Meet Our Team

Eric SociaEric Socia
I searched for ways to get involved after hearing news of the devastation from the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Beyond donating money, I wanted to get involved in a more personal way, meeting people, experiencing the culture, hearing their stories, seeing the recovery efforts, and ultimately donating my hands to help rebuild Nepal. Kids of Kathmandu was a perfect match in sharing my eagerness and creating tangible action and change. I partnered with Kids of Kathmandu to plan and execute the first on-site volunteer trip in 2016, where Matt and I did a homestay in Kavre and built the foundation and floor of the Shree Jana Uddhar school. In 2017, Matt and I brought 12 of our colleagues and friends to continue the project, revisiting the school site to build steps, paint buildings, and teach English. My experiences in Nepal are some of the most rewarding and  impactful experiences of my life. We increased awareness and engagement with the support of our company (Audi/VW), friends, family, and colleagues to help with the rebuilding of Nepal. Through Kids of Kathmandu, we have raised funds to install water filtration systems and furnish multiple schools with furniture. I am a Detroit native currently living in Santa Monica, CA, and I work for Audi of America.

Matt McKownMatt McKown
Eric and I ventured to Nepal roughly a year after the 2015 earthquake. The impact the earthquake had on the entire country of Nepal touched me. When we first got on the ground, the resilience of the people was unbelievable. It was also amazing to see how happy many people seemed given the circumstances. Being able to give back year after year is an unbelievable feeling and making connections with local people is always a treat. I realized that everyone is capable of having a huge heart.
When Eric and I first went to Nepal, I don’t think either of us had any idea that we’d not only go back every year, but that other people wanted to join us. What I’ve seen from other volunteers is truly unbelievable. You can see the joy in their eyes when they’re interacting with children and when they’re doing manual labor. It’s not a chore or work, it’s a higher purpose and a way to say thank you to others. Those are my favorite moments, when I look over at someone and see pure joy, because I know it’s something that they will carry with them and share for the rest of their lives.

Amanda CastiloneAmanda Castilone
I joined Eric and Matt on their second volunteer trip to Nepal in March 2017, and honestly it was one of the most memorable and fulfilling weeks of my life. Along with an amazing group of people, I traveled to a village in the Kavre district – a 4-hour (very bumpy!) drive from Kathmandu. I painted classrooms, mixed cement, built steps for a school and taught English to many of the children. I ate some of the best food I’ve ever had, met many incredible people, and learned so much about myself and what truly matters in life. The most important thing this experience and the Nepali culture taught me was that we really do create our own happiness. As cliché as that sounds, it really hit home for me this trip. The people in these villages have “nothing” by our standards, and yet they have everything. They are so genuinely HAPPY! Every day I saw so many smiles, heard so much laughter, and felt their excitement just because we were there. I’ll never forget this experience and I can’t wait to go back again! I’m so excited to be a part of
the Karma Improvement Project and for all that we will accomplish for the beautiful people of Nepal.

Erin BronnerErin Bronner
I joined the Kids of Kathmandu team in 2018 after my friend Michele expressed her passion and incredible experience with our colleagues within Audi and the Volkswagen Group of America. I was excited to participate from the Bentley Americas side. So often we get caught up in our lives – work, family, friends, chores, hobbies, and repeat. It can feel you’re on an ever-changing hamster wheel.This unique experience reminds all of us about the human experience: connecting, learning, sharing and evolving.
It is the most humbling experience to meet students, parents and teachers who have so little but are committed to making a difference. I’ve seen earthquake damage first-hand growing up in California; to comprehend the current challenges and devastation still present in Nepal nearly four years later, it’s incredibly heartbreaking. The experience solidified what I believe in — knowledge is power. When children have access to education and a platform to learn and grow, there is no stopping them. The children bring such joy to everything they do. Last year when we were in Melamchi at the East Point Academy, each morning when the kids would welcome us into their classrooms with a simple, high-pitched, “Namaste.” The joy in their voices and the authenticity in their excitement warmed my heart. I can’t wait get our hands dirty again and to join the team in Nepal this year.

