Donkey pulling cart with woman walking
Donkey pulling cart with woman walking

Our trustees

SPANA’s trustees are responsible for ensuring our charity is pursuing its long-term goals, effectively managing its finances and successfully fulfilling its charitable obligations, while operating in line with all legal requirements and the wishes of our supporters.

Dr Mary-Lorraine Hughes – Chair

Mary-Lorraine brings extensive experience of both the charity sector and the business world to her role as SPANA’s Chair of Trustees, having spent her career serving as Chief Executive for such organisations as Portmeirion Potteries PLC, Pilkington’s Tiles Group PLC and Twycross Zoo. A keen animal lover and long-standing SPANA supporter, Mary-Lorraine has been a Trustee of SPANA since January 2017 and became our Chair of Trustees in February 2021. She is also a member of our Finance and Audit Committee, our People Committee and our Centenary Committee.

Gavin R H Helmer – Deputy Chair

A leading financial services expert, Gavin has held a number of senior management roles at Credit Suisse, Standard Bank, UBS and Barclays. Gavin has been a trustee of SPANA since June 2014 and became our Deputy Chair in February 2021. In addition to serving as our Deputy Chair of Trustees, Gavin also Chairs our Finance and Audit Committee and our People Committee.

Monica Blagescu

Monica is a non-profit executive with 20 years of experience in international development and humanitarian response, having held leadership, programme management and policy advisory roles for charities, bilateral donors and the UN. Alongside a diverse consulting portfolio, she is currently a member of UK’s Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team and Deputy Chair of the Geneva-based H2H Network. Monica lives with her family in Kenya. In addition to her role on SPANA’s Board of Trustees, Monica is a member of our Services Committee and our People Committee.

Dr Jacqueline Boyd

Jackie is an Animal Scientist with a particular interest in canine and equine science and has wide-ranging practical, academic and commercial experience in this sector. Humane and prosocial education for supporting animal wellbeing and human-animal interaction is a key interest and Jackie regularly gives guest lectures on this subject, as well as being Chair of SPANA’s Services Committee, which includes the education provision. Jackie lives in Nottinghamshire and juggles a busy working life alongside caring for, training and competing her five cocker spaniels, as well as a Welsh pony, chickens, cats and quail!

Marianne Davies

Marianne is Global Head of People Services with GSK, where she has spent much of her executive career. She is also a Trustee of the Youth Action Alliance, and an Independent Committee Member on the Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Committee at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Marianne brings a wealth of HR and Change management experience from her career. She also has a strong interest in animal welfare and, having visited many of the countries where SPANA works, is keen to contribute to improving the lives and communities of working animals. Marianne joined SPANA’s Board of Trustees in September 2021 and is also a member of SPANA’s People Committee and our Centenary Committee.

Adam Firby

A senior Human Resources Director, with additional experience in general management and property, Adam is Human Resources Director for Molson Coors Beverage Company in Western Europe. He has previously held roles across Marks and Spencer, Britvic Soft Drinks and Royal Mail Group. Adam joined SPANA’s Board of Trustees in December 2021 and is also a member of our Fundraising and Marketing Committee.

Melissa Liszewski

Melissa has worked on community-based animal welfare initiatives in more than 30 countries around the world since 2005. Currently leading the global Community Engagement Program at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and previously leading the global Community Development team at Brooke, she is experienced in developing sustainable animal health and husbandry systems, as well as community-led approaches to disaster risk reduction and wildlife conservation. Melissa holds a master’s degree in animal science with specialisations in international development and social science. In addition to her Trustee duties at SPANA, Melissa is a member of our Services Committee.

Gavin Parker

A senior banking professional with established offshore, corporate, commercial and personal banking experience, Gavin has successfully employed his skills in strategic thinking and re-energising organisations for leading domestic and international businesses. In his early career, Gavin worked as a Relationship Manager focusing on providing banking services to the Charities and Not-for-profit sector. Gavin is a member of the Finance and Audit Committee.

Daniella Dos Santos

Daniella graduated as a veterinary surgeon from the Royal Veterinary College in 2012 and has been in small animal and exotic pet practice in a range of clinics across south-east England since graduating. She is also a past Chair of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Ethics and Welfare Panel, and past BVA President (2019-2020). In 2021, Daniella was admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for Meritorious Contributions to the Profession, as well as being awarded the 2021 Inspiration Award. Daniella lives in Buckinghamshire with her partner and rescue spaniel, Bridget Bones. In addition to her work as a Trustee, Daniella is a member of SPANA’s Fundraising & Marketing Committee and our Centenary Committee.

Sarah Shanks

An experienced equine vet and public health practitioner, Sarah has worked in Africa, Australia and Europe. She currently works as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine at Public Health England, following her earlier work as Veterinary Advisor to the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). During her career, Sarah has seen first-hand how working animals provide vital support to communities in developing countries. As part of her work as a Trustee, Sarah is a member of our Services Committee and is also represents the SPANA Board in our whistleblowing policy.