Matt York founded the Mandala Trust in 2002 as a way to support his friends in the Charan slum community near Dharamsala, northern India. He has been committed to the work of the Trust ever since and feels blessed to be a part of this ever-expanding circle of kindness which has now reached communities throughout the world.
A qualified nurse and development practitioner, Matt has worked on a number of primary healthcare programmes and community development projects in Africa and Europe. He is co-founder of Operation Kindness, a global family of activists, communities and grassroots campaigns whose purpose is to imagine, articulate, implement and actualise alternatives to neoliberal globalisation based upon kindness, altruism and love. He currently lives in Ireland with Jacqueline and their two boys Liam and Jack.
Di Bligh is the current chair of the board of trustees. After a career in social housing and public service, Di retrained to teach and facilitate Action Learning, a long-established technique for working collectively to resolve dilemmas and develop new ideas without telling one another what to do – work which she describes as a compassionate challenge. She combines work for paying clients with pro bono work with and for activists, particularly focused on the climate emergency. These days, when she’s not doing that, she’s probably down the allotment, or gardening.
Di first offered to help with the Mandala Trust after she met its founder, Matt York, working with a local Zulu community in KwaZulu-Natal to create vegetable gardens for families badly affected by HIV/AIDS. Her heart responded to the Trust’s motto of “Simple Acts of Kindness”. Her head responded to the Trust’s thoughtful approach to using its funds as well as possible in the face of overwhelming need. The Trust’s entirely voluntary administration leads to almost zero running costs, unlike so many big-name charities. In light of the many challenges currently facing this world, Di is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Trust’s work at a time when the need to live in love and generosity is stronger than ever.
Brigid Avison is a trained mindfulness teacher, now semi-retired after running courses for nearly a decade. She previously worked as a dyslexia support tutor for students studying at degree level in Oxford and, before that, as a non-fiction book editor and writer. She has been practising Insight meditation for many years, and helps to run one-day retreats in Oxfordshire. Her other sources of joy include trees and streams, gazing, meeting friends, reading poetry, witnessing kindness and generosity, and her husband David.
Brigid writes: `For me, the Mandala Trust embodies so much of what I value in the human spirit – our wonderful capacity to feel our common humanity, to see beyond our social and cultural identities, to witness and rejoice in others’ creative responses to the challenges faced by their communities. Being part of the enabling of those responses – sharing the energy of kindness and generosity – lifts my heart.’
Isla Macleod is a healer, writer and facilitator, devoted to exploring ways we can reconnect to Nature and its cycles through ceremony, ritual, celebration and initiation, and recognising that the future of this earth is in the hands of our children.
Isla is inspired by the Mandala Trust’s intention to help children to meet their basic needs in a sustainable way, by empowering the local community to come together and create initiatives that best serve their unique situation. She is grateful to be involved with a charity that both recognises and embodies the essential virtues of kindness, generosity and interdependence.
Kathryn Tulip is a trainer/facilitator who works with a wide range of grassroots groups and organisations working towards social and environmental justice. She has been involved in campaigning and action on a number of issues over the past 30 years, including: solidarity work with oppressed peoples in Central America and Palestine; anti-militarisation and anti-war campaigning; and environmental action including on road building, forest protection, food and farming and climate change.
To help her stay energised and resilient she loves to be in nature, to grow things, to hang out with friends and to practise Insight meditation. She was drawn to work with the Mandala Trust by its commitment to work with small grassroots projects, supporting them with small amounts of money, to create sustainable and effective projects that meet the needs of children and young people.
Kathryn is inspired by the ways in which the trust operates, incorporating the values of generosity, kindness and compassion into its internal processes and the way in which it works with the groups it supports.
Pam Sutherland is the current Treasurer of the Trust. She is a qualified Chartered Management Accountant, and has an MBA awarded by the Said Business School, University of Oxford. She worked in a variety of finance, project management and technology positions within the charitable sector, culminating in her role as the first CIO at Oxford University Press, until her retirement in 2015.
Pam’s main interests include voluntary work, Insight meditation, and climate activism. She sees the Mandala Trust and its ethos of global compassion and simple kindness as a necessary counterbalance to a world increasingly driven by commercialism and division.
Elizabeth Laird has written more than twenty novels for children and young adults, attempting to bring to western readers an understanding of the situations of young people living in difficult circumstances. She has travelled widely for work and research in Ethiopia and throughout the Middle East. Working with the British Council and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, she set up the Ethiopian Story Collecting Project to collect and preserve folktales from all parts of Ethiopia. You can find out more here.
Elizabeth Laird sees in the Mandala Trust an exemplary model for international co-operation. Working on a small-scale, individual level, responding to need where and when it arises, the Mandala Trust’s values of kindness and compassion, based on mutual trust, enable assistance to be targeted with maximum effectiveness where it is most needed.