In the September of 2018 I led a team of six African women with albinism up Mt. Kilimanjaro. The highest point in Africa was the platform we used to shine a spotlight on this rare genetic disorder, the challenges persons with albinism face and their strength and courage to overcome those challenges.

Meet the Climbers

Jane Waithera


A fierce advocate, activist and role model, Jane Waithera is the Malala of people with albinism.

Regina Mary

South Africa

I’m beautiful, smart, funny, kind and unique. I inherited albinism. I’m so proud of it blessed to be the chosen one. I am a singer, actress, dancer and well-rounded entertainer.

Nodumo Ncomanzi


Nodumo Ncomanzi is an education consultant and brand strategist. Her interests include social innovation and fashion, and have brought her to the Climb for Albinism project to facilitate publicity and communications.

Mariam Staford


For many years, life was relatively uneventful on the family farm until the night that would change 28-year-old Mariamu’s life dramatically. Miriaumu was sleeping beside her two-year- old son when a man entered her bedroom, hacked off both of her arms with a machete, and fled.

Maah Koudia Keita


Maah Koudia Keita ( AKA Lady Maah Keita) is a 30 year old woman with Albinism from Sénégal. She is a musician, one of the three women bassplayers in Africa and the one in Sénégal. Maah co-founded the Care Albinos Association that she lead for 6 years.

Dr. Edi


Dr. Edi Onyinye is an optometrist and an entrepreneur who is passionate about social works involving eye care. She has an interest in low vision especially as it affects persons with albinism.

In order to prepare for the ascent of Kilimanjaro, we embarked on a pre-climb expedition to Mt. Kenya where our team of women met for the very first time and took on their first mountain challenge.
After a year and a half of planning, the Climb for Albinism has finally come to life. I’ve managed to pull it all together with the support of my friends from Adventure Alternative, my partners at Under the Same Sun, our donor and all of the people who have contributed and who believe in this project. Join us on this incredible journey.


I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all that transpired the last 8 days on Mt. Kilimanjaro. All six female climbers with albinism went beyond what they thought was possible and in the end Nodumo Ncomanzi summited Uhuru Peak, representing the team at Africa’s highest point.

Part 5 – The Summit Climb

Part 4 – The Climb for Albinism

Day 1 – The Climb for Albinism

We’re off to Kilimanjaro!

Today is the official launch of the expedition! We're driving from Kenya to Tanzania and our sights are set on the highest point on the continent.

Climb for Albinism Press Conference

We officially launched the Climb for Albinism in Nairobi, Kenya. Kilimanjaro awaits!

Hanging out with the camels on the beach in Mombasa. 36-hr recharge and the adventure begins! - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Camels on the beach in Mombasa

Making friends with the camels on the beach in Mombasa. 36-hr recharge after 24 days of travel across the continent. The team arrives in 48 hours and the adventure begins!

Hanging with the crew on top of Nairobi - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The crew from Nairobi

Behind everything I do, is always an amazing support crew. In this case, Charles and Gerald, my Kenyan brothers who have been supporting me throughout my stay in Nairobi. They've both gone above and beyond to help make all of this possible.

Meet Jane Waithera

Meet Jane Waithera - advocate and activist for people with albinism. Despite having been abandoned by her mother at birth due to having albinism, Jane has gone on to become one of the strongest and most inspiring women I’ve ever met. She’s a leader and a true source of inspiration. She’s also my partner on this special project. Looking forward to sharing more of Jane’s inspiring story and message.

Essilor – Our Eyewear Partners

Today we visited the Essilor offices in Nairobi to pick up a new pair of specially treated glasses for Nodumo, one of our Climb for Albinism team members from Zimbabwe. Essilor has generously sponsored the eyewear for our team.

Landed in Nairobi

20 days on the road and I've finally landed in Nairobi, Kenya. Two days in production with Nodumo, our climber from Zimbabwe, hopefully a little weekend at the beach then the Climb for Albinism team flies in from across Africa and the adventure begins!

Kilimanjaro Awaits!

