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Eliana Escobedo

As long as she can remember, Eliana has always been on the move. She became an expat at age 4, moving from Peru to Belgium, where she learned French and a new set of cultural rules. Then at age 9, the defining move to Africa to live in Burundi and Rwanda. One of the most memorable events was driving with her father from the shores of Dar e Salam to Burundi in a bright red Volkswagen beetle and then crossing the Serengeti in that same car. What stuck with her beyond that experience was the discovery of big open spaces, silence, nature, adventure and the magnificent wildlife.

After a few years running barefoot in Africa, it was time for more serious pursuits, Eliana first moved to the south of Spain and then back to Belgium to complete studies in the arts and a Masters in Communications. But whenever she could, she would pack a suitcase and visit her father where ever he was: Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Bolivia.

After her graduation, Eliana worked for few years as an event coordinator for a non-profit in Brussels. That’s were she learned to be a producer, organizing and dealing with various service providers and institutions. She then moved to Barcelona to work as a communications associate for an internet start-up and later for a communications agency. Then, in early 2003, her father was appointed to Afghanistan with the United Nations.

Eliana gave up her job in Barcelona and traveled to Afghanistan in search of opportunities. She ended up staying in Kabul for almost two years. As a graphic designer for the UN World Food Program, she developed a set of illustrations and posters for the national “Food for Education” campaign. Then as a public information officer, she regularly briefed the national press on WFP projects and photo documented food distributions for Internally Displaced People and micro-credit projects. In Afghanistan, she met Francis, her future husband.

Together, they moved to Burundi. While Francis was working for the UN Mission, Eliana landed a consultancy with the World Bank. Her task was to evaluate the communication campaign carried out by the Burundian government to demobilize and reintegrate former combatants, taking her through most provinces of the country. Several more consultancies with the World Bank took her to Rwanda and DRC, where she designed a communication strategy to demobilize, repatriate and reintegrate combatants.

In 2007 Eliana moved with Francis to Lebanon where she redirected her life focus and started working on conservation and environmental issues. She participated in beach cleanups, sea turtle conservation activities and animal welfare. This inspired her to create an educational and illustrated iPad children’s storybook about the endangered Sumatran rhino. So began the seedling of an idea that evolved when Eliana and Francis began their journey together and would culminate in their current collaboration, Extraordinary Conservationists.

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Francis ASSADI

Francis always yearned to be an explorer. His early childhood at the Caspian Sea and the Vienna Woods instilled in him his love for nature and his artistic talent eventually led to his passion for photography and university degree in filmmaking.

After graduation, Francis collaborated for the next decade as a cinematographer on documentary and film/video projects in San Francisco, New York, Vienna and Cape Town. Then, while living in NY, 9/11 happened, and as with so many others, it affected and changed the course of his life dramatically. A series of unexpected events led to a 12-year stint with the United Nations as a TV producer and Head of Media Production.

This journey took Francis to Afghanistan, Burundi, Rwanda and Lebanon, where he lived, worked, learned, made friends and met his future wife and collaborator, Eliana, in Kabul.

Francis wanted to make a difference with the productions he took on with the UN and so began to develop unique approaches that could communicate important concepts in an engaging way. He created a first ever board game for Afghan children about the road to peace in Afghanistan and produced an innovative documentary explaining to the voting public the many foreign concepts of Afghanistan’s first-ever democratic presidential elections in 2004.

In Burundi there was another opportunity to explain the concepts of “free and fair” elections to the public with a series of entertaining short films starring a local theatre group. But in Lebanon, Francis took these concepts further and created a ten part mini series starring a well-known Lebanese actor who literally took the audience on a “Journey Through UNIFIL”, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in south Lebanon. His seven years and numerous productions in Lebanon, including a documentary on sea turtles, culminated in the award winning TV series “The Challenge” which challenged Lebanese journalism students to explain the UN mission to the Lebanese in their own words.

Francis ended up again in Afghanistan, ten years after he first left. Much had changed and unfortunately not for the better. It was 2015 and the UN’s 70th anniversary, so Francis came up with a novel photographic concept and created a unique project to commemorate the UN’s birthday by honoring professional Afghan role models. The photo exhibition toured the country to great success.

In 2016, Francis left the UN to pursue his passions and create his own self-directed innovative projects. This special photographic concept, the subsequent founding of Philozoephy and the current project Extraordinary Conservationists constitute his next steps in an ongoing journey as filmmaker, artist, and protector of wildlife and wild places.

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