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ABOUT

Holly Elissa is an ecofeminist creative, legal scholar, social entrepreneur, mountaineer, and NGO founder.

Education

LLB, Upper Second Class Honours, University of London
LLM, American Law, Magna cum Laude, Loyola Law School
MA, Creative Media Practice, in progress, University of the West of Scotland

A prominent name in the Canadian screen industry for over 20 years, Elissa has worked for the past twelve years for the rights of animals and women and children who are refugees/displaced people and victims of trafficking – namely child soldiers, rape and sex slavery survivors – as the founder of Caleb’s Hope and more recently United Commons and Femmes Mondiales. Her original education being in theatre and film, Elissa returned to school and obtained a law degree in 2020 to better serve under her NGO. She completed an LLM in 2021 and is currently fulfilling requirements to be called to the bar. Her legal scholarship focuses on historical hegemonic patriachy and it's relationship to animal law, environmental law, and international human rights - specifically women and children.

Tsleil-Waututh First Nation-led and organised Stop Kinder Morgan protests
Unceded territory, Burnaby Mountain

Her passion for animal welfare led to becoming a certified force-free canine behavioral specialist (CPDT-KA) which allows her to go further in her volunteer work at home with behavioral special needs dogs and helping grassroots organizations in volatile regions devoted to animal advocacy, rescue, and rehabilitation.

Brownie, rescue dog, SOS Animaux, Marrakech, Morroco.

ARTIST

Holly is a writer, filmmaker, actor, and photo essayist with roots in the theater, music and fine arts. Her debut book about late diagnosis of autism in women is set for a late 2022 release. The accompanying documentary, ‘What You See’, is currently in development. As an NGO founder and recovering aid worker, with over 12 years of humanitarian work under her belt, the danger of the single-story narrative – specifically of African nations, displaced persons and disabled people – is a primary focus in her storytelling.

Syrian children and family crossing by boat from Egypt to Sudan, 2012
Van Helsing, SyFy/Netflix

An acting veteran in 'Hollywood North', her extensive film and television credits include critically acclaimed and award-winning productions from MGM, Netflix, CTV, Fox, Warner Bros, NBC Universal, The CW, and ABC. Her career in front of the camera naturally progressed to an interest in moving behind the camera as a filmmaker.

Tahrir Square unrest, Cairo, Egypt, 2012

Elissa is motivated to tell stories that explore cross-cultural understanding and human rights through innovative yet accessible narrative and documentary films as well as mixed media and video essays. Her work in Africa and the Middle East contributes to her point of view, specifically the danger of the single-story narrative.

Atiak Technical School Students building a roof for a new home for a homeless woman and her children, Atiak, Uganda, 2010
Street cat, Sinai region, Egypt, 2012

MOUNTAINEERING AND TREKKING

– more information coming soon –

Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro, 2008

SERVICE

Her NGO work focuses on international law and how it relates to human rights, specifically women and children, environmental law and animal law. After her own ‘white saviour’ blunders, she is a reformed aid worker and contributor to challenging colonial narratives and tired aid models in African nations as an advocate for responsible foreign investment, social enterprise, and humanitarian aid.

Separation wall, Bethlehem, Palestine, 2018

As the founder of Caleb’s Hope, Elissa worked with refugee women and children in Atiak region of Northern Uganda – widows, former child soldiers, sex slaves, PLWHA, and child headed households. With the ongoing assistance of local leaders and experts, they developed the Atiak Women’s Business Group; a women’s social enterprise group focused on sustainable economic independence and child welfare and education. AWBG currently focuses on farming as their sustainable industry of choice with many having dreams to expand their farming productions while others use funds to complete school or plan to use profits as start-up capital for other business endeavors.

Unfortunately the deeply flawed and oppressive colonial structure of most foreign aid in Africa has systematically led to an inevitable unhealthy co-dependency between western charities and their developing nation recipients, despite the best of intentions. Because of this reality, Caleb’s Hope could no longer, in good conscience, continue programs in Atiak. All programs were completed, fulfilling the NGOs promise in Atiak in 2014.

Refugee camp, Aiak, Uganda, 2008

"If we within the aid and humanitarian industry don't talk about where we're failing, how can we improve? Rooted in this eurocentric (and patriarchal) ideology, the system is broken and always has been. Too many western charities cling to their idea of 'right'. Too many participate in a victim-saviour relationship with people on the ground. And too many pretend you can build healthy, independent economies from charity. You can't help if you're not willing to listen and not willing to admit where we have failed and where we have harmed with our 'good intentions.' It would behove everyone to have a little more humility; with mouths shut and ears open. Academic credentials and lengthy resumes don't make anyone infallible nor all-knowing. There is no room for arrogance, fragile egos or pity. It's time to decolonise the system." - Holly Elissa

Femmes Mondiales est une ONG écoféministe pour le défense des droits humains pour les femmes. Nous abordons la violence masculine envers les femmes par les services de santé mentale, l’économie verte et la justice pour les victimes.

*Due to COVID FM’s launch has been delayed. Sign up to be notified on the launch here.

Move Together Project emerged in 2018 with a meditation and dog-assisted therapy pilot program in Vancouver, Canada to address the urgent mental health needs of vulnerable children. The MTP, now apart of United Commons, focuses on assisting children and their families through SEL models of learning and family honouring. Learn more about Move Together here.

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