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 2006 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 also launched an impact investing fund through the Hult Prize, the world’s most prestigious student social venture competition.
Muneeb was a participant on OG’s East Africa program in 2011. He was such a standout participant that he became a Program Leader the year after, and the Fundraising Coordinator for the organization as well. Muneeb took a step back from OG to pursue his CPA and CMA from Ryerson University. In an extremely short time, Muneeb moved up the ranks for civil society to his current position, managing one of Ontario’s most innovative portfolios. In his spare time, Muneeb continues to explore the world ethically while finding time to give back to his community.
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.
As the Chief Digital Officer of Rogers Communications, Lisa Durocher is responsible for the company’s digital strategy, design, planning and development for all digital platforms across consumer and enterprise.
Lisa comes from American Express in New York City where she held several senior leadership positions, most recently SVP of Charge and Benefits. Under Lisa’s leadership, American Express redesigned its digital membership rewards program and customer experience, which included establishing innovative payments arrangements with companies like Amazon and Uber. She previously worked at Procter and Gamble, and technology consulting practices.
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.
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 marketing and communications strategist for non-profits since 2009 and has worked with organizations operating in North America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. She also recently launched Living Hyphen, an intimate journal that explores the experiences of hyphenated Canadians and examines what it means to be part of a diaspora
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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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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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Rebecca has been super curious to learn 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 and 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