It must be destiny that Mariam wakes up every morning to the sight of Kilimanjaro and now she has a chance to stand on the summit.

Instagram updates

Can you update your @instagram with your tongue? Every time I see Mariam do this, my jaw drops and hits the floor. She’s adapted to life without arms and has refused to be a victim of the crimes committed against her.
Elia and Mariam in Tanzania - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Mariam and Elia

Mariam made it to 4300M on Mt. Kenya last May, she's been climbing metaphorical mountains her entire life and she's now ready to take on Africa's highest peak for persons with albinism. She's been training hard, climbing stair and hiking 3-6 hours, 5 times a week. She's ready.

Mariam Staford making sweaters in her home in Tanzania - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Mariam – The entrepreneur

Mariam runs her own business in her home in Tanzania where she makes sweaters and scarves for schools and other clients. She learned this vocation, through the support of Under the Same Sun, and is now able to support herself and her loved ones as an independent woman. Mariam refuses to be a victim and is in her full independent power.

Mariam Staford

Meet Mariam Staford: Climb for Albinism team member from Tanzania. Mariam survived a vicious attack in her home when two men entered while she was asleep with her son and hacked her arms off with machetes.

Mt Meru

I'm on my way to Mariam's home and the views of the mountains are simply majestic! She got Kilimanjaro to the East and Mt. Meru to the West. Lucky her! Looking forward to seeing her and telling more of her story.

Meet Eva from Adventure Alternative

Not only is Eva a Kenyan guide, expedition leader and logistics support and manager, she's also Mariam's caretaker. Eva is one of the unsung heroes of this expedition, wearing many hats while taking good care of Mariam who lost her arms in an attack over a decade ago. Eva is too humble to say it, but she truly is extraordinary. We're grateful to have her on the team. She traveled to Kenya to assist me and meet up with Mariam as we document her preparation for Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

The first time I climbed Kilimanjaro was a month after my first summit of Mt. Everest back in 2010. I regretted it and wished I had shared the journey with people I loved and cared for - it’s that kind of adventure.

Meet the Tanzania Guides

Meet the team from Adventure Alternative. These guys are simply - AWESOME! We brought them in from Tanzania on our Mt. Kenya climb and they became family. Strong, kids, caring, generous and compassionate. They are the backbone of the Climb for Albinism team, standing with us all the way to the summit for persons with albinism.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

We visited Regina's studio downtown Johannesburg where she recorded the song she wrote called: Kilimanjaro. She recounts her life story, the obstacles she's overcome and the grand challenge that lies ahead.

The Climb for Albinism

I’ve always been drawn to stories of resilience. Stories of perseverance. Stories of the unlikeliest of heroes who are destined to become. I see the light, I see the beauty, I see the potential and these days, I take all that I know and I create adventures that enable those transformations. Where I was once an artist with a lens, I now try to be an artist with life.

Boxing training and prep for Kilimanjaro

I have to say, I was quite impressed with Regina's training schedule today. The guides and I had to turn her back on Mt. Kenya in May because she was suffering from the altitude and was going to put herself at risk, as a result she did not make it to 4300m with the rest of the team. It's always a hard call to make, but safety is always the number one priority. Since then, she's really taken control of her destiny and is well on her way to having a real shot at reaching the summit of Africa's highest mountain.

Meet Regina Mary

I've landed in South Africa and met up with Regina Mary: Actress, activist and climber. We spent day one going over our schedule for the next few days which includes training, her theatre, visiting her old neighbourhoods, motivational talks, her studio, downtown JoBurg and much more.

Dr. Edi training with the local kids in Lagos, Nigeria. #climbforalbinism - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Thank you, Nigeria

I've been inspired by Dr. Edi's story and accomplishments. She truly is a self-made woman and I am grateful she is on the Climb for Albinism Team. As we filmed her training in the streets, these kids decided to train along with her. What a wonderful way to wrap up the journey.

A self made woman

According to Dr. Edi, one of the most rewarding parts of her work is when a young person with albinism comes in for an assessment and walks away filled with pride knowing a person with albinism not only is an optometrist, but successful entrepreneur. It teaches them that 'anything is possible'.

