Andy is an international education professional with 15 years of experience in the field. He has studied, worked and travelled across the Americas, Asia and Africa. He started Amazon Learning after working for four years developing Global Citizen Year’s Amazon program in Ecuador. Andy brings to Amazon Learning a profound knowledge and passion for cross-cultural education and international exchange programs. He is an Ecuadorian-American and was first introduced to the world of international education as an 18-year-old undergraduate in the U.S. at Louisiana State University where he studied International Relations. He furthered his exposure to global learning through a transformative experience in Guinea as an agroforestry Peace Corps Volunteer. After his service he received his Masters Degree from the School for International Training in Vermont where he focused on designing and delivering study abroad programs. Andy is an energetic and inquisitive person who deeply believes in the positive effects of cross-cultural education on humanity. He loves to garden, hike and interior decorate.
Eliot Logan-Hines, Co Founder
Eliot has worked for over a decade in the non-profit sector in Latin America. Eliot is a co-founder of Amazon Learning and is the Executive Director of Runa Foundation. Prior to this, Eliot served as Executive Director of Finca Project, a reforestation and environmental education initiative in Costa Rica. He has worked as an environmental consultant and advisor to climate change negotiations at the United Nations. Eliot received his Master´s degree in environmental management from Yale University where he studied tropical forestry and conservation finance. Eliot brings to Runa his expertise in agricultural cooperative development, tropical forestry, and non-profit management. He is a professional adventurer and a good cook.
Michaela D'Amico, Program Manager and Curriculum Advisor
Mika is a proud Rhode Islander who has been living in Ecuador for the last 3 years working in the experiential education field. She is currently a Team Leader for Global Citizen Year, where she manages the program and fellows in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Mika has been promoting social and environmental justice since her first internship with the international nonprofit Global Exchange in San Francisco. In Ecuador, Mika has worked in support of an international human rights and environmental justice lawsuit brought by indigenous groups with Amazon Watch and el Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía. Mika graduated from Northeastern University with a B.A. in International Affairs, with minors in Sociology, Spanish, and Social Entrepreneurship. She is a photographer, explorer, and group leader that enjoys team-building activities that incorporate mindfulness meditation. Mika’s favorite part about the Amazon is being surrounded by people that are eager to teach her about medicinal plants and agriculture.
Carmen Tanguila, Cultural Programs Coordinator
Carmen is a Kichwa local from the Napo province of the Ecuadorian Amazon. She joined the Amazon Learning team in the beginning of 2017 assisting with all aspects of the intern program and management of the intern house. Carmen speaks both Kichwa and Spanish as her native languages and she is learning English as well. During her free time, Carmen enjoys playing soccer, traditional Kichwa dance, singing, and running. Carmen also enjoys the Kichwa traditions of making Guayusa tea and Chicha, a fermented drink made from yucca and palm-tree fruits.
Estefania Illescas, Spanish Facilitator
Estefania moved to Tena when she was 12 years old from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Already as a young girl she showed great interest towards learning other languages and cultures. Now, she has been teaching English since 2008. Estefania has also worked as an associate for the Rio Napo Foundation, and doing translations for various organizations. Currently, she focuses on being a mom and giving private Spanish classes. During her free time, she enjoys reading about other cultures and historical novels, goes on bike rides, walks, goes to the river, and does crafts.
Alex Grefa, Trip Leader
Alex is a Kichwa local from the Napo province in Ecuador. He was raised in the city of Tena in the Amazon and throughout his childhood he always loved spending time in the forest, swimming in the rivers, and going to his family's rural community an hour away. Because of his love for nature, as a teenager he began to spend time with Shamans, biologists, and other experts in ethnobotany. Through these experiences, he learned about the forest from the Amazonian herbal/spiritual perspective as well as from the western perspective from visitors. He has become an expert in birds, frogs, medicinal plants, and other flora and fauna. Alex starting working as a jungle guide at the age of 19. In his early 20's, Alex also became a whitewater rafting guide as well as an instructor in a whitewater rafting and kayaking. Alex speaks Kichwa, Spanish and English and is Wilderness First Aid certified. During his free time, Alex plays basketball, runs, goes to the gym, and enjoys the peace and connection mother nature gives to us.
Matti Laukkanen, Marketing Specialist
Matti is an Amazon Learning alumni and the newest member in our team. He came to Ecuador in the fall of 2016 as a Social Entrepreneurship intern for Runa Foundation and currently works part-time for both organizations. Before coming to Ecuador, Matti worked in digital education in Finland and Spain, and as a team leader for international students in Malta. He got his bachelor's degree in Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences in Finland, with minors in hi-tech management, cross-cultural communication, and Asian business and culture.
In his role with Amazon Learning, Matti works as a savvy tech-person, marketing specialist, and sometimes creates goofy activities for interns. Despite his years abroad, the taciturn Northerner in him still shows up at times and gets confused when people sit next to him in a bus. Matti’s favorite hobbies are trying new weird foods and goofing around with Andy’s dog, Dr. Gomez.