About Us

 

ELI

a registered charitable non-profit organization

Did you know that anyone can buy a .org web address? Many for-profit companies use these to give the appearance of being non-profits. To become a non-profit is a long and difficult process. ELI has had non-profit status for many years not. We partner with organizations from around the world that make a difference in their communities. We work closely with these groups to ensure ELI volunteers get meaningful experiences at reasonable prices. Any "profits" we make go back into charitable causes that we support and into the programs that we offer.

ELI's full name, Experiential Learning International, reflects our philosophy. We believe that the most compelling life lessons come through experience, and that international experiences are among the most profound influences on our sense of self and our view of the world. We see learning as a lifelong journey: our participants have ranged in age from 18 to 82 and come from all over the world. To date we have had participants from 44 countries! Many of our volunteers have gone on to work in the non-profit sector, or even form their own foundations.

 

What Makes ELI Different?

Our staff is experienced and knowledgeable. Our program fees are among the lowest. Our relationships with our foreign partners are based on mutual trust and respect. We work hard to build long lasting relationships with all our partner organizations and take pride in the long term benefits the communities we work in have experienced as a result of the hard work done by ELI volunteers.

Non-Profit Status

Because of our 501(c)3 non-profit status granted by the US government, US taxpayers may be able to deduct much of the cost of their volunteer program, including airfare. Everyone's tax situation is different, so it is best to consult with an accountant or tax professional for more information on making itemized deductions. As a non-profit organization, we believe that full transparency is essential.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to ask us. All of our previous financial statements are posted on www.guidestar.org.

Kevin O'Neill

Director

Dr. Kevin O'Neill was born in Southern California. He received his BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and spent a year at the Université de Bordeaux in France. Continuing with his studies, Dr. O'Neill moved to Berkeley where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, Dr. O'Neill was awarded a US government grant to study Tamil, and later, a French government grant to pursue his research at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. He is the author of scholarly articles and translations. He  worked for years as a French professor and later as Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado, Denver. As director of international programs at UCD, Dr. O'Neill developed groundbreaking programs throughout the world including China, Russia, Nepal, and Mongolia. In 2001, Dr. O'Neill founded ELI as a more flexible and culturally integrative alternative to traditional study abroad programs. In 2004, Dr. O'Neill was awarded an honorary doctorate by Russia's premier institution, Moscow State University, in recognition of his contribution to international education.  He is also the founder of LearningU and President of the International Hispanic Online University.

kevin

Malissa Spero

Program Specialist

Malissa grew up on Oahu and graduated from the University of Denver with a BA in International Studies and French. She studied abroad in Paris, Beijing, Kathmandu, and Ilomantsi. She worked in corporate dispute mediation for several years in San Diego. After teaching English in Incheon, South Korea, Malissa became a Program Manager for the Center for China-US Cooperation at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Passionate about international development and humanitarian work, she has been a program specialist with ELI since January 2007. Malissa specializes in ELI's programs in Nepal, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil and Ireland.

malissa1

Clara Shushunov

Program Specialist

Clara is originally from Chicago and studied International Affairs at the University of Colorado- Boulder. After a few years of working in the social service sector in Chicago, she decided to return to beautiful Colorado and ended up here at ELI! As a first generation America of a Romanian mother and a Russia father, Clara was instilled with a passion for travel, languages, and experiencing new and unique cultures. Since high school, Clara worked with a non-profit organization that aimed to develop youth leaders through service learning projects in Latin America. These projects have taken her to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Azua and Santiago, Dominican Republic, and Granada and Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Clara has also travelled extensively through Russia and Romania. Clara specializes in our programs in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, and Peru.

clara-portrait

Janella Vega Campaña

Program Specialist

Janella is originally form Lima, Peru. She graduated from the UPC (Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas) in Lima with a major in communications and advertising. She has previous experience in marketing, brand management, photography, and design. Her 1st time in Colorado was in 2006 when she came for a student exchange program. She loved it so much that she came back for 2 more seasons and then 2 years ago love brought her back once more to stay. Janella loves to travel and has visited many different states and countries in South America.

janella

Paola Vilaxa

Program Specialist

Paola grew up in Santiago de Chile. Her first travel experience was when she was still a teenager and visited her cousins during a cold winter in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was here that she learned English as an exchange student at a local school.

In 2004 she graduated as a journalist from the University of Playa Ancha, Valparaiso, after which she backpacked across Europe. Still wanting to travel, Paola decided to become a flight attendant for a Chilean airline. After several years in the air, she finally decided to put her feet on the ground landing in Denver, Colorado.

Between 2007 and 2015  Paola dedicated herself to teaching Spanish in Denver, enjoying sharing her experiences in Latin America and helping others to explore the world. She is now working with us from Chile, and recently arranged a visit by British singer Joss Stone to one of our projects in Santiago.

paola