confirmed in 2018 at the age of 46.

Now married with his own son of 8 years, who is himself autistic, he has worked as a radio broadcaster, a TEFL teacher and teacher trainer, an IT Project Manage, but is now an energy healer at his company, Heartful Healing.

Early in 2016, he unexpectedly found himself writing a book, (Transforming Autism), which describes his family’s remarkable quest to support his son, Daniel, and their life-changing visit to the Mifne Centre in Israel. This turned Daniel's life around and opened Guy's eyes to the true nature of autism and to the most helpful and effective ways to bring out the best in young autistic children.

The book, which was written in little more than 6 weeks, led to Guy's aclaimed TED talk, The Beautiful Reality of Autism, later that year, and to the launch of Transforming Autism Project as a means of raising awareness of the true potential inherent in autism and equipping parents and carers with the tools to bring out the best in their autistic children.

As well as meditation, Guy loves to write, and as well as his 2 books (the other - a collection of short stories - is called Leaving Town), he has also written a large selection of articles for Transforming Autism, a 6-part TV comedy series and 2 films. He also enjoys music, playing the piano (and formerly the guitar), though not to any level of technical mastery, and only his own compositions.

 

Amy Evans

Trustee, HR & Recruitment 

Amy is a Board Partner in a leading recruitment company, where she has worked for over 10 years based first in Leeds, then London and now works nationally throughout the UK.

Her family instantly grew when she met and married her husband and she is now a very happy StepMum to his daughter Clara and StepMum to Alfie who was diagnosed in his early years with Asperger’s Syndrome. Amy felt drawn to get involved and to support this worthwhile charity after she experienced at first hand the challenges the world throws at him.

When she’s not eating Haribo on the sofa with the family, Amy loves swimming, laughing with friends and still finds time in her busy working day to juggle a million other things. She loves to be active and is always looking for new avenues of learning.

 

Gilles Pelenc

Trustee, Co-Founder

In 2007-8, both Gilles’ sons were diagnosed with Autism (at 2 years and 18 months respectively). As a family, they decided to do everything they could to provide the boys early professional and specialist intervention at all costs. Alongside having to deal with a double dose of the usual every day Autism challenges - on virtually zero sleep for the first 5 years - Gilles' and his wife went on to become a school governor in an ASD school and to take on the local authorities in a successful attempt to a change of setting. They also embarked on a never-ending research for positive therapies that could help the boys with their development.

Having built a great network of resources and an even greater circle of influence within the world of Autism, it has now become a mission, to bring this experience to bear to help and support as many families as possible so their battles become easier, their limited resources can be optimised and their children's lives are improved beyond what would otherwise be possible.

 

Faye Long

Trustee

Faye is a Human Resources Business Partner for a financial services organisation with over 15 years' experience in the field. She studied Mathematics with Business Studies at university and also went on to achieve her CIPD qualification.

She has 3 children and 2 step children and her two boys are both autistic. Having received lots of professional help at a very early age Faye's youngest son has been able to go to mainstream school thanks to the support he received.

As a result of this experience Faye would like to help other families get the support they need.

In her free time Faye loves to go running and also during lock-down has developed a passion for gardening.

 

Naomi Crowther

Treasurer

Having studied Maths at Birmingham University, Naomi fell into accountancy after graduating during a recession and deciding that 3 more years of exams sounded appealing. She is a Chartered Accountant working as Finance Director for a growing leadership and management Ed-Tech start-up.
Naomi likes to be busy, juggling family life (three children and two dogs) her career and volunteering as a Trustee.  If she has any spare time, she might be found walking on a country lane, enjoying a pub lunch with friends, or working on a crochet project.
Naomi's eldest daughter was diagnosed as autistic in her early teens.  With the benefit of hindsight and the experience of autism that has developed through advocating for her daughter, Naomi has a real appreciation of how the right early interventions and understanding can help autistic children to blossom.

Therapists

Arianna Pulsoni

Lead Therapist

Arianna Pulsoni is a Lecturer at the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at University of Essex. She works as a seminar leader, teaching infant observation and work discussion at the Anna Freud National Centre for children and families. She has conducted consultancy for Aflatoun and UNICEF on adolescent mental health and she has developed early childhood courses and trainings for trainers. She is a child and adolescent psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She has worked in NHS and in schools. She is the head of the counselling service at an international school. She is currently researching on intergenerational family difficulties and parent work at the Tavistock Clinic, on child psychotherapy and virtual reality at University of Essex and on multilingualism Emotion and cognition in multilingual development across the lifespan.

 

Zuzana Camm

Therapist

Zuzana Camm, MA, is a therapeutic play coach and child psychotherapist. Zuzana is passionate about sharing her knowledge about the therapeutic potential of child-led and developmentally sensitive play.

