Andrew Betts - Director
Andrew was studying how to grow ten tonnes of wheat per hectare during the Ethiopian famine of the early 1980s. The ‘success’ of the EC’s Common Agricultural Policy in creating mountains of unwanted grain that he learned about was incongruous alongside the harrowing TV reports of starving children. Andrew ended up befriending the African students on his course and attending lectures on tropical crops, even though they didn’t count towards his agriculture degree.
Work in Swaziland to establish gardens for women and schoolchildren to grow their own food, and a couple of years spent maintaining the grounds of conference centre and building spillways for its lakes followed. But Andrew’s passion for practical development work in Africa was ultimately cemented during five years as a VSO agriculture instructor and manager of a community water project in rural Eastern Kenya.
Fundraising roles for organisations including VSO and Practical Action provided a fuller experience of working with NGOs. Then in 2002, Andrew and his wife Jane founded Advantage Africa to help people affected by poverty, disability and HIV to improve their education, health and incomes. They wanted to use all the (good and bad) experiences gained from working at the grass roots as volunteers and in office roles for prominent charities to help build a better future for some of Africa’s most vulnerable people.
Directing Advantage Africa is an all-consuming task that provides Andrew with immense fulfillment and challenges every single working day. He believes strongly in the importance of genuine partnerships with local organisations and remains as driven as ever to help those living on the margins to overcome poverty and meet their basic needs and rights.
Rob Aley - Programme Manager
Rob started his international development career in 1993 when he lived in rural western Kenya for nearly three years as a VSO volunteer, working at a special school to develop community rehabilitation programmes and vocational training projects for children and young adults with disabilities.
Rob’s original background is in product design; he has an MA in design research for disability and worked in India as Rehabilitation Engineer for what was then The Spastics Society of Karnataka in Bangalore. He went on to become Design Project Manager at Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, producing special products for people with various disabilities.
Before joining Advantage Africa in 2010, Rob was Small Enterprise Specialist for five years at Practical Action supporting small enterprise programmes across seven developing countries in Asia and Africa. He made regular field visits to provide advice and support to individual projects as well as developing the strategic direction of the programme.
In addition to his role at Advantage Africa, Rob maintains a creative design outlet by running a small UK-based candle-making business called The Wax Studio. Rob has two children, one grown-up, and one not yet!
Jane Betts - Programme Manager
With a French degree from the University of London, Jane taught English to postgraduate students in France and then in an isolated part of northwest China with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). Jane’s time in China was life-changing as she witnessed extreme poverty faced by those on the margins, and was particularly struck by the hardship and discrimination experienced by people with disabilities. Giving up her long-held ambition to become a journalist, Jane returned to the UK and worked for VSO for six years in volunteer recruitment and programme management roles, including extended secondments in Guinea Bissau, Cameroon and the Eastern Caribbean.
In 1999, Jane joined World Vision UK and became Head of Programme Development. While in this role, she lobbied the World Vision Partnership to mainstream disability across all its community development and emergency response programmes. In 2004, Jane became the Partnership’s first Disability Adviser and spent a further six years working to ensure people with disabilities were appropriately included in all the organisation’s initiatives. Taking on the role of World Vision Disability Policy Adviser in 2007, she also lobbied other international NGOs, national governments and the United Nations about the pragmatic good sense of including people with disabilities to ensure more effective, sustainable development.
Jane met her husband Andrew while making tea at the VSO headquarters in 1997. In 2002, they co-founded Advantage Africa, both passionate about improving the lives of vulnerable and marginalised children and adults. She was a Trustee of Advantage Africa for nine years before joining the staff as Uganda Programme Manager in 2010.
Jane runs often, usually because of tight deadlines, but sometimes for pleasure, and has completed six marathons to raise funds for Advantage Africa. She and Andrew have two lively children, a nervous dog and two cats rescued from the streets of Romania and Milton Keynes respectively.
Prachi Joshi - Finance Officer
Prachi is an Indian Chartered Accountant and holds CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting. She has worked in the areas of audit and financial management for accountancy firms in India and in the UK. In addition to finance, her work for a community development charity in India also involved her in children's health, education and character-building. Prachi enjoys contributing towards the impact of Advantage Africa by ensuring our finance function is of the highest standard. She is married with two young children who are growing up faster than she can sometimes keep up with!
