Staff Member Spotlight: Abbiola Ballah


As TEP's Education Abroad Program Manager, Abbiola works on all aspects of programming from design to implementation.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, she has spent most of her adult life studying, living and working abroad in Japan and the USA. She is dedicated to fostering social change in education and has obtained two MA degrees in Applied Linguistics & TESOL and International Education.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have been lucky to travel a great deal in my life over the years. My best travel memory has to be going to Thailand. I visited there is the winter 2005 during my first year living in Japan. It was the first country I was able to check off of my bucket list.

Thailand reminded me so much of the Caribbean because of the weather and the rich culture. It was amazing to be able to see so many similarities in a country so far away from my own. I think the best part was being able to immerse myself into the culture and interact with the Thai people. It was unforgettable.

How have you grown since working for your current company?

I have grown considerably both personally and professionally since working for Toucan Education Programs.

Toucan Education Programs values its employees and I have felt this in every aspect of my work life.

This motivates me to be innovative, share my ideas, work towards improving our current programs and designing new programs for our participants. It has also given me the platform to give back to the community through the work we do on our programs.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

One of the amazing things about our participants is that they get so invested in their service projects that they usually keep in contact with the organization after returning home.

One alumna is still in contact with the members of the youth group she established during her time in Belize. She still assists them with any questions they have and just check in with them from time to time. This is definitely one of the best stories I have heard since it shows how engaged our community becomes with our participants.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

The Service-Learning in Belize program would certainly be my program choice especially if it was my first time abroad. I’m able to do meaningful service projects while learning about the Belizean culture. Also, the reflection based curriculum allows me to really go in-depth with this 9 day experience. I love that it allows you to focus on one project for 5 days as well as integrates cultural activities so you can immerse yourself and get a better understanding of Belize.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Our commitment to reciprocity makes TEP unique. We want both our participants and the Belizeans they interact with to grow personally and professionally for their experience on our programs. I am especially proud that each member of our team works in sync to ensure that this takes place. We are a small team but we put a lot of effort into ensuring every stakeholder gets the most out of every experience with us.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I believe the biggest factor in being successful is surrounding yourself with like-minded people. At TEP, we are all committed to our mission and vision. We believe that we can make a difference in both the lives of our participants and the Belizean community through our programs. Every day we are working together towards fulfilling our goals and on making an impact on the Belizean community and our participants.