In 2003, a conflict sparked between the Government of Sudan forces and rebels from its far western region, Darfur. Home to six million people living largely rural lives – nomadic herders and settled farmers – Darfur is roughly the size of France or Texas. An entirely Muslim region, its name means Homeland (Dar) of the Fur – one of its largest ethnic groups.
The United Nations estimates that over 2.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes and the deaths of nearly 300,000. Most of the displaced moved to camps for the internally displaced within Sudan, while over 250,000 fled the fighting into eastern Chad and live as refugees.
Fueled by the fight for Darfur’s resources, gold, gum Arabic and arable land, the war sadly continues today.
Alissa first traveled to eastern Chad to document the Darfur refugee situation, as a stringer for a newswire, in 2006. She had been following the situation since it began in 2003, read the reports of genocide, saw the black and white photographs, and prepared for the worst.
Darfur had fallen out of the news while media focused on the war in Iraq and Hurricane Sandy – a story of the conflict escalating, pouring across the border into Chad, would bring it back into focus. In eastern Chad, she found the reality quite different, a dire humanitarian situation with several hundred thousand refugees, but not a conflict pushing international borders.
At that point, she decided to abandon work as a news photographer and to create a portrait series, focusing on the Darfuri people, their dignity and hope despite their horrific stories. She spent six weeks in refugee camps with the assistance of many international NGOs with whose work she then became familiar.
Upon return to the US, Alissa created an exhibition of her work as a dedication to the Darfuri people and a fundraiser for the World Food Program’s food aid to the camps where she worked. The work drew the attention of a group of women in San Francisco who had wanted to get involved in Darfur but didn’t know how, and Exposing Hope (then known as Care Through Action) was founded.
Highlight Under-Reported Human Rights Abuses
In 2007 and 2008, Exposing Hope concentrated its effort on Darfur. We held photography exhibitions in San Francisco, LA and New York to raise awareness and funds for both hunger relief for refugees and school feeding programs.
Alissa’s photography from Darfur was exhibited in San Francisco and Los Angeles, at LeftSpace Studios, the Farmani Gallery, Grace Cathedral, Temple el-Emanuel and Frisson Restaurant. It became the inspiration for a design project and fundraising auction for FIDM and was published in Marin Magazine in 2007.