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Our Projects

About VESA

VESA’s humanitarian and conservation projects aim to provide direct action support to communities in parts of the world overlooked by traditional charities and aid organisations.

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Travel Info

From the minute you book your trip we provide you with everything you need to know, so you get the most out of your VESA experience. 

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About VESA

Meet the VESA Team

Our staff are experienced travellers passionate about change. With years of knowledge under their belts, the VESA team are here to support you in being your own independent traveller.

Executive Team

Shona Luciani

Director of International Programs

Shona originally hails from a small town on the border of Ontario/Quebec, Canada. A traveller since a young age, after graduating in 2000 from Algonquin College in Ottawa Canada, she traveled for several years before settling in Sydney, Australia. In the past 18 years she has spent time working in the travel industry, with other volunteer organizations and travelling to over 60 different countries.

In 2009 Shona co-founded VESA, and acts as VESA’s  Director of International Programs. This sees her setting up our volunteer projects, meeting with village chiefs and local NGO’s and making sure that our participants have the experience of their lives when they choose to travel on a VESA program. When not on the road, Shona enjoys relaxing on the beach with a good book and hanging with her rescue dogs.

Thomas Constable-McDowell

Managing Director

Tom was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and travelled extensively as a child. Having caught the travel bug at an early age he set off for an epic three year journey with the main aim of circumnavigating the globe while always remaining in summer. This landed him sometimes knee deep in snow with only a pair of thongs and a t-shirt as protection.

Tom’s adventures have taken him to many out of the way places in South America, Africa, Asia, India and Europe. This led him to trek the Darien Gap where no man usually ventures, deciding that staying in the slums of Nairobi while waiting for a visa to come through was a good idea and cruising the West Indies in a 30 foot yacht during a hurricane.

Having witnessed firsthand so many beautiful but disadvantaged places in the world Tom founded VESA in 2009 the main aim of which was to take direct action to improve the lives of some of the many wonderful people he had met along the way. You may meet Tom on your VESA program as he is actively involved in all our volunteer work with an active interest in the construction side of our projects.

Virginia Constable

Participant Coordinator – Office Manager

Virginia was born and raised in Sydney, Australia.

Having caught the travel bug at an early age she has journeyed to many corners of the world. Some of the highlights have been trekking to visit the mountain gorillas in Rwanda which she describes as “an awe inspiring experience”, “conquering” the Inca Trail in South America as well as recently walking the Camino del Santiago in Northern Spain.

Virginia has been with VESA since 2009 including helping to prepare for the inaugural program in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Virginia is happy to answer your questions and concerns regarding the programs as the Participant Coordinator.

In her free time she loves being with her three energetic sons, playing tennis or being immersed in a good novel.

Diane Lalonde

Participant Coordinator - North America and Europe

Diane is a graduate of St. Lawrence College-Business Administration and spent most of her leisure time hiking the Rocky Mountains with her dogs enjoying the beautiful scenery while dodging bears and cougars. Now enjoying a quieter life closer to family, her motto is ‘Keep it simple’.

Kayla Belk

Conference Coordinator

Kayla attended The University of North Carolina Wilmington, majoring in Communication Studies and Psychology as well studying abroad in Australia. After her first ever flight at twenty, Kayla at only twenty three years of age, can’t count the number of flights she’s now been on. Kayla loved volunteering locally within North Carolina, but only learned how truly rewarding international work is within the past few years. Aside from volunteering, her current passion is learning the Spanish language and experiencing Latin cultures.

Project Leaders

Road to Mozambique team 2018-2019

Team leaders

L to R; Julio, Jill, Nelson

Southeast Asia Encountered 2018

Team Leaders

L-R: Kirsten, Benji, Sophie, Nick

Fiji Islands Discovered 2018

Team Leaders

L-R: Ronny, Meg, Tom, Tash, Luke, Felipe

Amazonas Explored 2018

Team Leaders

L-R: Maria Jose, Xavier, Katrine.

Africa Unearthed 2018

Team Leaders

L-R: Zine, Damaris, Armand, Sean, Becky

The VESA Team

Nick Badgero

Southeast Asia Encountered team 2018-2019

Nick was born and raised in the small town of Mio in Northern Michigan. While growing up there he developed a love for the outdoors and a passion for working with animals. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines at the age of 17 before discovering VESA in 2014 while studying Biology at Central Michigan University and going on the Africa Unearthed program. He aims to continue improving outcomes for peoples in impoverished communities and the efforts to protect threatened wildlife in his second season as project leader in Laos.

Sophie Shackleton

Southeast Asia Encountered team 2018-2019

Sophie, originally born in Canada, graduated from Victoria University in New Zealand after studying Marine Biology, Criminology and Psychology. Sophie is happiest outdoors, whether its hiking, scuba diving or sky diving! Her first trip with VESA was in 2016 to Fiji, where volunteering with both the people and turtles changed her outlook on life. Sophie is returning to Laos for a second season as our project coordinator.

Dámaris Lopez Pérez

Africa Unearthed project leader 2018-2019

Damaris, originally from Madrid in Spain, has a degree in Biology and a Masters in Biodiversity Conservation. For the previous two years she has been developing conservation projects for the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos. Damaris is excited to rejoin our team in 2018, bringing her passion for animals and conservation skills.

Luke Bedard

Fiji Islands Discovered team 2018

Luke was born in the small town of Schreiber, Ontario (only 800 people!). He graduated with a BSc in Kinesiology & Nutrition and then quickly caught the travel bug. Highlights of his adventures include seeing the northern lights – standing outside in -46 degrees – and living with elephants in Thailand. This is his first-time tour leading in Fiji.

