Vision Aid Overseas' head office is based in Crawley, West Sussex. We also work with Programme Directors and staff around the world.
Dr Natalie Briggs
Natalie joined Vision Aid Overseas as Chief Executive in March 2009. She believes that a critical priority for Vision Aid Overseas is to work with in-country Ministries of Health and other partners to drive a social entrepreneurial investment agenda thereby transforming access to eye care.
Her particular expertise is in professional development, having worked as Dean of Business and Management Faculty at Bromley College of Further and Higher Education and as executive director of the Raven Department of Education at The Royal College of Surgeons of England. She is a Trustee on the IAPB VISION 2020: Right to Sight national executive and The Steel Charitable Trust.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, visiting the south of France and last but not least, the company of her two year old grandson.
Programme Director - Malawi
Ruth has been involved with Vision Aid Overseas since 1998 and has been Malawi Country Leader and then Programme Director for Malawi since 2002. During that time she has visited much of the country with direct service clinics, built relationships with local people involved in eye care and education as well as helping to establish a Vision Centre.
In addition to Vision Aid Overseas activities, Ruth works as an optometrist in partnership in an independent practice in Bristol; she also enjoys Scottish dancing and ski-ing as well as family and church life.
Michele de Vaal
Programme Manager - Ethiopia
Michele has been a member of Vision Aid Overseas since 1998 and has worked in Ethiopia both as a volunteer and as staff. Michele's passion for Ethiopia has led her to build up an extensive knowledge of the country, its history and customs.
Michele works for an independent optical practice in North Yorkshire and is also kept busy helping to look after a large flock of sheep at home in Wensleydale! Any spare time she has is spent with her family, and she enjoys cooking and baking for her three grown-up children and her granddaughter. Michele also has a sheepdog and the two of them often spend quality time together walking in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
Programme Director - Zambia
Karen joined Vision Aid Overseas in 2008 as Project Manager, but for the last two years has been based in Lusaka as the director of our programme of activities there.
A qualified occupational therapist, Karen has a Masters degree in Community Disability Studies for Developing Countries from University College London and has lived and worked in several countries as a disability researcher and programme manager for several NGOs including Namibia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Russia. Her work with Vision Aid Overseas combines her interests in disability prevention, sustainable development and community eye health services and of her passionate love of Africa.
Karen’s leisure pursuits include immersing herself in as much of Zambia and its culture as she can, attempting to improve her rather poor French and an obsession with thriller reading.
Dr Zelalem Eshetu
Programme Director - Ethiopia
Zelalem joined Vision Aid Overseas in 2011 as country representative and was promoted to Programme Director a year later. He became involved with Vision Aid Overseas in 2002 as an Ophthalmology trainee and ORBIS programme manager. He coordinated outreach projects with Vision Aid Overseas and was in charge of initiating the Optometry degree programme in Ethiopia.
Zelalem is the Medical Director of a private centre where he delviers advanced Ophthalmology and Optometry. He has one daughter and supports his extended families. He is very much obsessed with football especially the English Premier League.
Programme Director - Uganda
Alison has been actively involved with Vision Aid Overseas since 2003 when she first went to Uganda. In recent years she has been that country’s Programme Director. She is particularly interested in training, human resource development and understanding the barriers to the management of uncorrected refractive error.
In the UK Alison works clinically in both hospital and university teaching clinics, she is a college assessor and examiner and is a member of the Fitness to Practice Hearings Panel of the GOC.
Away from work Alison enjoys photography, mainly of elusive wildlife and birds, enabling her to spend time in the Scottish countryside.
Jeremy joined Vision Aid Overseas in 2004 as Deputy Director and has worked for the charity in press and marketing, fundraising and strategic communications. A history graduate from Sheffield University, Jeremy has a passionate interest in international development and prevention of blindness issues.
In his spare time Jeremy enjoys playing rugby and following the fortunes of the England team, as well as being a passionate advocate for the county of Sussex and enjoying the occasional tread on amateur dramatic boards.
Office Manager and Assistant to the Chief Executive
Fatma supports the Chief Executive and the Board of Trustees with all matters relating to governance. She is also the Office Manager responsible for office management activities including all human resource and health & safety issues.
She has a passion for Vision Aid Overseas and a natural admiration for the phenomenal commitment and support that Vision Aid Overseas receives from all volunteers and members.
Outside of work, Fatma adores spending quality time with her family. Fatma has two amazing young boys which she believes are her greatest assets and also realises that parenting is a challenging and rewarding role, bringing both joy (and at times, pain!) with each year that passes. She also enjoys reading, sketching and arts and crafts.
International Programme Director
Originally training as a teacher working in both the UK and Kenya, Nigel then spent 16 years in the British Army in a variety of roles including that of a training advisor and developing the doctrine for United Nations Operations.
Leaving the Army in 2000, he has worked extensively in the humanitarian system, both for the British Government and for various INGOs. He has lived and worked across Africa including extended periods of time in the Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, East Africa, Chad, South Africa and Angola.
He was the interim CEO of the charity War Child and immediately before joining Vision Aid Overseas, spent six months working with Save the Children as their Director of Planning.
