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.


Carole Holloway - Trustee

Carole is a Chartered Management Accountant and has worked for organisations including Britannia Airways, Compass Group and the Canal & River Trust, where she got her first taste of working for a charity. She is married with two teenage children and a grown-up stepson and lives in Olney, which is a great place to take the family’s golden retriever for walks by (and in!) the river. She discovered the benefits of running a few years ago and tries to keep this up, although decided that the Milton Keynes Half Marathon was quite far enough and now opts for short social runs instead.


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 recently completed her PhD research on the use of social media by youth with disabilities in Kenya.

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'.


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.