The Unlikely Optometrist

Meet Dr. Edi, the unlikely Nigerian optometrist. Dr. Edi is an entrepreneur, activist and global citizen. She initially won us over with her charming Facebook audition video and then later showed up rather unprepared for our training expedition to Mt. Kenya back in May. She was was very unfit and lacked the mental toughness at the time to hike at altitude and succeed in reaching our 4300m destination. We had no choice but to turn her back partway for her own safety.
Classy Vision Opticals - Lagos, Nigeria - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Classy Vision Opticals

Take a tour of Dr. Edi's clinic. She describes her business as: 'An eye clinic that provides overall visual care (diagnostics and treatment) and provides fashionable eyewear at affordable prices. We cater to the optical/visual needs of people who want to project whatever image they desire through eyewear and at an affordable price.

Albinism Awareness Event in Lagos

Today we attended an Albinism awareness event in Lagos where there was a fashion show filled with the cutest kids you’ve ever seen, a dance off, various performances, free eye care, inspiring speeches and there was even a fair share of twerking and hip hop dance!  When I wasn’t shooting video, I was teaching people to shoot with my stills camera and giving filmmaking advice to anyone who asked. Another amazing day here in Africa.

Dr Edi and Elia in Nigeria #ClimbforAlbinism - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Landed in Nigeria

With some assistance from our partners at OSIWA, I've landed in Nigeria with the lovely Dr. Edi who is one of our climb for albinism team members. Looking forward to telling her story, meeting her family and documenting the important work she does as an optometrist.

4 Days in Senegal

Maah Keita opened up her beautiful world to me and the Climb for Albinism documentary. She’s an incredibly talented bass player in a Senegalese Afro Rock band, a humanitarian, artist, activist and star made of pure light. She was born with albinism and has not been limited by it in any sense. She’s respected. She’s a trailblazer. And she downright crushes it on the bass!

The Dakar Coastline

Dakar sunsets and the West African coastline are two unexpected perks of being in Senegal that I’m truly going to miss. It’s been a wild little run. I’ve barely had a moment to breathe with the non-stop production of Maah’s story, running around Dakar and some remote areas with cameras, living the condensed experience, strengthening relationships with new friends and colleagues while gearing up to head to Nigeria tomorrow to continue the storytelling journey.

Maah Keita – The Interview

For three days, we crammed in as much as we could to support Maah's back story. We interviewed her mother, her sister, an friend who is an artist, we visited a few iconic locations, shot in the city, at viewpoints, at sunset, in a remote village where she supports others with her humanitarian work. I even managed to film a little scene with her playing the bass for the camera. All in French, of course. Looking forward to putting it all together.

Maah Keita – Day 1: Production Begins

Day one in Senegal was fully charged in the best of ways. First in-person meeting with our NGO partners from Open Society Initiative West Africa followed by a classic Elia Saikaly ‘chasing light’ shoot with our lovely talent, artist, bass player, climber and humanitarian @ladymaahkeita. I’m in Senegal to tell Maah’s story as part of the @climbforalbinism initiative. Almost two years of work coming together with a culminating climb that begins October 1st.

Senegal – The Adventure Begins

It's great to be back in Africa, my home for the next 6 weeks. I'll be traveling from Senegal to Nigeria, South Africa to Tanzania, Kenya overland back to Tanzania and then up Kilimanjaro for an incredible cause with a beautiful group of inspirational and powerful women. The documentary shoot of all of the women's back stories begins.

They made it! 4300M

To my dearest Climb for Albinism team. I wanted to take a moment to say how I proud I am of your incredible accomplishment. . What you accomplished was no simple challenge. In less than three days you hiked to 4100m through tough conditions. You began in the rain, slept in the cold, negotiated the vertical bog in muddy terrain, pushed through an 11 hr hike (some in the dark!) endured a sleepless night because of the altitude then turned around and descended like champions. For those that had to turn back for your own safety, you still succeeded as the goal was not to summit, but to get a feel for the thin air and to experience what it is to be on an expedition. I am blown away by your strength, resilience and commitment. Please take the time to celebrate your accomplishment. You achieved the extraordinary and you are extraordinary.