Charlotte Cashman - Trustee
Charlotte Cashman has lived in Milton Keynes since 1987, where together with raising her family alongside husband Mike, she has been active as a community volunteer for many years. She is a Magistrate, Church children’s worker, an experienced Early Childhood Teacher, School Leader, Governor, Teacher Trainer and Education Planner with over 30 years’ experience in the UK.
Charlotte's experience in international development began in Ghana where she was a Teacher Support Officer with VSO in Ghana 2009/2010. Charlotte understands first-hand the challenges faced by schools and people living with disability in deprived areas. She and ex-Trustee Ann Tennant visited projects in Kenya in 2013 and were both encouraged and inspired by the work of our partners. She also has the distinction of having being one of our Christmas Wrapping project managers!
Charlotte is also an Assistant Director of Educators International, a charity that works in partnership with professional volunteers who offer their services to education reform projects in developing countries. Educators International have recently run a very successful teacher training intervention in Ghana, where teachers were empowered and more than 6000 children measurably improved their ability to read and spell in the last year. They have just handed over their work as a going concern to a Ghanaian organisation who will sustain the programme into the future.
As a Christian and mother of four married children and grandmother to nine grandchildren under seven years old, Charlotte is passionate about promoting the safety and welfare of all children everywhere.
Chris Chapman - Trustee
Chris retired as Managing Director of Andrews Estate Agents in March 2018 where he was also a trustee of Andrews Charitable Trust (ACT) - whose support helped establish Advantage Africa and develop its first projects in East Africa. Chris joined Andrews in 1981 as a Mortgage Consultant, having previously been a Life Inspector. He has enjoyed a full career in financial services, working at NatWest, Leeds Permanent Building Society, National Mutual Life and then Andrews. Chris is also a Trustee of the charity Dementia Adventure Trust which he joined in August 2014 when they first recieved establishment funding from ACT.
Rebecca Sherriff - Trustee
Rebecca's experience of International Development started at school and led her to studying a degree in Environmental Geography and International Development at the University of East Anglia. She has a particular interest in the impact of HIV/AIDS on patients and their families, having studied this in detail in relation to the Luo culture in Kenya as part of her university dissertation. She has more recently broadened her interest more widely to health and wellbeing more generally.
During her studies Rebecca spend 9 months volunteering in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa building the foundations of her passion for community empowerment. She continued with this theme in her career closer to home working for 5 years within the Voluntary and Community Sector in Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire. Her work covered a wide range of projects all focused on community development. She is now working at the National Trust at Stowe, near Buckingham, leading the way on community participation and championing diversity, inclusion and accessibility.
She has been a longstanding supporter of Advantage Africa’s work having volunteered with them in different ways for many years before becoming a Trustee in 2017.
George Mwaura - Trustee
George is the team leader of a large multicultural ecumenical church with 5 ministers of different denominations in the city centre of Milton Keynes. A committed and enthusiastic Christian, George is passionate about justice and working alongside the other trustees to ensure Advantage Africa reaches the poorest. In addition to his church ministry George brings an understanding of East African geopolitics and a background of work experience with the Kenyan Government, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the International Criminal Court (on genocide cases in East and Central Africa) to the role. He believes in lifelong learning and enjoys the interaction with other trustees at meetings. We're not sure that George has much spare time, but when he does, and the English weather permits, he loves to garden, walk and play golf.
Alice Gathoni - Trustee
Alice is from Kenya, where she trained and worked in the education sector for about 18 years as a Special Education Teacher, Special Education Service Coordinator, Examiner, and College Tutor. Besides her work as an educator, Alice is passionate about enabling disadvantaged young people to be able to speak for themselves about issues that matter to them, find and realise their purpose in life. She has volunteered in various capacities in the churches and communities where she lived, including a programme for people with disabilities in St. Martin’s Catholic Social Apostolate and as a Board member of L’arche Kenya, in Nyahururu, Laikipia County. She was also a skills-trainer for community adaptive aids for young people with disabilities in Hawaii where she studied for two years. Alice is currently in her final year of PhD studies at the Open University where she has been researching on youth with disabilities and their use of social media in Kenya and while in the UK has volunteered with Age UK and helps at her local church in Milton Keynes.
Alice brings to the board of Advantage Africa an in-depth knowledge of supporting children with disabilities in Kenya, an understanding of the myriad challenges that young people with disabilities face in trying to get an education and access other basic services needed for their everyday survival, and research skills to inform our good practice. Alice is a mother of two children, one grown up, and a young adult currently in university.
