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Innovations in Mental Health and Development
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Our people

Chris Underhill


Chris has worked in development from the age of twenty-one devoting his life to assisting marginalised people both overseas and the UK. He is specialised in leadership, disability and mental health. A social entrepreneur who was made an MBE in 2000 for his work in international and UK disability, Chris has founded and chaired a number of organisations. He founded BasicNeeds in 2000 and has created a movement in the field of mental health by developing and championing the Model for Mental Health and Development that serves people with mental illnesses and epilepsy around the world. For his pioneering social entrepreneurship, Chris was awarded the Schwab FoundationsSocial Entrepreneur of the Award in 2014, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2013 as well as a Senior Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
Chris tweets as @ChrisBasicNeeds

Shoba Raja

Director of Policy and Practice

Shoba has a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Shoba has had a varied career; her main focus has been the disability movement, and managing services for vulnerable people living in impoverished circumstances. Shoba joined BasicNeeds in 2001 and has been instrumental in developing the organisation’s research and data base. She has developed a new methodology for participatory research with mentally ill people, has trained BasicNeeds teams worldwide in the application of this methodology and its use for policy and advocacy. She has also developed the organisation’s monitoring, quality assurance and impact assessment systems. Shoba has an extensive history of managing collaborative partnerships and is a member on a number of Global Mental Health advisory boards and expert groups.

Jess McQuail

Director of Social Business

Jess joined BasicNeeds in 2011 and is now responsible for co-ordinating and leading the development of new social franchises, a key part of BasicNeeds’ scale up plans, social business and strategy. Previous to this, she worked for over 20 years in a variety of UK based 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.
Jess tweets as @JessBasicNeeds

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. She has a BA in French with International Politics from the University of Warwick and a Masters in Development Management from Open University.
Julia tweets as @JuliaBasicNeeds

Uma Sunder

Programme Manager, Policy and Practice

Uma has a Masters in Sociology and Statistics and a PG diploma in Computer Management. After brief stints in IT, she made a career shift to work in the social sector. Her 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.

Chantharavady Choulamany

Programme Manager, BasicNeeds Lao PDR

Chantharavady is one of the two psychiatrists in Lao. She graduated from the University of Medicine in 1982 in Laos, specialized in psychiatry in France in 1991 and in 2002 completed a Masters degree in Medical Psychology. She was deputy-chief of the Education Bureau, Medicine University, from 1983-1986 and deputy-chief of Mental Health Unit, Mahosot Hospital from 1987- 2007. She worked part-time with UNODC-Country Office from 1999-2002 as national project coordinator and from 2004-2006 as national drug demand reduction officer. She has been teaching psychiatry at the Medicine Faculty since 1994 and developed an e-learning in psychiatry for medical students in 2008. She joined BasicNeeds as Programme Manager in July 2007 to the begin the first ever programme on Mental Health and Development in Laos. She trained health staff and village volunteers on mental health and treatment. Importantly she created a good partnership in mental health with government sectors, international organizations and NGOs. 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.

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 Country Program 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 and gained rich experience in the areas of rural development and humanitarian assistance. He has been affiliated with institutions such as HANDS, Agha Khan Foundation and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to name a few. Zafar holds postgraduate degrees in rural development and public administration from Wye College, University of London, and the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad respectively. 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. In addition, Zafar is equipped with relevant knowledge on local government issues, public policy, human rights and democracy and its challenges.

Nguyen Thanh Tam

Country Program Manager/ Representative, BasicNeeds Vietnam

Tam joined BasicNeeds in 2010 and has been working as Country Programme Manager and Representative of BasicNeeds Vietnam. Previously she worked for over 10 years in a variety of INGOs; managing and developing projects and organisations supporting marginalised and vulnerable people. She also worked for several years in the private sector. She holds Masters Degrees from the School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD) and School of Management (SOM), Asian Institute of Technologies (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand. She received international training on Epidemiological and Behavioural Research, International Mental Health Leadership, Community Based Mental Health Care, Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation. Community development and mental health are her fields of interest.

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 Non-Governmental Organisations 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