Meet our Executive Team

Team Member
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 headed off to Australia, (which she know calls home :) In the past 10 years she has spent time working in the travel industry, with other volunteer organizations and travelling to over 40 different countries.

She is presently out Director of International Programs, which sees her setting up VESA's 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 chilling with friends, the beach and a good book!

Team Member
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.

Team Member
Virginia Constable
Participant Coordinator – Office Manager

Ginny 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.

Team Member
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’.

Meet our Program Leaders

Team Member
Fiji Islands Discovered 2017-2018
Team leaders

L-R Ronny, Sierra, Meg, Dave

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Africa Unearthed 2018-2019
Team leaders

L-R: Johan, Frankie, Damaris, Zine, Jake, Andrew

Team Member
Southeast Asia 2017-2018
Team leaders

L-R top: Stuart, Michelle L-R Bottom: Ben, Miranda

Team Member
Amazonas Explored 2017-2018
Team leaders

L-R: Maria Jose, Xavier, Katrine.

Team Member
The Road to Mozambique 2017-2018
Mozambique team

L-R; Nelson, Beth, Adriano.

Team Member
Tom Rowe
Fiji Islands project leader 2017-2018

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, returning as a project leader there and now bringing his expertise to Fiji for second season. .

Team Member
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 returning to coordinate our construction projects in Laos for two seasons and now bringing his expertise to the villages and schools in Fiji.  He believes strongly in living a waste free and minimalistic life. 

Team Member
Maria Jose Tapia
Amazonas Explored - Education coordinator 2016-2017

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. Every day is a great adventure for Maria Jose as she gets to know the many VESA volunteers from around the world who come to help out in the local communities. Maria Jose loves animals and spends her free time cycling, relaxing on the beach and likes singing at the ‘karaoque’.

Team Member
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.

Team Member
Dario Xavier Rosero Cartagena
Amazonas Explored - project leader 2016-2017

Xavier was born in Ibarra (province of Imbabura) a medium-sized city in the inter-Andean region Mountain range. Imbabura was populated around 2100BC. by the Caranqui people who left behind good structures and a series of legends. The province is famous for its lakes and the two volcanoes, Imbabura and Cotacachi.
When he was 12 years old he played music in church and then joined a rock band called Java covering the band 'Heroes of Silence'. With time the name of the band changed to 'Heroes' performing original material and becoming an important local band of the time.
At the moment Xavier teach 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.

Team Member
Zine Buthelezi
Africa Unearthed project leader 2017-2018

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.

Team Member
Megan Pymm
Southeast Asia Encountered project leader 2018-2019

Meg, from Northampton in England, is a graduate of Nottingham Trent University. Megan has travelled and worked in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, and parts of the UK as well as being a VESA Laos volunteer in 2018. With these experiences under her belt, she is returning to Laos as our Education coordinator. During her free time Megan likes to travel and spend time with her family and friends.

Team Member
Andrew Palmer
Africa Unearthed project leader 2018-2019

Andrew Palmer from Edinburgh in Scotland, completed an undergraduate degree in zoology at Edinburgh Napier Uni. He was a VESA volunteer in 2015 for the Africa programme which gave him the confidence to travel and actively get involved in wildlife conservation projects. Wildlife and nature are Andrew’s passions, particularly photography, hiking, exploring and engaging people in wildlife conservation, nature and caring for the world.

Team Member
Jacob Donnay
Africa Unearthed project leader 2018-2019

Jake was born and raised in Baxter, a small town in Minnesota, USA. He graduated from Minnesota State University with an education degree in teaching English as a second language. Introduced to travel as a VESA Fiji volunteer in 2017 then a VESA Laos volunteer in 2018, he’s been exploring all over Southeast Asia, Europe, UK and Canada. Jake enjoy playing sports, meeting people, and making a positive impact whenever possible. 

Team Member
Francesca Codd
Africa Unearthed project leader 2018-2019

Frankie was born in the UK but has lived in Melbourne Australia for most of her life. Since volunteering with VESA in Fiji in 2015, Frankie has travelled, worked and studied across Europe, Australia, the UK and North America. She graduated from Monash University in 2018, and is so excited to work with VESA in Africa this year. She loves documentaries, sharing stories with new people and will hike any distance for a good view.

Team Member
Jillian Yee
Mozambique guide 2018-2019

Jill is from sunny California and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a degree in Global Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara. Jill’s passion for helping people and animals led her to be a VESA volunteer in Africa in 2018. She’s returning to Africa as the Mozambique Tour Leader. You can find Jill at the beach, surfing or practicing yoga. 

Team Member
Jacqueline Brew
Fiji Islands project leader 2018-2019

Jac hails from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland but has since lived in almost every Australian state.She first volunteered with VESA in Ecuador in 2011 and fell in love with South America and travelling. She studied a Bachelor of Zoology at University of New England and Masters in Marine Science at University of Melbourne, returning to Ecuador as a team leader in 2014. Jac is now in Perth completing a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, and will be a project leader in Fiji this summer! She is always chasing the sun and loves surfing, diving, travelling and animals of course! 

Team Member
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.

Team Member
Noah Schmidt
Southeast Asia Encountered project leader 2018-2019

Noah from Cincinnati, Ohio, grew up hiking, camping, and loving the outdoors. He first volunteered with VESA in 2017 in Fiji where he developed a love for volunteer work. From skydiving in Fiji to hiking the Appalachian Trail Noah has always enjoyed exploring and adventure. Noah is super excited about working in Laos and helping the Asian elephants.

Team Member
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.

Team Member
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.