Alex D’Jamoos and Sasha Pokhilko were born without legs and grew up as orphans after they were abandoned by their parents because of their birth defects. Until he was 15, D’Jamoos lived in an orphanage outside Moscow and got around using a modified skateboard.
In 2008, D'Jamoos met psychiatrist and filmmaker Natasha Shaginian-Needham who was filming a documentary at D'Jamoos's orphanage. When asked what he wanted, he told her a, "I want to walk”.
Natasha was so touched by Alex’s charm that she changed the course of her career and devoted herself to helping D’Jamoos come to the United States and get prosthetic legs. Through her adoption agency, Happy Families International Center, she would help D'Jamoos, Pokhilko and others come to the United States to get prosthetics.
In 2012, Natasha and Alex were determined to challenge his and the world’s conceptions of what it means to have a disability. The trio decided they would attempt to summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. During their first attempt, in 2012. D’Jamoos wasn’t able to make it to the summit that first year, but the team returned in 2014 and 2015 to make subsequent, successful attempts.
This set of pictures chronicles two of those journeys up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, in 2014 and 2015 (both men went up in 2014 and Pohilko went up in 2015). It shows their struggles and successes. Although making it to the top of Kilimanjaro isn't unique, D’Jamoos described his motivation for climbing: “The desire to walk isn’t a desire for mobility. It’s a desire to be normal.”