Two turn back

It broke my heart to have to make the call to turn Regina back. She just wasn't strong enough to carry on. Half way to McKinders camp on Mt Kenya I was forced to make a very difficult decision with regards to her safety. I knew she hadn’t trained enough and saw her struggle. She was slow and in pain. Her mind had the will to carry on, but her body just wasn’t fit enough to deal with the elements. Knowing we had another 5km+ to ascend, the lead guides and I decided to turn her around and send her down. I could relate having turned around on Everest twice, I knew it would break her temporarily, and yet knew it was the only decision to be made. After fighting to carry on with everything she had, this brave warrior and survivor turned around with grace and power, tears flowing with unbreakable will. It was impossible to make the call, but it was the only call to make. She’s a rising star who is going to inspire the masses with her beautiful, chaotic and inspirational approach to all that she does. I’ll go to the ends of the Earth to support her to ensure that this coming September she takes her rightful place on the roof of Africa.

Mariam Stafford

This one. Mariam. Warrior. Unbreakable will. Shining light. Always positive. I can't wait for the world to meet her.

Sun protection

Essilor generously provided the protective eyewear for the entire team. Each woman is outfitted with advanced lens technology that darkens as needed.

Our Climb for Albinism team

Our team: 6 women with albinsim and the support crew including Bohdana and Dr Becky Kammer. We made it half way up the vertical bog on Mt. Kenya with 6 hours left to go to camp.

Jane Waithera

My partner and co-creator, @ijanewaithera making her way through the vertical bog on Mt. Kenya. Jane and I met in 2016 and she shared her story of being abandoned by her mother at birth and being cared for and raised by her grandmother. She recently met her mother and I had the privilege of documenting the reconnection after decades of separation. Upon learning more about the challenges that her community faces, I immediately connected the dots between Kili and the once epicenter of attacks in Tanzania against persons with albinism and pitched her on this idea. Together we gave birth to all you see today

Regina Mary

Meet @reginamary_myvoice Actress. Artist. Inspirational Speaker. Survivor. Warrior. Our @climbforalbinism wild card. The second I saw her audition video I knew we needed her on the team. She brings radical openness, raw human emotion, vulnerability and a theatrical approach to all that she does. She openly speaks about her two rapes and multiple suicide attempts. When she tells her story, you listen and are often shocked that someone born with albinism has somehow found the courage and strength to use the trauma to uplift, empower and inspire so many others.

Mariam and Jane

It all began with these two. First my co-creator Jane and then the loverly Mariam. In essence, they are the reason we are here today. Jane for her beauty, character and limitless potential and Mariam for her beautiful spirit and unbreakable will. I can't wait to stand on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with both of them.

The adventure begins!

The Climb for Albinism adventure begins! My co-creator @ijanewaithera and I along with @justdumo cast this team of women via an online Facebook contest less than two months ago and today the team met for the first time, boarded the @adventurealternative adventure mobile and are venturing into unchartered territory in the morning on Mt. Kenya. This image sums up the spirit of the team and the energy and personality each team member brings. It’s beautiful to watch a dream unfold and become reality. Here we go!

Pickups and Arrivals

Meet Mariam and Regina - 2 of our 6 Climb for Albinism team members. Mariam is the ultimate symbol of resilience. Her story moved me to tears when I met her in 2016 and she inspired me to want to do something about what I saw. She was violently attacked in the middle of the night while in bed with her son and both her arms were chopped off with a machete. She was left to die and waited over 8 hours before receiving medical attention. They may have taken her arms, but they didn’t come close to breaking her spirit. She survived and remains the sweetest, most optimistic and one most resilient human beings I’ve ever met.

Landed in Nairobi!

Landed in Nairobi and the adventure is about to begin! 6 women with albinism from 6 different countries are coming together for the first time to live out a wild dream. Somehow this crazy Canadian managed to bring them all together to create what I believe will be a life changing experience


Please join my list to receive my latest photos, videos and updates from the field. -Elia