Meet the ChangeMakers

Dr Kshama Metre | CORD

Dr. Kshama Metre, known affectionately by all of us as Doctor Didi, is a leading Indian rural development leader and paediatrician. She is the National Director of the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD).

CORD works deep within the most rural and deprived locations in India, deploying its unique sustainable model for a comprehensive community driven integrated development program, under the aegis of the Chinmaya Mission.

Kshama Didi is also an adviser to CORD USA, the US wing of the Organization. Her visionary hands-on approach has led to global recognition of her work , for which she has received numerous accolades, including the Guardian International Development Achievement Award(2012) “Guardian International Development Achievement Award winner 2012: Dr Kshama Metre”; and Woman of the Year by ‘The Week’ magazine (India, 1993)

She was awarded the fourth highest civilian honour , by The Government of India – the ‘Padma Shree’ in 2008, for her outstanding contribution to society.

Kshamaji’s holistic approach includes whole village sustainable development, local self-government, women’s’ self-help groups and micro-banking, to name a few.

Kshamaji started out with a focus on maternal and child health in a remote area where there had never been even the most basic level of medical support. She began with just a handful of health centres , providing training in community health. However, “I realised that treatment was only touching the tip of the iceberg. Unless you look at lives holistically and address the many medical and other issues, things would be very difficult,” says Dr Kshama Metre.

Faced with a complex web of socio-economic challenges, poverty, abuse, gender violence alcoholism and a complete lack of education, she realised that each strand would need to be tackled sensitively. The CORD story is still unfolding and at every new chapter , there is a renewed energy, an evolution of an empowering communal identity,

We encourage you to visit the links above, as these stories of adversity , dogged determination and hope bring out the true strength of human character.

Lifelines has been associated with CORD and Kshamaji for over 10 years, and many of our youth volunteers ( now adults!) have maintained their association with CORD and with its joyful, visionary leader. Indeed many career choices blossomed out of intense conversations with her during our various visits to Sidhbari, in the Himalayas . Two of them became doctors, two psychotherapists, an environmental campaigner …the list goes on!)

I believe all human beings want to do something good.” Dr Kshama Metre

We, at Lifelines, agree wholeheartedly. Thank you Kshamaji

Short Biography – LESLEE UDWIN

Human Rights Advocate and Filmmaker
Leslee was voted by the NY Times the No 2 Most Impactful Woman of 2015 (second to Hillary Clinton), and has been awarded the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Human Rights Prize (previously won by Madeleine Albright). She has also been named Safe’s Global Hero of 2015, Global Thinker by Foreign Policy, and the GlobalmindED award for Arts and Education in 2019.In 2019 Leslee was awarded the UN Women for Peace Activist Award at the United Nations, UN Association USA’s Global Citizen of 2019 and the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award.

A former filmmaker and now campaigner for a system change on education, Leslee is no stranger to successful campaigning films. “Who Bombed Birmingham?” (starring John Hurt) for HBO and Granada TV, directly led to the release of the ‘Birmingham Six’ after 17 years of wrongful imprisonment.

Her feature film “East is East” (35 prestigious awards worldwide, including a BAFTA for Best Film) did much to promote tolerance and the celebration of diversity as between the Asian and British communities and has become a classic film taught in schools across Europe.Her documentary “India’s Daughter”, has been critically acclaimed around the globe, won 32 awards (including the Peabody Award and the Amnesty International Media Award for Best Documentary 2016) and sparked a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

The searing insights yielded by the 2½ journey making “India’s Daughter”, led Leslee to found UK-and-US-based Not for Profit global education initiative “Think Equal”, of which she is the CEO. This early years education programme, the solution to the problem the film laid bare, is currently impacting 39,850 children in 14 countries across 5 continents (Australia, Botswana, Canada, Colombia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Northern Macedonia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, UK, USA and Trinidad Tobago). Partners of Think Equal include UNICEF, UNESCO, Pope Francis’s Scholas; the AC Milan Foundation; Montessori; the Institute for Healthy Minds (Wisconsin Madison University); Charter for Compassion, the Dalai Lama / Emory University’s SEE Curriculum and the Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Chitra Shah

Satya Special School

Chitra Shah, is the visionary and dynamic founder of Indian non-profit Satya Special School, the largest rehabilitation program for children with special needs in Pondicherry, India, servicing over 900 children.

“I come from a privileged background,” Shah said. “When I say privileged background, I did what I wanted, I wore the clothes that I wanted, I studied the subject that I wanted and finally married the man that I wanted — something that a number of girls in India do not have the privilege of. Finally, when I married into a very wealthy family, I decided that I should give back something.”

Shah said her mission to help her community started with a visit to a disabled girl’s home in which she witnessed abuse.“I saw this child tied up to a plastic chair with nylon ropes,” Shah said. “The mom very casually told me, ‘I leave her locked up like this eight hours a day.’ The first thought that crossed my mind was: ‘We keep dogs in a better condition.’”

