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Meni Pefkos: Diversity Kids: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

Ensuring no child is left out or left behind

Passionate. Innovative. Inclusive

Meni Pefkos lives and breathes diversity and inclusion and does everything in her power to prevent children from feeling excluded because of language, culture, challenging behaviour, disability or any other reason.

This passion led to the launch of her statewide social enterprise, Diversity Kids, which sends bilingual, disability and Indigenous support teams to coach teachers and educators and provides resource materials for use in schools and early childhood settings.

The aim is to ensure nobody is left out or left behind, says Meni.

“Children from diverse backgrounds and with diverse abilities may require additional support to enable their full inclusion and authentic participation.”

Meni says it feels surreal to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “It tells us that the community has noticed and values what we do to make sure all our children have voices.”

She describes her work as a one-stop-social-inclusion shop covering language, culture, religion, disability, special education, speech and communication difficulties.

Language support is the most requested program, she says. “There might be a child who has just hopped off the plane and has ended up in school or preschool and doesn’t speak a word of English. We will send a bilingual educator to support this child and their educator.”

Another focus is speech. If a child is struggling with communication, Diversity Kids provides a speech pathologist to help their educator.

“We have a whole heap of programs, and we have packaged them in a fun way for the children,” says Meni.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.

Diversity Kids will use its grant to run a series of supported playgroups for culturally and linguistically diverse children with speech and communication delays. It will also host a local forum on the seven secrets to inclusion and engagement for children’s services providers.

“The grant is going to go a very long way,” says Meni. “It is giving us the opportunity to thrive and grow and continue what we do best.”

__For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here. __

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