Zuzana sees play as a wonderful tool for cultivating personal and interpersonal wellbeing and more satisfying functioning in everyday life. Her work is anchored in over 20 years of experience of supporting children from 0 – 16 years old in a variety of care, educational and therapeutic settings and also in homes.

She has been mentored by senior psychotherapists and occupational therapists to deepen and widen her understanding of the fascinating connection between the emotions and sensory integration. Zuzana’s enthusiasm for her work is fuelled by witnessing the growing connection between the children and their parents as the therapeutic process unfolds.

 

Mary Denman

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Mary has been a paediatric Occupational Therapist for 15 years, working with children and families in their homes and education settings, helping them to achieve their potential and remove barriers to learning and play. The children and caregivers are always at the heart of her therapy interventions, to ensure mutually agreed, meaningful and achievable goals are set.

She also has personal experience of the complex and exciting journey that is Autism, having a beautiful daughter who has a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD and severe anxiety. This has helped in her professional work as she can empathise with caregivers as they navigate the journey with their own children.

Mary can’t wait to watch the charity grow and to work with the team to support families across Oxfordshire.

 

Jan Forwood

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Jan has been a paediatric Occupational Therapist for 35 years, working with children and families in school and at home to ensure children reach their potential and remove barriers to learning and play. Jan is a sensory integration trained therapist with a passionate belief that early intervention and support improves lives and outcomes for the child and the family. Jan believes that child and family centred intervention is essential to making therapy practical and deliverable and must be mutually agreed, with meaningful and achievable goals.

Jan also works in the SEND system in Essex supporting children and families in education with Education, health and care plans as well as preparing assessments for tribunal. She knows and understands the power of the environment in making life manageable for children with ASD and passionately believes in the importance of empowering parents with the knowledge and confidence to support their child.

Jan has four grown up sons and two beautiful grandchildren but after raising 4 wonderful boys acknowledges that the world is equipped for the neurotypical, accessing the right help and support for a child with ASD is a challenge. For any parent life can be a challenge but for children with additional needs getting the right support is key to a happy, successful family life.

 

Kate Beckwith

Therapist

I am very pleased to be part of the Transforming Autism Project team as Child Psychotherapist for the Colchester area.

I am a practising Psychotherapist, fully qualified, and registered member of the BACP. I run my own private psychotherapy practice specialising in working with children & adolescents utilising the outdoors, nature, animals, art, and play. Parent work forms a central part of this work. Containing, supporting and empowering parents through helping them notice and understand their child’s communications helps enhance the bond between them, reducing anxiety by better understanding the child’s needs.

My approach takes into consideration realistic external pressures faced by families when assessing the best form of intervention. I am particularly passionate about supporting the parents of infants and young children as early interventions can have a significant long-term impact.

 

Family Services

Ellen Hlorgbe

Family Services Coordinator

Currently transitioning from the military into civilian life after 11 years of service, I am looking forward to the relatively tranquil (hopefully) life I’ll be spending with my children. Prior to the start of my service I was a deputy Store manager, among various other roles, within retail where I was heavily involved in problem solving and communicating and building relationships with my colleagues as well as clients and customers.

Having an autistic child means having to do things a little bit differently than I would normally but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And thus, I am drawn to this cause. To lend my support by drawing on the knowledge I have acquired and continue to do, while caring for my child.

In my spare time, especially when the children are in bed, I love nothing better than to snuggle on the sofa on winter nights catching up with friends and family, in between a good Netflix binge, and an unending flow of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

 

Currently seeking

Project Managers and Delivery Leaders to oversee and drive our activities.

 

Fundraising

Currently seeking

Fundraisers in all areas, especially Trusts, Individual Giving and Corporates.

 

Marketing

Jayne Pooley

Marketing Volunteer

Jayne Pooley is a marketing professional holding senior leadership positions in corporate businesses, leading, developing and transforming large marketing teams. She’s worked across marketing, from brand development and product/ growth marketing to business development. She’s been supporting smaller businesses and community-focused charities for several years, where educational outreach programmes have aided in building awareness/ support/funding/ volunteers and helping those most in need.

Jayne is married and moving to Wiltshire. She’s mum to twins with Autism and ADHD/Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia. She and her husband, over the last 6 years, have had to push hard to get the twins diagnosed and the right support. It’s been a challenging journey, and she’s keen to help others avoid the challenges and get the proper support much earlier.

Jayne will be bringing her marketing expertise to help shape how The Transforming Autism Project markets and engages with people who need support.  In her spare time, she sings in an Abbey choir and helps with school fundraising.

