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Ten questions for Jane Waters

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Kate Cavelle
Kate Cavelle

Head of Pro Bono & Comm. Inv.


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27 December 2019

Jane Waters is the Chief Operating Officer of A&O’s Johannesburg office and has taken the lead in setting up its pro bono and community investment programme. Jane first joined A&O in 1999 as head of Banking HR in London, then left in 2004 to move to South Africa and live with her husband in his native country. Jane re-joined A&O when the Johannesburg office opened in 2014.



Jane Waters looking through binoculars

What motivated you to become involved in pro bono and community investment work?

I spent six months working for a small charity in Calcutta in the late 1990s (my ‘Eat Pray Love’ book experience, as I call it!). I’ve always been conscious of the need to contribute to the society we live in, but that trip made me realise you can’t change the world with one-off, short-term interventions. So as the Johannesburg office has evolved, it’s been helpful and motivating to remember that we achieve traction and impact when people are committed for the long term.

What are you most proud of achieving so far in the communities you support in South Africa?

I’m proud that we’re demonstrating a sustainable commitment to charities like Hope and Homes for Children and the Barjume Trust, as well as some of the smaller organisations we support.

We started working with Hope and Homes for Children locally before they became A&O’s global charity partner, and it’s been amazing to be part of a movement that changes the conversation about the institutional care of children.

I am so proud of Lourenza Foghill – country director of the charity here. Over the past three years, she has really moved the country forward to embrace deinstitutionalisation, which is incredible.

The Barjume Trust is equally humbling, as the programme lead, Barney Andrews, is such a force of nature. We’ve supported him in developing a skills centre, medical centre and legal resource centre for his local community. He has an amazing ability to link one opportunity to the next, and the next, and the next… bringing people together to achieve ever more for his community. His work is designed to be replicable so that over time more and more under-privileged communities can be supported.

We’re also completing a piece of work to bring more focus and ease of access to pro bono opportunities for our lawyers and support staff, partnering with five organisations (including Hope and Homes for Children and the Barjume Trust). What makes me proudest are the synergies we can see between the NGOs, which enables us to link them together so they can grow stronger and really make a difference to the growth of South Africa.

How do you fit this type of work around your busy schedule?

A few years ago I attended A&O’s first pro bono and community investment conference for our international partners and champions. I listened to the message that this work is part of all our jobs. It shifted how I prioritise this type of work and enabled me to acknowledge how much I enjoy it.

In what ways have pro bono and community investment work helped you build your career?

I think the principles embodied in pro bono and community investment work – of making a commitment and contribution to society rather than just existing, as well as kindness and decency to others – have been really important to me in how I operate.

I’ve also found it extremely useful to learn recently that contributing to pro bono/altruistic work is one of the greatest stress relievers researchers have found.

Describe your perfect day off work...

Can I fit all these in…?! Ride my horse, walk my dogs, laugh with my children, learn from my husband, drink wine with my friends, stay at a lodge in the Okavango delta and smell the bush sage while looking for wild dogs with my brother and his family, and have dinner on the beach on Benguerra Island with my family!

Which is your favourite city in the world, and why?

Hong Kong – the noise, the pace, the smells, the dim sum, the water, the sea food and the diversity of culture.

Tell us something not many people know about you...

I’m the granddaughter and great niece of two English footballers who played for Aston Villa and Notts County. My grandfather also won an England Cap playing against Scotland. They earned the heady amount of 5 Shillings and a third-class rail ticket! Their father was also a footballer and ended his career as a talent scout sourcing players into Wolverhampton Wanderers.

What words of advice would you give to someone interested in getting involve in pro bono and community investment work?

You will not change the world through one effort, but by changing one person’s experience of life you are making a difference.

Who do you admire most, and why?

I’m not great on idolatry, but I admire those who speak their truth and stand up to bullying and injustice.

Closer to home (and they will die of shock when I say this) I am guided by the values of my parents. My mother has always advocated hard work and relationship-building as a firm foundation for life, and I get great strength from my father’s decision to prioritise his children – and his unfailing support and appreciation for anything we have done! 

This article is taken from the new edition of our pro bono and community investment magazine, Increasing Access.

Download the full magazine below

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