In his spare time Nigel climbs mountains, generally spends time outdoors and nurses his strained muscles!
International Programme Officer
After graduating in 2011 with a degree in Politics and Theology from the University of Leeds, Fiona spent time travelling and volunteering abroad in Tanzania and India.
Joining Vision Aid Overseas in 2012, Fiona started as the Development Officer, but has recently moved into the Programmes team.
Outside of work, Fiona enjoys learning to bake, going to the theatre and travelling the world as much as possible.
Finance and Administration Manager
Kate graduated (a long time ago!) from Bristol University with a Masters in Communications Engineering and a Bachelors degree in Engineering Mathematics.
She began her career in engineering, but found after a while that working with accountants was even more exciting than working with engineers! She then decided to pursue a qualification with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and has a CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, as well as substantial financial management and business planning experience.
She took up her post in March 2012 and is thoroughly enjoying learning about the exciting and rewarding work that Vision Aid Overseas undertakes.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her very active 9 and 11 year old sons, doing plenty of outdoor sports and activities, as well as running and playing tennis.
Trudy joined Vision Aid Overseas in September 2009 and works within the Finance & Administration team. Trudy enjoys speaking to and helping our members and fundraisers.
In her spare time, Trudy is a busy mum of two teenage girls and is currently renovating her house which seems to be taking a very long time!
Warehouse, Freight and Equipment Manager
Howard is our Warehouse, Freight and Equipment Manager and is responsible for overseeing our spectacle recycling process as well as sending out equipment which is needed by our Vision Centre teams. Each time a volunteer project goes to one of our partner countries, Howard prepares all the optical testing equipment and documents and then cleans and tests all equipment once the volunteers return.
During his time with Vision Aid Overseas, Howard has helped set up two Vision Centres in Ethiopia and has also been on a project to Burkina Faso.
Outside of work Howard is the treasurer of the Crawley Gateway Club, a charity in aid of people with special needs and learning difficulties, and he also enjoys a weekly swim and playing snooker in the Crawley snooker league.
Vision Centre Director and Programme Director - Burkina Faso
Richard became a member of Vision Aid Overseas in 2005 and has volunteered as a dispensing optician in Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia. Working as a Vision Centre technical advisor since 2011, he has advised on the installation and running of Vision Centres in Zambia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Ghana. He was awarded a Trustees Award in 2011 for his services to the charity.
His role as Vision Centre Director will give support to the International Programme Director and as part of the Operational Management Team he will ensure Programme Directors are supported with the management of their existing Vision Centres and the future expansion of sustainable eye care services across the whole of Africa.
Alongside his work for Vision Aid Overseas he runs an optical franchise that incorporates all areas of the optical sector including domiciliary home visits, prison clinics and diabetic retinal screening. He also provides retinal screening services for his local hospital and is the ABDO representative on the UK Domiciliary Eye Care Committee.
Major Giving Manager
Nina joined Vision Aid Overseas in September 2013 as Major Giving Manager. Passionate about creating sustainable projects that bring about social change, Nina was drawn to work in the Social Enterprise Sector and has been raising funds for grass roots organisations for 15 years.
In her spare time Nina enjoys amusing her 6 year-old daughter by standing on her head and practising yoga. She’s also proud of her ability to mimic accents and her improvised skiing technique.
Education and Training Directors and Programme Director - Botswana
Karen graduated from the University of Wales, Cardiff and started her career as a high street optometrist, moving into practice management and regional training as well as pre-registration optometrist supervision. In 2008 she joined the Association of Optometrists (AOP) as Education Adviser where she now supports and mentors students and optometrists across the UK.
Karen has volunteered for Vision Aid Overseas since 2007, fundraising and leading assignments to Africa to provide training and eye care in line with Vision 2020. She has recently accepted the role of Education and Training Director with Vision Aid Overseas and is leading our programme in Botswana.
Programme Director - Ghana and Sierra Leone
Kath's first VAO project was in 1987, and since then she been on twelve projects, eight of them to Sierra Leone. She has always found great satisfaction in the teaching aspect of the projects, sharing her skills with local nurses, opticians and optometrists. She became Programme Director for Sierra Leone in 2009, and added Ghana to her role in 2011.
Kath sold her optical practice near Leeds in 2009, and now spends the summer months with her husband Barrie on their sailing boat Yarona, presently in the Mediterranean. Winters are spent back home in Low Bentham, working as a locum and as an examiner for the College of Optometrists. She enjoys fell-walking and cycling, and is fortunate in living close to both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.
Vision Centre Supply Manager
After many years in manufacturing optics, Giulio joined Vision Aid Overseas in August 2011 in a newly created role of Vision Centre Supply Manager where oversees the supply of frames, lenses, optical equipment and consumables to the charity's 11 Vision Centres overseas in our eight partner countries. Working closely with the Programme Directors he also collates the Management Statistics for the office.
Outside of work, Giulio likes cycling (he has completed the Isle of Wight 100km Randonee twice), growing unusual vegetables, the sea (despite not being able to swim!), cooking and eating spicy food and most sports (spectating and participating – alas age restrictions now apply).