IT

Neil Cary - IT ManagerNeil Cary

IT Manager

Neil Cary has joined our team to look after our IT needs. He has a career spanning 30+ years in IT and Telecommunications, delivering business transformation programmes worldwide.

Neil holds a degree in Electronic Systems Engineering and is a Chartered Engineer with IET. His first computer was a BBC Micro which certainly dates him. A self-confessed propeller-head and nerd, he builds websites in his free time when he's not working for Salesforce. He is delighted to be able to offer these skills to Transforming Autism.

Married with two grown-up sons, Neil is a dedicated rugby supporter and has not been known to miss a Wasps game. The Six Nations is his happiest time of year.

 

Finance

 

Human Resources

Eden Chan

HR Lead

An ex-hotelier and a current ''people'' person, Eden loves to travel, meet and work with others who have a true passion for what they do. She is excited to be part of the Transforming Autism Project team and hopes that she can make a positive impact on such a critical and meaningful project.

In the early stages of her career, Eden worked her way up in hotels, and enjoyed travelling to different parts of the world- a rootless existence that she feels fortunate enough to have had, back in the days when she was single, young and free! Nowadays, she is married, has two young children and a permanent address, which she admits she did not know was what she truly wanted and actually valued in life!

In more recent years, Eden has remained in the people business, but within the training and HR realm. She loves to learn from others and help them develop and achieve their potential. In her spare time, Eden enjoys eating good food, exploring new places and spending quality time with her family and friends.

 

Shilpy Mahajan

HR Volunteer

Human Resources Generalist with 6 years of experience in Hospitality, IT and Retail industry, with maximum experience in India and a brief experience in Singapore. Recently moved to London with family and now part of TAP team. Always learning something new and amazing from my daughters. Always passionate to learn something new and enhance my skills.

 

 

Sandi Haigh

HR Volunteer

Christmas 2022 marked the turning point for a new venture in Sandi's life, with her and her husband's move to the UK, leaving sunny South Africa behind. Her desire to assist the Transforming Autism Project stems from her vast experience of more than 20 years in the HR field and her desire to give back to the community. After leaving school, Sandi completed a Bachelor of Social Science degree, majoring in Industrial Psychology, and went on to complete an Honours degree in Human Resources Management.  She has worked in the private and corporate sectors for companies in the wholesale, retail, manufacturing, food, beauty and pharmaceutical industries.

Sandi is a regular volunteer and participant at the weekly parkruns, having completed more than 250 runs herself.  Although not fast, she is committed. She also volunteers on a weekly basis at a charity for paraplegics and quadriplegics where she helps the residents with art classes and plays board games with them. In her spare time, Sandi also enjoys art and has done quite a few mosaics and paintings. She loves nature and conservation and even has her own earthworm farm! During the Covid-19 pandemic, Sandi volunteered on weekends at a seabird sanctuary assisting injured and distressed seabirds, in particular African penguins which are on the extinct list within the next 10 years.

Sandi is married and has two adult children.  She is a keen traveler and has been to the Far East and several island countries, like Mauritius, Zanzibar, Thailand and Bali, enjoying their traditions and beautiful beaches. She enjoys photography and meeting new people.

Recruitment

Zoe Bryan

Recruiting Lead

I grew up in the UK and received a Bachelor's Degree in Cruise Management from Plymouth. I traveled for four years while working in the cruise industry and now live in Switzerland. I have worked as a recruiting manager for a large cruise industry organisation for the last four years and received a Level 5 HR Certificate from the CIPD. I have been a member of the Transforming Autism Project in September 2021 and I enjoy building the TAP volunteer team and seeing the charity grow.

 

 

Arshia Chatterjee

Recruiting

I’m from India and have spent most of my life moving between cities and countries. After I received my BA in Communication and Psychology, I taught for three years in schools in Bangalore. My teaching experience encouraged me to get my master’s degrees in Psychology of Childhood Adversity and Inclusion and Special Educational Needs. I’m now an editorial reviewer and I'm excited to work with the other volunteers at TAP to help it grow. You'll never find me without my Kindle and I'm always on a personal mission to find and eat the best food wherever I live.

 

Paula McInally

Recruiting

I've been a Recruiter for about seven years, working in a variety of different sectors. I currently work for a large professional services firm. I've always enjoyed matching candidates to their ideal roles.

I'm excited to have recently returned to the TAP recruitment team after a brief spell of volunteering in 2019. I look forward to helping the charity to grow and achieve its inspiring aims.
Outside of the world of recruitment, I've joined a running for mental well-being group and I'm currently training to do my first 5K in a few weeks! My aim is to do parkruns regularly after that. My other hobby is online quizzing! I started playing online quizzes during lockdown and now play in a weekly league, so I like to think I'd be a good addition to any pub quiz team.