Sean Finnegan

Africa Unearthed team 2018

Sean was born and raised in South Africa. He’s a certified mechanic and loves building things. Sean has been a project manager in Johannesburg working on infrastructure for fibre optic cables. He volunteered with VESA in 2017 and is very excited to have joined the team working on the construction site and be doing what he loves most!

Pepe Tapia

Amazonas Explored - jungle guide

Pepe has lived in the Amazon for over 25 years, has a degree in English and lectures the on biodiversity of the Amazon at universities across the UK. Pepe will take you on an extraordinary trek deep into the Amazon jungle. You won’t find a better guide to show you the secrets of the jungle; the amazing animals, incredible bird life and the most beautiful plant life you will ever see. Pepe and his family run a local hotel in the Amazon and you will be their guest after trekking in this incredible environment. With great company, an amazing environment and the chance to learn more from one of the best, your Amazon experience will be a memory you will treasure long after your trip has concluded.

Katrine Cere-Boivin

Amazonas Explored team 2018

Born and raised in a small town near Québec City, Canada, Kat graduated with a diploma in Social Work at Cégep de Ste-Foy in 2015. Shortly after, she embarked on a two year backpacking trip around New Zealand, Asia and Australia, where she joined the VESA team. She loves live music and spending time connecting with nature: hiking, scuba diving and camping. Kat has an open and positive perspective on life and the world at large!

Kirsten Lee

Southeast Asia Encountered team 2018

Kirsten grew up in British Columbia, Canada. With a love of mountains, snow, and sports, she grew up skiing, climbing and playing hockey! Kirsten studied sport event management and tourism, graduating in 2015. With a love of travel, she hopped on a plane to volunteer in Fiji in May 2015. The following year she led the Mozambique tour and then our jungle tour in Ecuador in 2017! Kirsten will be coordinating our education program in Laos in 2018.

Dario Xavier Rosero Cartagena

Amazonas Explored - project leader 2018-2019

Xavier was born in Ibarra, Ecuador. He played music in church and then joined a rock band called Java which became an important local band of the time. Xavier teaches guitar and drums and plays romantic music in some bars. He works for VESA as a project leader and loves it as to him it is the perfect gift to the local communities. In his spare time he likes football, playing music, reading a good book and playing on his PlayStation.

Maria Jose Tapia

Amazonas Explored team leader 2018

Maria Jose Tapia was born in the Amazonas region of Ecuador in 1988, growing up in Misahualli, a magical place famous for its monkeys that roam freely through the streets and square of this small riverside town. After gaining a degree in business administration, she began her role with VESA in 2011. Because of the direct connection she has with the people and children in the Quichua communities she finds her role extremely rewarding. Maria Jose loves animals and spends her free time cycling, relaxing on the beach and likes singing at the ‘karaoque’.

Benjamin Leach

Fiji Islands project leader 2018-2019

Benji was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia and completed a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in banking and finance at the University of Notre Dame. Ben has completed both our Fiji Islands program in 2015 and the Southeast Asia program in 2016. This will be his second year coordinating our construction projects in Laos. Ben has a skydive and parachute license and has undertaken twenty-five solo jumps. He believes strongly in living a waste free and minimalistic life.

Rebecca Sicard

Africa Unearthed project leader 2018

Becky has a nursing degree from Sir Sanford Fleming in Peterborough Ontario. Hailing from a small town in Ontario, Canada, Becky grew up in the country, loving the outdoors, fishing, hiking, 4 wheeling, camping… and country music! Not many people leave the area, which urged her to want to be different and explore different cities, countries and cultures. Her love for travel started when she went on her first VESA program in 2013, Africa Unearthed, and has travelled to over a dozen countries since.

Sierra Lovell

Mozambique Guide 2018

Sierra is from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada. She graduated in 2017 from St. Francis Xavier University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biology. Sierra was a VESA volunteer on the Fiji program in June of 2016 before returning as a team leader in 2017. Sierra is excited to be bringing her skills to our Mozambique tour this year.

Zine Buthelezi

Africa Unearthed project leader 2018-2019

Zine grew up in a township near Richard’s Bay called Esikhawini before moving to Khula Village where she now resides. She has worked as education leader on the Africa Unearthed program since it began in 2010. Her first language is isiZulu and she loves to share her culture and heritage with volunteers wanting to learn more about Zulu people. When she is not working for VESA she enjoys catering and spending time with friends and family.

Natasha Bastone

Fiji Islands Discovered team 2018

Natasha grew up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. She graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and Bachelor of Science, majoring in Zoology and Genetics. A passion for animals lead her to volunteer with VESA in Africa at the end of 2017, and she is now excited to be joining the Fiji team!

Megan Luxford

Fiji Islands Discovered team leader 2018

Meg is originally from London, England and began her travels shortly after finishing her A Levels visiting four different continents and becoming avid and experienced traveller. This will be Meg’s third season assisting our projects in Fiji.

Tom Rowe

Fiji Islands Discovered project leader 2018-2019

Tom was born and raised in Ararat, Victoria before moving to Geelong to study International Relations and Journalism at Deakin University. He currently lives and works in Melbourne where he spends his time playing sports, enjoying live music and hanging out with mates. He volunteered on the Africa Unearthed program in 2015, returned to South Africa as a VESA project leader in 2016 and is now returning to Fiji for a second season as our education coordinator.