Our Team

Cat 450


Cat is a Colorado native, a Turkish Fulbright Scholar, a National Geographic Young Explorer, and a global entrepreneur. Cat has worked at Ashoka, the Asian Rural Institute, and the Aspen Institute in Colorado, Washington D.C, Turkey, Japan, and Egypt. Since she was 20, she has researched Silk road routes from India to Turkey, studying how to foster peaceful trade, travel, and innovation through historical walking routes. In 2011, Cat moved back to Northeastern Turkey to launch Balyolu and learn her first words in Georgian – გამარჯობა – gamarjoba!

E-mail:  [email protected]
Cat’s National Geographic Explorers Bio Page

Claire 450


Claire is a “do-er” since childhood and has long been fascinated by the power of artistic creativity to ignite social good and inspire change. She studied Fine Art and International Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, studied and documented development politics at a women’s farming cooperative while living in Mali, worked in program management and marketing for Ashoka, and founded The Wise Routes Project to document how Americans define “success” through design, writing, photography, and videography while on a 2,000 mile bicycle tour of the Pacific Coast. In addition to her design and video work, Claire has lead creative workshops for youth in Harlem, Washington DC, and St. Louis.

E-mail: [email protected]
Claire’s Blog: One Sticky Hive

Adriana 450


Adriana was born in Italy, where she lives with her family. A lover of foreign languages, she has travelled widely. She works as a translator and interpreter and teaches foreign languages at home. She believes in the importance of communication as a basis for peace and development. She is working with Balyolu, helping with site management and organization, as well as program assistance.

E-mail:  [email protected]


Lisa  was born in Germany but has been living in Turkey now for the last 3 years. In the summer of 2010 after graduating in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University, with a friend she followed the steps of Patrick Lee Fermor, hitchhiked and walked from Germany all the way to Istanbul with only a tiny backpack. She has since received a Masters at Sabanci University and worked as a project manager for the Istanbul Policy Center. In order to reconnect with her beekeeper grandfather’s passion, she intends to bring volunteers to the remote villages of Kars and connect them with local women beekeepers.

E-mail: [email protected]


Kseniya was born in Moldova, grew up in San Francisco, studied abroad in Spain, got her college degree in Boston, and is now adding Kars to her list of homes. She has always had a passion for travel, cross-cultural exchange and social justice, and believes in doing work that changes the world for the better, whether on the front lines as a special education teacher, behind the scenes at a social work company, or as a volunteer. She is excited to work with Balyolu and explore Turkey through her other passions – hiking, writing, and photography

E-mail:  [email protected]

Our Volunteers


Deanna Parrish is a Miami native who has spent the last five years hopping between St. Louis, Washington DC and New York. She studied International Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, documented the stories of feminist activists during Morocco’s Arab Spring, and has worked in client relations with Ashoka and the Clinton Global Initiative. With a background spanning social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and communications, she is on a journey to create platforms for cross-sectoral dialogue that will push the world towards progressive change.

E-mail: [email protected]


Eva was born in Bulgaria and raised in Boston, but her favorite part of the world is the Caucasus. Last year she lived in Georgia and is still not sure whether it was a dream or not. Having spent the last 20 summers in her grandparents’ village in Bulgaria, Eva feels happiest when she knows exactly where her food is coming from. She is excited to explore life in Northeastern Turkey with Balyolu and contribute to its mission of preserving small-scale culinary traditions. Next year she will be getting her master’s in elementary education.


Lauren was born and raised in snowy Minnesota. She was first introduced to the Caucasus in 2011, and things haven’t been the same for her since. She spent one year teaching English in Georgia, using vacation days to explore neighboring northeastern Turkey. Lauren believes that slow travel can be transformative for both the traveler and the host. She is delighted to see Balyolu grow and offer an intimate travel experience. Next year she will be starting law school in Minnesota.


Lucienne, a Boulder Colorado native is a recent graduate of the George Washington University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  She is currently a resident of Washington DC working as an office and sales assistant for Divine Chocolate, a socially responsible chocolate company which fuels her passion for humanitarian work.  She is interested in animal care, health, fitness, food, travel and baking!


George is from London and has been living in Istanbul for the past six months, interning at Istanbul Policy Center and learning Turkish. He is now exploring Eastern Anatolia thanks to Balyolu. He holds a Masters degree in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics.


Alex is a Town Planner from London. He worked for a prominent Planning consultancy in central London before deciding to leave the city and embark on a trans-continental bicycle ride from Istanbul to New Zealand. He took a break from cycling in Kars to volunteer with Balyolu and explore remote eastern Anatolia in more depth.




Deniz was born in Frankfurt, Germany and has lived in Istanbul most of her life. After getting her undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Deniz worked at Ernst and Young as a financial auditor and team leader, all the while fostering professional relations with upper management of corporate and non-profits in Turkey. Deniz has worked with several non-profits including Turkiye Eğitim Gönulluleri, Toplum Gönulluleri and World Wildlife Fund in Istanbul. Deniz is currently earning her MBA at Koç University and is focusing her studies on marketing, entrepreneurship as well as social responsibility and impact analysis. She is also a passionate PADI Open Water Advanced Scuba Diver and has explored the underwater world in Turkey, Egypt, Hawaii and the Indian Ocean.

E-mail: [email protected]








Irfan Kandemir, Biology Professor, Ankara University

Tara Hopkins, Founder of Cop(m)adam

Cagan Sekercioglu, Founder of KuzeyDoga


Melis Okan, Turkish translator


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