Reena Anand from Harrow, Middlesex secures support and funding from UnLtd to help build lasting social impact.
Reena announced the award from UnLtd, the UK’s foundation for social entrepreneurs. The award’s funding and tailored business support will significantly help parents and carers of autistic children from Black, brown, and ethnically diverse communities, thereby creating a positive social impact within the borough and beyond.
Reena, from Harrow, is the mum of two children, the eldest of whom is autistic. She has experienced first-hand the loneliness, lack of cultural understanding through health and education services, and conflict between observing her culture and raising her son based on his needs, not others’ expectations.
She found her voice and started to share her story through articles and social media; this led to several parents from diverse communities reaching out to share that they were experiencing the same difficulties and were struggling to come to terms with their child’s diagnosis and getting to a place of strength so they could advocate for them. Reena was able to move from desperation to feeling awakened and excited about her son’s future – and this impacted her son’s positive sense of self. And she wants this for all autistic parents.
She left her corporate career to help others on their journeys and is dedicated to helping Black, brown and ethnically diverse autistic children feel like they belong in society and are welcome in this world. Reena spends her time speaking and writing about the impact of intersectionality and the challenges of navigating an autism diagnosis in BAME communities as well as how healthcare and education services need to be more inclusive.
She has spoken on the BBC Asian Network, at the National Autism Show, and the Institute of Government and Public Policy among other many other platforms.
With this funding from UnLtd, she is developing a programme for parents and carers to help them embrace their child’s autism diagnosis, advocate for them, and create confidence to raise their autistic children in a positive and child-centric way without the fear of the cultural stigmas some currently face. Her ambition is to make this programme accessible to parents across the country through an online platform.
Reena said: “There are discussions in society about race equality and disability rights but there’s not enough bringing the two together. We need to appreciate that everyone has an identity that’s made up of many different facets.
“The data shows that BAME autistic children fare worse longer-term because of shame, stigma, denial, and judgment from communities and family members; a lack of support in healthcare and education; structural racism; missed or late diagnoses, and more.
“Therefore, interventions are often being implemented later, hampering our children’s opportunity to thrive. By securing this funding, I’ll be able to hold space for these parents and empower them to amplify their voices and support their children to thrive in their uniqueness as early as possible in their autism journeys.”
UnLtd is currently working hard with partners from both the public and private sectors to deliver social impact by harnessing the huge potential of social entrepreneurs to solve society’s biggest challenges.
More information on UnLtd’s latest funding opportunities is available online here.