Martin with his son on a beach in Suffolk, UK.
I am an international development and child protection specialist, a human rights activist and a husband and father. I work with international organisations, governments, NGOs, faith-based organisations, companies, social enterprises and grassroots civil society organisations. Building honest and trusting relationships with my clients is a core part of my approach so we can work together in finding real solutions to benefit the communities we serve.
For the last twenty-three years I have worked at the interface between international development, child protection, anti-trafficking and responsible tourism and volunteering. I am a skilled strategist, programme manager, campaigner, trainer and facilitator. Earlier in my career I spent seven years living and working in India and Nepal, and more recently spent eighteen months working with the Government of Kenya. I have delivered training and technical advice in many more countries around the world. I am now based in London in the UK, although always happy to travel.
Since 2019 I have been an independent consultant working with clients as diverse as UNICEF, Responsible Tourism Partnership, Tearfund Ireland, Better Care Network, Hope and Homes for Children, Child Frontiers, SOS Children's Villages, WONDER Foundation and many more - see here for more information about the projects I have supported.
I previously headed the Global Training and Advisory Services department at JK Rowling’s Lumos Foundation. My team supported organisations and governments from over 70 countries to safely transition from children’s institutional care to family and community-based care. We designed and facilitated the FutureLearn online training course, A Short Introduction to Transforming Care, and assisted volunteering organisations to transition away from orphanage volunteering.
At Next Generation Nepal I led programmes to rescue, rehabilitate and reunify orphanage trafficked children; to support young people who had grown up in institutions to adapt to independent living; and to keep 46,000 vulnerable families together after the devastating 2015 Nepal Earthquake. During this time I pioneered Nepal’s orphanage voluntourism campaign to expose the links between institutionalisation, trafficking and volunteering – a vital part of this initiative involved working collaboratively with the travel sector to promote responsible tourism and volunteering.
I have worked for the largest grassroots social movement in Nepal, BASE, which advocates for the marginalised indigenous Tharu community. I have also worked for the largest child rights social movement in India, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, where I worked alongside Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, to help eradicate child slavery from supply chains.
In the UK I have co-authored one of the most popular not-for-profit organisational development tools, Trusted Charity (previously known as PQASSO), which has sold over 17,000 copies globally and won the UK Charity Finance Award. I also built a forum of 150 not-for-profit children's organisations in London's East End, empowering them to play a vital role in the planning and delivery of local services.
I have an academic background in the Anthropology of Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London - MA Distinction. This enables me to deconstruct the complexities of community dynamics and ensure that all voices and perspectives can be heard, understood and incorporated into development planning.
For more information about my recent work with clients please visit my Projects page, and feel free to contact me so we can discuss how I can help you.
WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY
I knew of Martin long before I met him. His work at Next Generation Nepal was widely recognised and admired, cutting edge and important. I have followed his work at Lumos and he helped me raise the issue of orphanage tourism at World Travel Market which caused many operators to withdraw from providing trips to orphanages or placing volunteers in them. I was delighted when he agreed to moderate a panel on “Child Protection – what is better than orphanages?” at the WTM London travel trade show in 2019.
Emeritus Professor Dr Harold Goodwin, Responsible Tourism Partnership, WTM Responsible Tourism Advisor
Martin was an outstanding Country Director for Next Generation Nepal. He is not only passionate and driven when it comes to protecting child rights, he is a fantastic big-picture visionary who could spot trends and challenges before they manifested and develop strategies to cope with an incredibly complex economic and political landscape in Nepal. He is an excellent manager of people from different backgrounds, highly tuned to the needs of the team, regardless of their position in the organization, and is a natural listener. It allowed us to retain staff in what could otherwise be a high turnover organization. Most importantly, Martin is a man of unmatched integrity. We could trust his every action even from the other side of the world. We could not have hoped for a better natural leader than Martin Punaks.
