Staff Spotlight: Elissa Allen

International Programs Manager


What is your favorite travel memory?

A fond memory that first comes to mind is seeing women openly breastfeed their children in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The public transportation in the city is amazing and, while I was in route to various places I kept noticing women feeding their children on the bus. The most notable aspect was the lack of shame by onlookers. I was proud that their society hadn't succumbed to the discrimination of breastfeeding in public and, I hope it never does.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I've always known that being adaptable is important for both travel and volunteering. But, my versatility as a professional has developed within working for a nonprofit. Being a nonprofit team member is being a team member in the truest form of the term. There is so much to contribute outside of your set responsibilities. The work United Planet volunteers engage in requires so much flexibility.

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

I can not just pinpoint one volunteer. I think, rather, the best notification I receive from volunteers traveling for 6-months is that they would like to extend their stay for the year. Many participants enroll for 6-months because they want to be sure they can acclimate to the culture before deciding to stay one year. More often than not, I get a call 3-months in requesting a place for the remaining time. It just goes to show how volunteers are embraced and accommodated within their international communities and projects.

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

I would travel to Kenya for a year if I participated in a Long-Term Quest. The team in Kenya is so welcoming and hard-working. I have heard so many wonderful things from our volunteers about the Masai community, with which most of the projects work. I would like the opportunity to get to know Kenyan heritage for myself while volunteering there.

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

United Planet is very mission driven. I was especially proud to meet with our board and realize their compassion and active role in the organization.

United Planet truly utilizes all the talents of its team. I think this makes the organization especially unique.

Though there are certain roles and responsibilities of each team member, one can truly create a place for themselves doing what they love.

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

I believe the biggest factor in being a successful company is a cohesive team culture. Being able to work with like-minded individuals who share the same passions and vision for the company is so important for achieving a company's mission. This seems to be especially true for non-profits and NGOs like United Planet but, also with whom we partner volunteers.