Geetha Moorthy is the founder and Executive Director of SAAAC.
TamilCulture: How did you start working with children who have autism?
Geetha Moorthy: As a dance teacher, I arranged for my students to perform for various charities in order to raise funds and awareness for their various causes. During this time, one in particular pulled at my heart strings and I started learning about the lack of support and treatments for children with autism and their families, particularly in the South Asian community. I realized that in the South Asian culture, there isn’t a word that translates to Autism – with very little knowledge on the subject (within the community) there wasn’t a lot of support for these families and their kids. I wanted to be a voice for those families and I wanted to help these children to see the potential in their differences.
TC: Did you always know that you wanted to start a non profit community organization?
GM: I always knew that I wanted to make a positive change in the world. The path became clear when I started teaching classical dancing. As I began to watch the incredible talent my students had, I couldn’t help thinking it was important to use this talent for a good cause, so we started booking opportunities to dance for charities.
TC: What would you consider milestones in your work?
GM: There are many definitions of milestones! First and foremost every time I watch one of the children at SAAAC start speaking or master a skill they were having trouble with before they joined our organization. SAAAC’s growth over the past five years, from our humble beginnings in my living room to our first official site (which we secured this year), has certainly been another exciting series of milestones. Our new site provides the opportunity for different areas for each therapy and a computer lab for our children.
TC: Is there an ultimate goal, or measure of success that you aspire to?
GM: For me success is about setting goals and being committed to working hard to achieve those goals. Honestly, for me, there is no ultimate goal. I believe there are always opportunities to grow to do better or to do more; once you’ve achieved a goal, set a new one a little higher a little further. Life is about continuing to push yourself and a series of setting new goals, working towards them, and then setting new ones.
TC: What advice can you share with those who are considering a similar career?
GM: I’m actually working on creating a blog to address this very question which will soon be available on our website, www.saaac.org. I will say, though, that the most important advice I can give would be to have genuine passion, to be persistent, and to be patient.
TC: What’s a quote that motivates you?
GM: “Forget all the reasons it won’t work and believe the one reason that it will” -Unknown
TC: “To me Tamil culture is”:
GM: Adapting. Just within the confines of SAAAC, I have been able to see the immense shift that is starting to happen as families are more open to understanding issues they once were inclined to hide from. There is still a long way to go – but we’re slowly getting there.