Conor Grennan, Founder and President at Next Generation Nepal and Author of Little Princes: One Man's Journey to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
Alex Christopoulos, Deputy CEO at Lumos
I have had the opportunity to work with Martin together in the field of responsible volunteering in Nepal. Martin pretty much took the leadership role in bringing together the different stakeholders involved into a constructive dialogue and set up a strategic working group against orphanage tourism. He also initiated a very action based talk series aimed at educating travelers and the industry on the harmful effects of orphanage tourism and also alternative responsible tourism options, showcasing initiatives from industry leaders and thought leaders. I personally found this approach very innovative and action oriented, and to pull this off on a very complicated topic is difficult, and hence highly commendable that he could do it. I follow what he does and he is indeed a leader in this field.
Raj Gyawali, Founding Director at socialtours
Martin has been a part of the NGN family for eight years now. He was our Country Director in Nepal from 2012-16. During this time he oversaw our highly successful family reintegration project; overhauled our leaving care project; and pioneered the campaign in Nepal to raise awareness of the links between institutionalization, trafficking and voluntourism. After the Nepal Earthquake in 2015 Martin oversaw the establishment of NGN’s family strengthening projects, including our unique anti-trafficking street drama which still runs today. He continues to support NGN in his consultancy role as our Strategic Adviser. Martin is sincere, exceptionally hard-working and deeply committed to supporting vulnerable children. He is a friend as well as a colleague, and any organisation he lends his support to is extremely fortunate.
Anna Howe, Executive Director at Next Generation Nepal and recipient of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award 2005
I had the pleasure of working with Martin while I was helping Lumos develop an e-learning pilot. Martin, is clearly a real expert in deinstitutionalisation, but started with a limited knowledge of using technology for learning. However, he threw himself in with passion, commitment and a thirst to learn how technology could help train thousands. Martin led the team with a steely calmness and persistence, which made sure the pilot was a huge success. Not only do I recommend Martin for his deep knowledge of children’s rights and care systems, but I also recommend his project management and leadership skills. The pilot was a massive success because of Martin.
Jonathan Simmons, Entrepreneur and Founder of Zone Digital
I have worked with Martin in several capacities over many years, in both Nepal and the UK. He has been a visionary leader in the fight against orphanage tourism and his contribution to the field cannot be underestimated. Martin's seminal research on this topic paved the way for orphanage trafficking to be internationally recognised as a form of modern slavery. He headed up a prevention strategy that involved awareness raising initiatives both in vulnerable communities to increase their resilience to trafficking, and amongst tourists and volunteers to stem the flow of donor support unwittingly channelled into exploitative initiatives. His extensive knowledge encompasses the areas of child protection, development, voluntourism and human rights. Martin works on projects with passion, diligence, vision and an unswerving sense of humour, and has the ability to pay attention to detail whilst never letting go of the big picture. I have personally been impacted by Martin immensely and he has had a great influence on my thinking. To this day he remains one of my biggest mentors.
Tsvetelina Smale, Coordinator in the Global Training and Advisory Services Team at Lumos
I met Martin in 2017 when, as the head of the GTAS team at Lumos, he provided me with valuable advice and directed me to useful resources and contacts as I was starting the DI process of a large-scale institution in India. In the onsite and online training I have attended since, I found that Martin presents relevant information in a clear way. He shows heart for the subjects he covers, without any sentimentality, something I’ve come to see as rare and essential in this field of work. I hope that in his new endeavour he and I can continue to work together.
Florence Koenderink, Founder of Why Family-Based Solutions
I’ve worked with Martin in several ways over the past few years, ranging from campaigning to end orphanage volunteering to him being a key-note speaker at LSE sharing his future vision for the development sector with over 200 students. I’ve been lucky enough to learn from him and see how he makes real change. In all areas of his work he shows the utmost levels of professionalism, dedication to the cause and takes others with him. Martin is humble, always looking to learn and passionate about people creating change. I look forward to working with him in the future and I would highly recommend him as a consultant.