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

Elissa has worked for the past fourteen 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 with honours in 2021. Her legal scholarship focuses on an ecofeminist analysis of historical hegemonic patriachy and it's relationship to animal law, environmental law, and international human rights - specifically the rights of women and children.

Elissa has a deep bond with and love for non-human animals. In 2018, she underwent certification for dog behaviour training (CPDT-KA) in order to improve her ability to aid animals she rescued at home as well as support her colleagues' efforts in remote regions of the so-called "Global South" where access to animal behaviour accreditation and education is limited.

She completed her MA in Creative Media Practice with distinction in 2023, her focus was on the use of media and storytelling as an effective means of activism and change-making.

  • Master of Arts, Creative Media Practice, with distinction: University of the West of Scotland
  • Master of Laws, American Law, magna cum laude: Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University
  • Bachelor of Laws, upper second class honours: University of London
  • Diploma, Acting for Film and Television, with honours: Vancouver Film School
Tsleil-Waututh First Nation-led and organised Stop Kinder Morgan protests
Unceded territory, Burnaby Mountain
Brownie, rescue dog, SOS Animaux, Marrakech, Morroco.


Holly is a interdisciplinary creative. After two successful decades in front of the camera, she has stepped behind the lens as director and producer. Her debut feature documentary, ‘Very Late Diagnosis’, is currently in production.

The importance of narrative autonomy is a primary focus in her storytelling.

Syrian children and family crossing by boat from Egypt to Sudan, 2012
Separation Wall, Bethlehem
Tahrir Square unrest, Cairo, Egypt, 2012

Elissa is motivated to tell stories that explore cross-cultural understanding through innovative yet accessible narrative and documentary films as well as mixed media and video essays. Her work in East Africa and the Middle East, as well as having Asperger’s, contributes to her point of view, specifically the danger of inaccurate and unchallenged storytelling premised upon negative and harmful stereotypes based ones race and ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexuality. The world is a vibrant diverse place and our cinema should be a reflection of this reality.

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


– more information coming soon –

Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro, 2008


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 supporting local enterprise and humanitarian aid premised upon dignity and respect.

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

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.