From journalists to artists, accountants to mountain trekkers, our crew is unified by our love for experiencing everything this world has to offer. Together we’ve covered continents, reached epic peaks and lived far off the grid. We’re here to help you experience the world the OG way.
An avid traveler with over ten years of experiential education development under his belt, Eyal found a home at OG after planning the inaugural Middle East program in 2008. From 2010 to 2012, Eyal served as OG’s Marketing Director where he more than doubled the number of program participants in less than two years. In 2012, Eyal took on the role of Executive Director and has been loving life ever since.
When Eyal isn’t pestering his staff with odd tidbits of arcane trivia, he’s busy working on other projects close to his heart. In 2011, he founded Heart-to-Heart, which brings 20 Jewish and Palestinian Israelis to the Canadian outdoors for a three-week coexistence seminar. Before that, Eyal was on the founding team for the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada, which became the first and largest organization in Canada to promote and support socially enterprising youth in achieving their goals. Eyal graduated from York University in 2010 cum laude, received a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Schulich School of Business, and was awarded the Social Economy Scholarship Award for his contribution to the social economy.
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Claire grew up travelling. From riding horses in the Egyptian desert at age 9 to sailing between Indonesian islands at 12, being on the road was the only way to roll! She’s lived in a mountain village in Costa Rica, camped her way across Europe, went scuba diving in Thailand, and has spent a lifetime of moments getting lost in the chaos of India. She believes in the power of travel to expand us, to humble us, to change us forever – and wants to spread that passion with a world wide community of ethical backpackers! Working now for OG in Toronto, Claire can be found riding her bike in all sorts of bad weather, talking to strangers on the bus, or trying to do either of those things while soaking up her latest fave podcast.
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Shannon’s love of travel was born after a post-high school summer spent backpacking through Canada. She’s since taken it across borders, volunteering with rescued jungle cats in Bolivia, trekking through the mountains of Peru, and traveling overland from Toronto to El Salvador. In late 2012, Shannon was completing an international development internship in Honduras, wondering what adventure could possibly come next when serendipity led her to her new family at OG! As Finance Director, Shannon spends a lot of time making spreadsheets, and only a little bit of time daydreaming about kittens.
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She’s that person. Justine’s constantly on her phone tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming like it’s her job (cuz it is!) She’s always excited to show the world all the incredible work the OG community is involved in. She’s been working as a communications strategist for non-profits since 2009 and has worked with organizations operating in North America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. She’s also a freelance writer whose work has been found in the African Business Journal, Makeshift Magazine, and Metro News Canada. When she’s not working or traveling, you’ll find her on the dancefloor, perfecting a sun salutation, or climbing rocks.
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It didn’t take long for Ben to figure out that he suffered from an acute case of wanderlust. On one fateful afternoon, a short commute home from school turned into a multi-year Euro trip that eventually landed him in Latin America. After a brief stint as a freelance journalist, Ben was both incensed and inspired by what he saw and returned to school at the University of Toronto. Undertaking degrees in Latin American Studies and International Development while living out of a backpack in Argentina, Ghana, Guatemala, and Kenya taught Ben the value of experiential education and now after six years as a Program Leader and Special Projects Director in Guatemala, Ben continues to explore the world through the design and development of OG’s new and custom programs. When he’s not at his desk, you can find Ben scaling a wall or hitting a ball.
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Originally hailing from Washington, D.C., Eric joined the OG team for a month back in 2013 and never really left. His dusty old backpack has taken him across quite a few countries and continents. Now he’s settled in Toronto, where he connects our applicants with their perfect programs. If you can find him outside the office, he’s likely in the kitchen, fixing (breaking) his bike, or working on that handstand. He’ll get it one day.
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After finishing his degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Waterloo, Will decided that a career could wait and ventured to West Africa with OG. It was there in the bustling streets of Accra that Will discovered his passion for travel and helping others, and decided that a career in the non-profit sector was right for him. (It didn’t hurt that OG hired him shortly after!) When not at the office, Will is likely training for his next half marathon or counting down the days until Christmas.
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Anna grew up travelling and camping with her family and friends, kayaking down the Ottawa River, portaging through Algonquin, and exploring parts of Canada and Europe. Inspired by a friend’s trip, she travelled to Southeast Asia on a life-changing OG program back in 2012, and she’s been hooked ever since! In her spare time, she likes taking photos of pretty things and places, swimming, reading true crime until she can’t sleep, listening to endless podcasts, and watching bad TV.
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Otherwise known as ‘Awkward Ally’, this small-town girl grew up dreaming of helping others and making a positive impact on the world. But first, she had to learn how! After finishing her degree in science, she decided it was finally time to travel and had the opportunity to join the Peru: Mind and Body program with OG. Upon coming home, she was inspired to help others experience volunteer travel by offering fundraising assistance and leading volunteer trips in Ecuador. Allyson now enjoys living and working on a hobby farm, helping her father sell lumber, and working as OG’s Alumni Coordinator to help backpacktivists keep their own momentum going!
