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Innovations in Mental Health and Development
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Our people

Chris Underhill

Founder President

Chris is a global expert in the delivery of health and rehabilitation systems to very poor people and a social entrepreneur. Chris is a Senior Ashoka Fellow and recipient of the Skoll Foundation and Schwab Foundation awards for Social Entrepreneurship in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Chris also founded Action on Disability and Development, and Thrive. In 2000 Chris was made an MBE by her Majesty the Queen for his services to disability and development.

Shoba Raja

Director of Policy and Practice

Shoba’s experiences have focused on the disability movement and managing services for vulnerable people living in impoverished circumstances. She joined BasicNeeds in 2001 and has been instrumental in developing the organization’s research and data base. She has developed a new methodology for participatory research with mentally ill people, has trained BasicNeeds teams worldwide in its application and use for policy and advocacy. Shoba has also developed the organization’s monitoring and QA-IA systems. She is a member on a number of Global Mental Health advisory boards and expert groups.

Jess McQuail

Interim Chief Executive

Jess joined BasicNeeds in 2011 and is now responsible for leading and managing BasicNeeds’ global operations. Prior to this, she worked for over 20 years in a variety of NGOs; managing and developing projects and organisations which support marginalised and vulnerable people. Jess has a BSc in Psychology, an MA in Social Work and a post graduate qualification in leadership and management.

Julia Beart

Head of Business Development

Julia joined BasicNeeds in 2010 although her involvement with the organisation began much earlier as a student volunteer in BasicNeeds’ early days. With experience working across Africa and Asia, she has held a range of programme management and resource mobilisation roles within disability and development organisations including Sense International, Plan UK and the National Deaf Children’s Society. Her role involves supporting BasicNeeds’ scale up plans through resource mobilisation and communications. She also has a close interest in developing new business models to support the organisation’s growth and plays a role in the development of the BasicNeeds social franchise.

Uma Sunder

Programme Manager, Policy and Practice

Uma's career graph shows an interesting combination of technical expertise in the development field and she has worked as an Information Manager and Development Executive in a couple of voluntary organisations in Bangalore where she was involved setting up data, management information systems and partners’ project management. She joined BasicNeeds in 2007 and works in the capacity of Programme Manager. She heads the Policy & Practice Directorate’s operations including management of BasicNeeds’ Quality Assurance and Impact Assessment, funding and budgeting.

Dharshini Indrasoma

Planning and Performance Manager

Dharshini joined BasicNeeds in 2002 and her role involves developing, implementing and coordinating systems and processes relating to Planning and Performance monitoring of programmes/projects globally across BasicNeeds. Working closely with senior management she also contributes to organisational strategy including systems and processes related to scale up through social franchising such as carrying out due diligence of potential social franchisees/partners. Her 24 years of work experience has mostly been in the NGO/Development sector in the fields of finance and management with a few initial years in the private sector in the IT field.

Kit Lawry

Development Officer

Kit joined BasicNeeds as a Development Officer for Trusts and Foundations in 2013. With extensive international experience (born in Kenya, lived and worked in Tanzania, Malawi and Swaziland, in South-east Asia and in Kazakhstan and Russia), Kit brings particular strengths in cross-cultural awareness and working in international teams to her fundraising skills. Originally trained to teach English as a foreign language, Kit diversified into lecturing, broadcasting, research and organisational development in different countries as differing opportunities arose and then settled for fundraising in international charities.

Natasha Abraham

Communications Officer

Natasha joined BasicNeeds in 2012 after completing her Masters degree in International Relations at the University of Warwick, UK. Prior to studying at Warwick, she graduated in Political Science from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and then worked as a Teacher for a year with The Akanksha Foundation - a non-profit focusing on educating less privileged children in India. As a Communications Officer at BasicNeeds, Natasha works with a wide range of stakeholders to increase the profile of the organisation and raise awareness of global mental health generally using appropriate communications channels.

Peter Yaro

Executive Director, BasicNeeds Ghana

Peter has 15 years of experience working in leadership roles in non-profit organizations and has multi sector experiences contributing to improve lives of poor and marginalized people. Over the years, he has built a wealth of experience in gender and socially inclusive program design and management, financial management, engagement with government and donors, policy advocacy and influencing. Peter has provided advisory services ranging from program planning and coordination, monitoring and evaluation, team-building and organizational self-assessments.

Joyce Kingori

Programme Manager, BasicNeeds Kenya

Joyce is a seasoned and accomplished social and population health development expert and a leader with substantial development work experience. Joyce has over 20 years experience in senior management positions in both Government and NGOs and joined BasicNeeds in 2005. Her main focus has been on community capacity development, strengthening primary and community health systems, public health research, stakeholders engagement and public participation in policy making.

Chantharavady Choulamany

Programme Manager, BasicNeeds Lao PDR

Chantharavady is one of the only two psychiatrists in Lao PDR. Armed with a range of experiences right from teaching psychiatry to medical students to working at the UNODC country office as a national project coordinator and national drug remand reduction officer, she joined BasicNeeds in 2007 as a Programme Manager. Chantharavady’s role was to implement the first ever programme on Mental Health and Development in Laos. She was greatly implicated in drafting the national mental health strategy which was approved in March 2013. She was also involved in motivating the Ministry of Health to establish the psychiatry post-graduate training in Laos.

Nguyen Thanh Tam

Program Manager, BasicNeeds Vietnam

Tam joined BasicNeeds in 2010 and has been working as Programme Manager of BasicNeeds Vietnam. She has over 10 years of experience in the INGO sector; managing and developing projects and organizations supporting marginalized and vulnerable people. Community development and mental health are her fields of interest. Tam is the Founder of a new Vietnamese NGO, the Research Centre for Mental Health and Community Development.

Erla Magnusdottir

Associate, BasicNeeds China

Erla has a MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Erla started working with BasicNeeds in 2011 and is instrumental in implementing the Model for Mental Health in China. Prior to working with BasicNeeds she lived and worked in China for several years. She speaks fluent Mandarin and is an entrepreneur with experience in business start-ups in China with previous experience setting up her own business. Erla has also previously worked with a Chinese medical company.

Zafar Dehraj

Programme Manager, BasicNeeds Pakistan

Zafar joined BasicNeeds in June 2013 as Programme Manager of BasicNeeds Pakistan and brings on board over 15 years of experience in the social and development sector. Prior to joining BasicNeeds, Zafar worked with various well established local and international development organisations has been affiliated with institutions such as HANDS, Agha Khan Foundation and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to name a few. He is well versed in the knowledge and implementation of results based project cycle management and has also developed manuals and protocols for social mobilisation, food distribution, early recovery and disaster risk reduction.