Our well travelled and highly experienced team make up the fabric of our culture. Find out more about them below
MEET THE TEAM
Hey, great to meet you!
Founder & Director
H oversees all of Kaya’s operations and conduct outreach in the U.S. and globally to secure new affiliations, especially with schools and universities. H set up Kaya in 2008 after her own volunteering experiences and many years of involvement with community projects.
During a late 20’s gap year in 2004, she was fortunate enough to make a last-minute change to her itinerary which resulted in her not being on the beaches of Thailand, as planned, for the Christmas holidays – and instead arrived just 2 days after the world’s deadliest tsunami killed 230,000 people.
She worked for 4 months as part of a group of amazing volunteers in a Thai NGO in the town of Khao Lak – one of Thailand’s worst hit regions. These were the most emotional, memorable, impactful and immersive travel experiences of her life. From her experience, she wanted others to have the chance to do the same, and Kaya was born.
Senior Placement Manager
My name’s Tom and I’ve been working for Kaya for over 6 years now. After I graduated from University, I had a life changing experience volunteering in Thailand, volunteering as a Teaching Assistant in Chiang Rai Province. As a result of my volunteering abroad, I ended up getting involved with Kaya and working in the Philippines for over a year in the city where the community projects we work with are based. Volunteering and interning abroad are amazing cross-cultural experiences and a fantastic way to give back and expand your horizons – I really can’t recommend it enough!
University Relations Manager
Karissa is currently our University Relations Manager and comes from Chicago with a deep passion for international education. She has worked in New Zealand, Fiji, Thailand, and just recently returned from Cape Town, South Africa, where she lived for 7 years. Getting out of her comfort zone and traveling abroad led her to meet her husband while Teaching English in Thailand. They are now enjoying being back in the US with their two children, with whom they can’t wait to share their love for new cultures and destinations.
University Relations and Group Programs Coordinator
Emily comes to us having worked several years in the International Education field. Emily’s goal is to provide guidance and perspective for young professionals engaging with new international communities. Emily is a Bowdoin ‘11 graduate receiving a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Visual Arts. She has spent quite a bit of time overseas, with extended time in Varanasi, India teaching photography; Tasmania, Australia studying abroad; Hefei, China teaching English; and New Zealand working and hiking. When she isn’t traveling, you can find Emily photographing, knitting, doing yoga, or playing with her pup, Teddy.
University Relations and Customized Groups Assistant
Emma assists H, Laura, and Emily as they build relationships with universities and customize group programs. She has over ten years of experience as an administrative assistant, and she especially enjoys streamlining systems and processes. Excel is her friend.
Emma spent much of her childhood traveling with her adventurous, artistic family and noticing insects and animals wherever she went. In college, she studied art history and art conservation in Italy, but she has always cared most for the environment and wildlife. These days, she often visits the rugged landscape of central Mexico, and tries to plan one big trip every two years. (Most recently, she explored the cliffs of Scotland and especially enjoyed watching the ‘Heilan coo.’) In her home life, she is known as an artist and writer.
LADY NICOLE RAMOS
Program Support Assistant
SHEILA MAY BANEZ
Sheila has been with Kaya for 4 years, is recently married, and loves anything Korean!
A mom who loves to wander off to places she’s never been to. My family and I are lucky to have the opportunity to travel to some places and this has been a yearly tradition for us. We love to explore and learn new experiences. Travelling has played a big role in keeping our family bonded.
Kaya celebrates its 10 year anniversary
Kaya has also celebrated its 10th year anniversary which we are all very excited about. Kaya has expanded to provide high quality projects in over 28 countries across 4 continents picking up some awards on the way. It’s a testament to our amazing staff that we have come this far!