Gesher founders are hon­oured for their spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY NEWS - BY JC RE­PORTER

TWO MOTH­ERS of spe­cial-needs sons who es­tab­lished a suc­cess­ful spe­cial­needs school are this year’s win­ners of Jewish Care’s To­p­land award, recog­nis­ing un­sung heroes.

Ali Dur­ban and Sarah Sult­man, co­founders of Gesher, which is rated out­stand­ing by Of­sted, re­ceived the award at Wed­nes­day’s To­p­land lunch at Grosvenor House in Lon­don’s West End be­fore an au­di­ence of more than 850.

“It is in­cred­i­ble to be recog­nised but for us it’s the chil­dren who are the un­sung heroes,” Mrs Dur­ban said.

The duo de­scribe them­selves as “highly am­bi­tious. We didn’t just want a school but an out­stand­ing school, the very best in class. The school is the spring­board for teach­ing the whole com­mu­nity about in­clu­sion.”

Mrs Sult­man said they had come up against brick walls “at the start of our jour­ney six years ago when peo­ple ques­tioned if this com­mu­nity needed an­other school. How­ever, 2018 is a to­tally dif­fer­ent place and time in terms of in­clu­sion and un­der­stand­ing SEN, par­tic­u­larly autism. This is the right time to be bang­ing this drum and the re­cep­tion from across the com­mu­nity this past year has been ex­tremely pos­i­tive.”

Opened in Willes­den in Septem­ber 2017, the school pro­vides “a spe­cial­ist and mean­ing­ful learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment”. It is in­volved in a re­search project ex­plor­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity in pri­mary-aged autis­tic chil­dren.

Also at the lunch, Sir Lloyd Dorf­man talked to Natasha Kaplin­sky about suc­cess in busi­ness, phi­lan­thropy and his knight­hood.

“I want to con­tinue to build busi­nesses while mak­ing a dif­fer­ence as a phi­lan­thropist,” he said. “If you are for­tu­nate to make money at what­ever level, it is im­por­tant to put some­thing back, not just with money but with time.”

In the ten years the To­p­land Group has spon­sored the lunch, more than £2 mil­lion has been raised for Jewish Care ser­vices. This week’s event brought in more than £330,000.

PHO­TOS: BLAKE EZRA

Sir Lloyd Dorf­man and Natasha Kaplin­sky

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