Supporting Children with Autism in China

Maggie Hashemzadeh, Clinical Administrator

Did you know that, of the 70 million people in the world who have autism, 85% live in developing countries, where they often lack the supports and services available in the United States? As someone with a master’s degree in education and nine years of on-the-job training, I felt compelled to use my skills to help developmentally challenged people beyond my home state of Virginia. And Grafton helped me turn a personal and professional dream into a reality.

This summer, I came across a unique opportunity. I received an email from the Global Autism Project – a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing the capacity of local individuals working with children with autism around the world. Global Autism Project was seeking volunteers to travel to Nanjing, China, to offer training and support to fellow educators through its SkillCorps program.

I was worried about taking time off work. But when I mentioned the opportunity to my supervisor, Berryville Executive Director Chezia Calloway, she encouraged me to apply. I was accepted almost immediately, with one caveat. I would need to pay for my own travel and raise $5,000 myself.

After receiving a handful of modest donations online, Grafton stepped up with an incredible offer: a $4,420 donation towards my trip. I was thrilled!

I feel so privileged to work for an organization that supports my professional goals and understands my desire to help those who are less fortunate. Thanks to my Grafton family, I will be leaving for Nanjing in February to share our best practices for helping people with autism thrive. And you can be sure that I will be sharing more about my experience with Global Autism Project when I return!