Dutch Royal Decoration for Ms Phia Scheffer-Damsma
Ms Phia Scheffer-Damsma, co-founder and creative director of Sonokids Foundation Australia, has been named Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau for her longstanding dedicated time and energy to society; for being a source of inspiration and for having stimulated other people while her work is of special high value to society.
Phia Damsma started her career in the Netherlands where she came across the challenges visual impaired children are facing when growing up. That made Phia decide in 2000 to co-found Sonokids Foundation Netherlands of which she became the creative director. This foundation saw information technology and the internet as unique enablers of equal access and opportunities for all children, with or without visual impairment.
When Phia and her family moved to Australia in 2005, she continued that work here and in 2008 she co-founded Sonokids Foundation Australia of which she still is the Creative Director. In this role, Phia was responsible for the development of the very successful software program 'Ballyland', which, apart from the English version, was also translated into Dutch and Spanish. Ballyland teaches fine-motor computer skills to young children with a visual impairment and even teaches how to use touch technology without sight. Phia also created software for adolescents and published numerous research papers on the use of digital communication instruments for people with poor sight. She is also a member of the South East Queensland Regional Disability Advisory Council and still finds time to do volunteer work as well.
Phia has been called a 'Tomorrow Maker'; someone with a dream of creating a better tomorrow for everyone, teaching technology skills to young children, with and without a disability, including children who are blind or have low vision. She has received numerous awards for her excellent work, which has now also been recognised by the United Nations.
For her tireless dedication of time and energy to society over a long period; for being a source of inspiration and for having stimulated other people while her work is of special high value to society, Phia was declared Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
The ceremony took place on Tuesday 14 January 2020 at the South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment conference in Adelaide in the presence of her husband Otto Damsma and many colleagues.
The Order of Orange-Nassau is awarded for longstanding meritorious service to society, the State or the Royal House. The first five of the six classes are: Knight Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Knight. Recipients of an award in the sixth class become members of the Order. Mr Gijsberts received the award in the fifth class; Knight.
More information on Dutch decorations and orders can be found here: www.royal-house.nl/topics/decorations-and-honours/personal-decorations
Press contact Embassy: Femke Withag 02 6220 9408