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From navigating boulevards in Montreal to riding cable cars in Medellín, Vivian finds nothing more exciting than carrying a backpack through unknown roads and kingdoms. She is always prepared for an adventure, and considers getting lost in a new city an absolute necessity. At the office, Vivian helps in all things admin; but after office hours, she can be found reading horror novels, brewing kombucha, or training for the next Ragnar Relay.
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Shay’s love for travel started in 2013 when she spent a winter break touring around France. Later that year, she discovered OG and decided to join the West Africa: Global Health program! Post-program she knew she wanted to get more involved with OG, and hasn’t left since. She is now the Recruitment Assistant at OGHQ, but outside of work you can find her taking spontaneous weekend trips, reading books on self-discovery, and searching for the best brunch spots in the city!
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Rebecca has been super curious about the world since the day she was brought into it. So far, her drive to explore hasn’t changed a bit! After a trip to Kenya she realized the best way for her to learn about and contribute to making our world a bit better by the time she leaves it, was to leave her corporate office job at a bank (womp, womp), and make a career shift to the non-profit sector! She quit, went to school, then spent some time living, working, and exploring in Bangladesh & Nepal. Finally back in Toronto, she’s very excited to help OG participants find their own life-changing experiences! When she’s not helping people reach their fundraising goals, Rebecca is probably running for miles outside, coaching her cheerleading team, or looking for some mountains to ski down.
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Want to work with our tight-knit team of backpacktivists behind the scenes and make some magic? If you’re passionate about travel, social justice, and laughing (a lot), you might be a great fit for us!
Backpacks broken in
Collective years working at OG
David Berkal is the co-founder of Operation Groundswell and led the organization as Executive Director from 2007 to 2012. He is also the co-founder of the Canadian Roots Exchange, a national non-profit that focuses on Indigenous-based leadership, learning, and reconciliation experiences. David graduated from the University of Toronto winning their top leadership award and was named Valedictorian of The Next 36 Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute in 2011. Since then, David has worked in finance, conducting due diligence on private and public market investments of over $100 million. He is currently pursuing his MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Jonah is a serial social entrepreneur who co-founded Operation Groundswell in 2007 with a simple dream: to change the world through conscious travel. Having visited 63 countries before the age of 30, memorable moments include being kicked out of refugee camps, contracting malaria twice, and driving from London to Mongolia for charity. Jonah holds a MSc. in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics as a Rotary International Global Scholar. Jonah is currently launching an impact investing fund through the Hult Prize, the world’s most prestigious student social venture competition.
Assaf Weisz is co-founder & managing director of Purpose Capital, an impact investment advisory firm that helps financial institutions, foundations, and family offices invest to accelerate social change. Assaf has taught social entrepreneurship at the Masters level at the University of Toronto, and has been recognized as a Fellow by the Ariane de Rothschild Foundation, a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, and as a Canadian Under 30 Who Is Changing The Country by the CBC.
Catherine is an experienced executive, tapping into a broad skill set to share valued “how-to” guidance with business and not-for-profit leaders. She gained Brand Management and Human Resource expertise at Procter & Gamble; then co-led a private company’s North America expansion and integration into a Fortune 500. She led strategy and corporate development on LoyaltyOne’s Executive team, as they expanded into new businesses and countries. Catherine was the first Canadian on the US Direct Marketing Associations’ Executive; was recognized by East End Literacy for helping create a ‘for profit’ division, and mentored start-up companies for Communitech. She loves all things sports, politics and economics; is an avid reader, and gets energy from staying connected to her family and friends.
Alan is an entrepreneur, leader, experienced CEO, and winner of multiple awards including “best 50 companies” and “Entrepreneur of the Year”. Co-founder of a leading North American consumer information company, Alan also served an unprecedented 2-year term as Chairman of the Canadian Marketing Association. Alan’s consulting career includes buy-side due diligence, business strategy, Executive Coach, and two years as CEO of Infersystems, a mathematical technology company focused on “big data”. Beyond that, Alan is a passionate urban farmer, travel adventurer, reader, music lover, and fitness enthusiast.
Jo is an adventurer with service at the core of everything she undertakes. Currently, Jo is a crew leader for the Southwest Conservation Corps, treating invasive tree species along the Dolores River. Recently accepted into ShelterBox as a Response Team Member, she is devoted to helping the most vulnerable populations in disaster and conflict zones. Jo is certified as a Wilderness EMT, CPR Instructor, high angle and white water rescuer, and a Leave-No-Trace Master. When she’s not gallivanting through the wilderness or working for OG, she can be found drinking tea, climbing sandstone, and biking along country roads.