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.
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.
Executive Board Member
Paula manages all operations for World Endeavors and is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied Business, Spanish and Portuguese in Spain and Argentina and spent 10 years living in Costa Rica. During her time in Costa Rica she oversaw volunteer, internship and language programs for a study abroad organization in Latin America before working with the University for Peace, founded by the United Nations. Paula is absolutely dedicated to and passionate about international and experiential education. She believes that everyone should have the opportunity to go abroad to experience a global classroom, create cross country connections, and make more impact – whether it be abroad or at home.
“When traveling, always expect the unexpected and enjoy all the bumps in the road…the bumps are the times where you grow the most and make for great stories after!”
Director of Institutional Relations
Elaina’s love of travel began on a high school group trip to Northern France, which inspired her to study abroad in Cannes, France. After receiving her BA in International Relations and French at the College of St. Benedict, she returned to France for an internship with the Cannes Film Festival. Along with extensive travels through Europe, Elaina has also visited New Zealand, Australia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and China, meeting amazing friends along the way. When she’s not traveling, you can find Elaina chasing her two kids or Goldendoodle, Gnarly, or trying to find the best Thai food in Minneapolis.
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.
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!
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.
SULLIVAN OJALA HELMBOLT
LADY NICOLE RAMOS
Program Support Assistant
Sophie is based in Indiana and is a member of our Academic Relations team. Sophie studied English and is eager to share about her experiences in Ireland, Finland, and Hungary.
In terms of travel advice, Sophie says: “Bring your own food to the airport! Airport food is overpriced and often…bad. Even if you get takeout from a restaurant before you hit the airport, I guarantee it will be better priced, better quality, or both; just no soups or liquids, and if you have a sauce like Salsa or salad dressing, make sure it’s in a container less than 3.4 ounces.”
Gabriel is based in Missouri and is a member of our Academic Relations team. Gabriel studied Business Marketing and is eager to share his experiences in Colombia and South Africa.
Gabriel’s travel advice? “Take detours! Sometimes the greatest experiences aren’t at the typical tourist sites. One of my personal favorite things to do is to try to find a soccer game and really connect with the locals!”
Julia is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a member of our Academic Relations team. She studied Spanish and Business Management and is eager to share her study abroad experiences in Ecuador and Spain! Julia has also explored Mexico and much of southern Europe and has a special love for France and Italy. Her favorite part about traveling is learning about each country’s language(s) and trying to speak with locals!
Davis is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and serves as the Marketing Manager for Kaya Responsible Travel. With a number of study abroad trips and personal endeavors abroad under his belt, Davis has become a savvy member of the travel industry with a passion for experiential learning.
As the Marketing Manager, he strives to deliver accurate and timely messages on our programs, stories, company, and participants. His experience in marketing communications, SEO, social media, and visual art makes him a well-rounded asset to the team.
Davis’s best travel advice: Take photos, but take them with an eye for capturing the essence of the people and the place you are in 🙂
Joslyn is based in Denver and is a member of our Academic Relations team. Joslyn studied International Politics, Spanish, and Peace, Justice, and Human Rights studies. She is eager to share about her experiences in Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
“Do it for the plot” is Joslyn’s travel advice. “If you’re ever feeling unsure, think of how it will add to your life’s storyline and be worth sharing later- but still listen to your gut.”
Anthony is based in Washington DC and is a member of our Academic Relations team. Anthony studied social policy and is eager to share about his experiences in Bolivia, Argentina, Scotland, and The Balkans. The greatest thing Anthony recommends for traveling is to try as much food as you can.
“An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins.” – Anthony Bourdain
Olivia is based in California and is a member of our Academic Relations team. Olivia studied Psychology and Political Science and is eager to share about her experiences in Ireland, Italy, Thailand, Costa Rica, and more!
When it comes to travel, Olivia advises: “Visit somewhere that you may not be interested in or expect to enjoy – it could open your eyes to so many new possibilities!”
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!