Katie Thompson

Cuba and Costa Rica Program Manager

Why IOI:

My arrival at IOI happened organically. I was already working in Cuba with CubaMar, a marine science and conservation NGO, when I first met Johann, the director of IOI, and learned about IOI’s plans to expand to Cuba. It was a perfect match! I could bring my experience working in Cuba to help IOI expand their program while at the same time learn from IOI’s successful model of empowering communities to grow sustainably. Meeting IOI happened by chance, but I couldn’t be happier. I am proud to be part of an organization that truly does practice what they preach.

My IOI role:

I am in charge of IOI Cuba’s Program, which means I handle all aspects of IOI’s work in Cuba. My role is dynamic—sometimes it involves traveling to Cuba and spending time at our sites, while other times I’m behind a computer working on budgets and emailing with interested volunteers. I help ensure our volunteers have an enjoyable, memorable experience. I have been to Cocodrilo many times and am very familiar with all of the ins and outs of traveling in Cuba, so please ask me anything. I may be biased, but I think volunteering in Cuba is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that everyone should have!

Life prior to IOI:

I graduated with my Master’s degree from the University of Washington in 2015. I studied marine policy, fisheries management (basically the social science side of marine conservation) and knew I wanted to work in marine conservation in Latin America. I got lucky and started working in Cuba almost immediately after graduating and joined IOI officially in 2017. Before starting to work for IOI, I was living in Costa Rica, near a volcano and surrounded by the rain forest. I woke up to the sounds of toucans! It was pretty idyllic and laidback. Fortunately, Miami is also pretty laidback and its weather and food are hard to beat!

Just me:

Well, as they say in Costa Rica, “pura vida”. It literally translates to “pure life” but really means anything and everything you want it to—live in the moment, all good, be happy—and it’s how I try to live my life. I love saying “yes!” to new adventures. I enjoy venturing outside of my comfort zone, like meeting new people, going new places, trying new food. I enjoy my transient lifestyle—I grew up in Midwest United States, moved to the West Coast (best coast!), then to Costa Rica, now in Miami, with many travels in between. I love hiking, laying on the beach for hours on end, reading (especially in a hammock), listening to podcasts, playing sports, and am constantly dreaming about adopting a dog. One day!