Brittany RubingerBrittany Rubinger
This is my first year joining the Kids of Kathmandu team for their annual trip to Nepal. I had first learned about the organization through my friend Erin Bronner and after watching her journey closely, I knew that I had to get involved. I’ve always been inspired by the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” and feel this is the perfect way to honor that mission and give back by not only lending a physical hand in rebuilding the destruction caused by the 2015 earthquake but giving my heart to a well deserving community. Children are our future, and every last one of them deserves the opportunity to flourish through education. I have no doubt this experience will offer a unique glimpse into a world way beyond my own and cannot wait to bring back incredible stories and lifelong memories.

Michele GregoryMichele Gregory
Growing up, I was very active in Georgia 4-H. I never dreamed my love for helping others, making the best better and passion for travel would lead me to Nepal. Through friends at Audi, I joined the Kids of Kathmandu team in 2017 and shared the Nepal adventure with my father, Steve Gregory. The opportunity was rich in cultural learning but more so in the power of the human connection. Neither of us returned from Nepal the same people who left the weeks prior. We fell in love with the people, the pride in their culture and the endless meaning of a smiled “Namaste.” Returning in 2018, I relished the experience of meeting and getting to know the two children I sponsor in the orphanage funded by Kids of Kathmandu and volunteered with the construction of East Point Academy in Melamchi alongside my friends and colleagues. In 2019, I am returning to Nepal to continue to build schools, but my greater goal is to build communities – communities filled with children, parents and teachers as well as my colleagues, friends and people I have yet to meet who I hope will be inspired by the joy of volunteering for the benefit of others. Excited to dust off my pack, travel back to Nepal and have my hands dirty and heart squeezed by the life changing experience of connecting with the kids of Kathmandu.

Brittany SpinilloBrittany Spinillo
I had just finished reading The Promise of a Pencil, an inspiring book which chronicles Adam Braun’s journey to build over 250 schools for impoverished children across the world, when I received an email from Matt about his most recent trip to Nepal. I was inspired by the book and Matt’s story; how something as simple as a pencil, books and a clean school could change the life of a child so much. I knew from that moment it was an effort I had to be a part of. To say I am excited to be joining the Kids of Kathmandu on my first trip to Nepal would be an understatement. I believe that education and love are two of the most powerful weapons we can use to change the world and to play even a small part in that movement is humbling. I look forward to the impact the team is going to have on the community in Nepal but also for the impact that the community is going to have on me. I know this is going to be a life changing experience.

Michael OlivioMichael Olivio
My first volunteer trip with KoK was in the spring of 2017 and I still consider it to be one of the best experiences of my life. I couldn’t have had a more eye-opening experience learning about Nepal, the people and their culture. Getting to spend time in a small mountainside village, helping to rebuild their school and forming connections with the Nepali people was something I’ll never forget. Every person that we encountered along the way was happy, kind, and thankful for our help. We have so many comforts living in the United States, so for me it’s a remarkable opportunity to be able to give back to help the wonderful people in Nepal. I am thankful that I can continue to do so with the Karma Improvement Project! I’m looking forward to volunteering again this year to meet more kind-hearted people and make even more memories!

Luben MitevskiLuben Mitevski
I traveled to Nepal for the first time in 2017 with my buddies Eric and Matt. They were so enthused about what they were doing there, I had to see for myself. Upon arrival, it was clear to see the rich culture and wonderful people who call this place home. It was also clear that people are still struggling to fulfil basic needs such as clean water and a safe educational environment for their children. Lack of resources and infrastructure has made the 2015 earthquake difficult to recover from. I returned for a second trip along with my wife and we decided to join Eric, Matt, Bhushan, and the team, to make a tangible difference in whatever way possible. Now heading back for my third trip, I can attest to the level of appreciation, respect, joy, and resilience of the Nepali people. It resonates throughout the country and grabs you by the heart! I encourage all who are interested to come along, share your thoughts and get involved however possible! Lasoooo!