Our staff

Vision Aid Overseas' head office is based in Crawley, West Sussex. We also work with Programme Directors and staff around the world.

Our Staff Biographies


Nigel Wilson - Executive Director

Nigel Wilson

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!

Michel Agbodjinou - Finance Director  


Michel joined Vision Aid Overseas in May 2014.

He is a qualified Chartered Accountant with an extensive experience in the non for profit sector, helping organisations to improve their internal effectiveness so that they can successfully achieve their missions. Most recently, he served 6 years at Shelter the Homelessness charity and prior to that, previous appointments included the Salvation Army, Southwark Council and the Fostering Network.

Michel is passionate in international development and the prevention of blindness issues in particular. 

Rachel Botham - Development Officer


Rachel graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in Economics and International Development in June 2014 and started her role as Development Officer in July. Rachel has had an interest in International Development for many years and is enjoying putting her degree into practice!

Originally from Birmingham, she now enjoys living in Brighton. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys drinking good coffee and watching tennis.

Michele de Vaal - Deputy Country Director for Ethiopia and Sierra Leone 

Michele de Vaal

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.

Karen Edwards  - Programme Director (Zambia)

Karen Edwards

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 eshetu

Zelalem joined Vision Aid Overseas in 2011 as our Ethiopia Country Representative and was promoted to Programme Director in 2012. He first became involved with Vision Aid Overseas in 2002 as a trainee ophthalmologist and later as programme manager for Orbis. He coordinated outreach projects with Vision Aid Overseas and was in charge of initiating the optometry degree programme in Ethiopia.

Zelalem is also the Medical Director of a private eye care clinic in Addis Ababa where he delivers advanced ophthalmology and optometry services. He has one daughter and supports his extended families. He is obsessed with football, and especially follows the English Premier League.

Jeremy Jalie - Development Director

Jeremy Jalie

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.

Trudy Moody - Finance and Admin Officer

Trudy Moody

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!

 Howard Payne - Warehouse Manager

Howard Payne

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.

Karen Sparrow - Education, Training Director and Programme Director (Botswana)

karen sparrow

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.

Judith Trigg – Professional Volunteer Co-ordinator

Fiona Lamont

Judith co-ordinates the assignment preparations and post travel administration for our Professional Volunteers going overseas, including the training days that volunteers and team leaders attend prior to being selected for an assignment.

 Prior to joining VAO, Judith was employed in the voluntary sector and is passionate about the benefits and outcomes of volunteering, especially for sustainable projects.

Outside work, Judith enjoys family life, volunteering and travelling. As a child she regularly visited Zimbabwe and Zambia

Alfred Yambasu  - Programme Director (Sierra Leone)



Alfred Yambasu is an experienced public Health specialist and program manager. He was a health program manager for GOAL Sierra Leone for 3 years but now working with Vision Aid Overseas (An International Non-Governmental Organisation) as Program manager Eastern province, Sierra Leone. He has experience of the Sierra Leonean Health systems and has worked in both Preventive and curative health institutions.

Alfred has experience working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and National and International non-governmental organisations such as Vision Aid Overseas, GOAL Sierra Leone, St Luke society, the shepherds Hospice and Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF-Belgium). He has managed funding from various funding agencies including Unicef, EU and USAID successfully

Giulio Venturi - Vision Centre Supply Manager

Giulio Venturi

After many years in manufacturing optics, Giulio joined Vision Aid Overseas in August 2011 in a newly created role of Vision Centre Supply Manager who oversees the supply of frames, lenses, optical equipment and consumables to the charity's Vision Centres overseas in our 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). 

Join our mailing list

Get the latest updates on our work