Pratima Dattani - Trustee
Pratima is 'thoroughly excited' to be part of the Advantage Africa team as she was born in Uganda and is keen to contribute to development work in East Africa. Pratima's background over the last 20 years has been as a changemaker, collaborator and senior manager in local government and the charity sector. She is also an advocate for change and believes in pushing boundaries when working for the benefit of vulnerable people and communities. At heart a social worker and community development professional, Pratima has led teams of community development and regeneration specialists where she has found the greatest rewards seeing empowerment in action and lives changed, often through small-scale interventions. Pratima says 'We can touch the very potential of people and I know it doesn’t have to cost too much!'
Pratima currently leads a charity which builds collaborations and embraces new technology to provide solutions for people and communities in need. This includes leading social action projects supporting people who are homeless, helping communities to prevent crime and support older people, people who have mental health needs or learning difficulties. She has the privilege of recruiting and working with many volunteers who give so much of themselves to effect change.
Pratima's interest in practical philosophy, spirituality and practice of meditation and yoga helps build her resilience daily and she is blessed with good company around her, including the Advantage Africa team! She wants her contribution to Advantage Africa to be full 'because it really matters that we do'.
Sandra Golding - Trustee
Sandra Golding started her career path in the telecommunications sector but gravitated towards charities after completing her Master of Business Administration. She has over 15 years’ experience working within the not-for-profit sector in senior management roles and as a consultant.
Sandra began working in international development as a volunteer for the Adventist Development & Relief Agency (ADRA) UK on an assignment to Burkina Faso working for a children’s education programme. With her passion and love for this sector, she went on to work for several INGOs in various humanitarian and development roles in the UK, USA and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In her current role as a business consultant Sandra works with SMEs and not-for-profits by providing advice, support and capacity building, as well as developing and delivering training courses on governance and business planning. She brings skills in communications and marketing, business development and project managment to the Advantage Africa board.
Sandra enjoys singing gospel music and used to sing with the London Fellowship Choir who recorded a live album with the late Bishop Timothy Wright and also sang at the Royal Variety Performance. She was also the associate producer for an anniversary live video recording that the Luton Gospel Community Choir produced with funding she won appearing on ITV’s Million Pound Giveaway.
Mandy Smith - Trustee
Mandy's drive to work for change began in the early 1980s and the experience of living with apartheid in South Africa – a wakeup call to injustice and inequality. This led to volunteering and employment with a variety of international charities in programme/partnership support roles and working in the Sudan, Sierra Leone and Angola. Latterly she's worked in fundraising teams focussed on statutory and trust proposal development in charities including Education Action International and the British Red Cross and she currently leads the Philanthropy Team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.
Many is committed to universal rights to education and healthcare and therefore proud to be an Advantage Africa trustee, supporting partners not as passive recipients but as advocates and activists. She's new to the Quakers and enjoying learning about raising awareness of peace and tackling the increasing presence of the military in our schools and society. Her nearest and dearest are Micky (21) Scrumpy Jack (11), Johnjo (not allowed to mention his age!) and Gertie our rusty old VW camper.
David Barnett - Trustee
After graduating from Cambridge in 1979 with a degree in modern languages, David qualified as a chartered accountant and spent six years as an audit partner specialising in charity clients. From 1997 he worked for housing associations in Oxfordshire, setting up their finance functions, latterly becoming Finance Director/Deputy Chief Executive of Cottsway HA. Since 2013 he has worked for Bradfield College, a leading independent boarding school, where he is Acting Bursar and Chief Financial Officer Elect.
David is an active Rotarian and has served as Chair (twice) and International Chair of Abingdon Vesper Rotary Club, overseeing their projects in East Africa. These include a centre for street children in Kenya, and school refurbishment, hospital improvement and micro credit projects for 70 village groups in Uganda. David has also been active in running the Club’s many charitable projects in the UK, has worked for many years with Rotary global scholars, and in 2018 received a Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship. His extensive charity experience also includes ten years as Treasurer of the Oxford Night Shelter and Finance Chair for the governors of Fitzharrys School. David is also currently a trustee of Festival Spirit, a charity that takes severely disabled young people to music festivals, and the Maplewood Trust, a small charity helping young people with their education.
David has been married to Ann for 33 years and they have one son, Peter. In his spare time, he follows most sport, is a passionate lover of music and theatre, and enjoys walking his two dogs. To his eternal sadness, he is a lifelong member of the Tangerine Army, supporting and suffering for Blackpool FC.