It wasn’t long until Shah realized this wasn’t uncommon in the area.
“One of the things that this mom told me was that ‘I’m not the only one who ties up the children; I know so many other mothers who do this,’” Shah said. “So I gathered all these moms up and I asked them, ‘Would you send your children to a center if I started one?’”

This inspired Chitra to launch the very first school in 2003 with 20 children. Today the program has over 900 kids across nine centres in India.

“There is a huge mythos attached to disabilities [in India],” Shah said. “… The belief is that they committed such a huge sin in the past that the gods have punished them with a special needs child. A child with autism is considered to be possessed by an evil spirit, so these kids are made to walk on fire and sometimes tied up to a tree and whiplashed. So whenever the family understands that they have a special needs child, the mothers are given two options: One is to walk out of the family with the child, or abandon the child.”

Satya’s centres not only aid in the care and education of children with special needs, but helps build a community for the single mothers left to raise the children alone. “They started understanding that it was more scientific,” Shah said. “It was something else, it was not them. They all sat together and shared for the first time. Women in India would never go to a counsellor. You would never go to somebody and share your problem.”

Satya Special School has expanded since its humble beginnings to include hydro,occupational, special education, group and speech therapy. They also include a school readiness program, activity-based learning, learning through visual media, learning practicality, drama as a learning tool, learning through movement and learning through play. Skill and vocational training is taught as well to the older residents. This includes teaching them paper quilting, baking, wood working, cup making and mat weaving. “We are sending out this strong message that there is so much hope,” Shah said. “Yes, you have a child who’s difficult to handle, but yet you and your child can live your life and live it well.”

( adapted from

Satya and Lifelines are committed to empowering lives of children and women through education.

Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo

The Tree of Life Narrative Methodology

Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo is a visionary Zimbabwean psychologist and narrative therapist based in South Africa. Ncazelo’s inspirational journey led to the evolution of a leading highly regarded psychotherapeutic approach – The Tree of Life Narrative Therapy – ToL ( In collaboration with Michael White and the Dulwich Centre). This methodology now firmly embedded within academic and practitioner literature , has been further evolved by Ncazelo into targeted approaches ( COURRAGE, Narratives in the Suitcase ) for dealing with abuse, refugee mental health, community upheaval and so on; through her charity – Ncazelo founded PHOLA in 2015.

PHOLA’s aim is to address problems associated with trauma and its effects on children, women and their families and communities.

‘Many people especially women and children face significant abuse, exploitation, and a violation of their rights. These experiences leave them trapped in negative identity conclusions about themselves. They introduce self-hate, a sense of futility, victimhood, guilt, shame, and often isolate them from others. Those affected end up living their lives in un-preferred ways and are not able to achieve their full potential in life. Their quality of life is diminished as they inhabit the negative and unfulfilling dominant stories about their identity. Trauma and its resultant effects can lead to very thin understandings about oneself and one’s life. It can consume a person’s energy for life and recruit people into living their lives with great fear, sadness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, loneliness and isolation etc. To further complicate matters those affected are usually subjected to trauma tools and methodologies that are imported from the west and therefore fall out of their belief and value systems’

Extracted from website:

Phola, under the dynamic leadership of Ncazelo continues to exponentially transform the lives of children, adults, and whole communities dealing with severe trauma and deprivation. A Lifelines therapist (trained by Ncazelo) has also worked with ToL within the Refugee Council UK, as have organisations such as the Tavistock Centre, CAMHS and NHS mental health services.

In 2019, Lifelines sponsored a week-long Advanced ToL workshop at the Freud Museum, and hosted an evening seminar with Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo.

Caroline O'Connor

CEO, Migrant Help

Caroline joined Migrant Help in March 2017 as the Chief Operating Officer and became the CEO in January 2020. Her focus, integrity and commitment ensure that Migrant Help is able to do the most good it can for our clients.

Her background is in finance and operations, her last position before joining Migrant Help was Finance and Operations Director for a children’s hospice in London. She studied economics and law, later moving to finance and accountancy.

Migrant Help is a large UK charity that supports refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of modern slavery and other vulnerable displaced people. Caroline has worked in the charity sector for the past 18 years, with charities in education, at a children’s hospice and now with Migrant Help.

Leading through Covid. she became the CEO of Migrant Help in September 2019, just as they commenced a crucial new contract.

Caroline recalls “Six months after I became CEO, we were facing lockdown and a world-wide pandemic.  Luckily, in those six months we had built a strong management team with a lot of trust in each other, because we were about to be well and truly tested. It helped tremendously that our staff are deeply committed to supporting our clients; our motto through the pandemic was “may our compassion always be greater than our fear”. I’m immensely proud of everyone in the organisation, we kept it going and we were there for our clients when they needed us.”

Read the full interview with Caroline here.