Monthly Archives: June 2011

Upcoming talks in July

This July, Alissa will be speaking at both the Jefferson School of Population Health’s summer Global Health Academy as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. Her talk will center on the work being done on the ground in the Congo with Care Through Action’s partner organizations. Sharing stories and images from her experiences with the women and children in the Congo, Alissa will spread CTA’s message of hope to the students at these great programs.

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A Safe House in the Congo

In the Congo, when a woman is raped, it often means much more than the loss of dignity and the immense fear and pain of the experience. She will also often lose an important connection to her community. The safe houses that we build and support in the Congo help to create a new community for the women who have survived horrific experiences of rape.

A safe house is much more than just a safe place to live. It is a place to gather and share stories and a place to learn new skills, a place where women are offered a chance to begin rebuilding their shattered lives.

The first house we built in Nyamilima works with a very successful microloan/revolving credit program. Some $7,000-8,000 are always in rotation among the women who live there. They are given money in the form of a loan and then taught various skills such as sewing, basket weaving and bread making. The women work together in small groups and earn money using their new skills so that they can repay the initial loan. 98% of the loans are paid back in time and in full. The women are then able to start new projects and continue to build their financial self-sufficiency. These stories of hope create ripple effects as the women will often use the money they earn to improve the lives of their families and their home village. We have been humbled to learn time and again, that when you help a woman, you don’t just help that one woman, because she will turn around and help her whole community…

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Into the Congo

girls in the congo

In early 2009, my sights turned to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Stories of the civil war and atrocities against women had long been in my consciousness, yet information seemed harder and harder to come by.  At the same time, the George Clooneys and Angelina Jolies of the world had found Darfur, and were raising more attention and money than I could ever hope to.

I realized then that as a photojournalist, my niche, the area I could have most impact, was in areas that were dire, yet underrepresented by the mainstream media.  Places that need attention and help.

Thus I traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to document the impact the ongoing civil war was having upon women and children.  Sadly, here the statistics were true and I found evidence of some of the most horrific human rights abuses upon the bodies of women.  If you do not know much about what is currently happening in the DRC, read this Huffington Post article.

CTA had its new focus, the women and children of the DRC, and a new partner, HEAL Africa.  HEAL Africa is a Congolese organization, and has been operating out of Goma, in the North Kivu Province of eastern Congo for over 30 years.  Because of their history, staff, knowledge of the region and the complicated nature of this conflict, HEAL Africa is able to operate in remote areas of the Congo too dangerous and in accessible for others.

Through HEAL Africa, CTA has been able to build two safe houses in remote, rural areas of Eastern Congo, serving hundreds of women.  The houses not only provide a place for women to go when they have been raped, but also, medical referrals to HEAL’s hospital in Goma, counseling, community support and small business training.

Most women who have been raped are abandoned by their husbands and left to care for their children alone, without any means of employment.  In the houses they learn skills (sewing, bread and donut-making, and basket-weaving) and receive loans to start a small business.  CTA has now financed three revolving credit funds providing loans to over 300 women, which, when they pay it back is loaned to another.  Over 98% of the women pay their loans back in full, on time.

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Welcome to our Blog!

We are excited to have you here!

For those of you new to Care Through Action (CTA), we believe in the power of images and the power of hope.  Though we work in critical areas suffering from severe human rights abuses, we support and empower the survivors who struggle to continue their lives despite the conditions.  Through inspiring documentary photography, we connect people to the faces and stories of strong survivors, and provide a way to help.

I founded CTA in 2007, with an amazing group of supporters*, after spending almost two months in Eastern Chad and Darfur.  When I traveled to Darfur, I expected to find the images I had seen in the news, black and white, starving people, crawling across the sand.  Yet, when I arrived, I found something different, women, children and men, living in full color, with hope and dignity.  I was inspired by the strength of the Darfuri refugees and felt a tremendous responsibility to tell the other side of the story.

A story of life.  A story of hope.  A story of men, women and children wanting to get back to their villages and a way that we could help them survive until they were able to do so.  Within months of CTA being founded, we held three fundraising exhibitions and raised over $25,000.  People were listening.

We decided to channel this money to the World Food Program, and this is important.  We are not trying to be a humanitarian aid organization.  In my view, there are already too many NGOs out there, competing over resources and  reinventing the wheel.  Some of them have decades of experience and work incredibly efficiently and effectively in various regions of the world, others do not.  Part of my job is to spend time with these organizations while I am in the field, and based on my experience determine with whom CTA wants to partner.

In Darfur, we chose the World Food Program because the refugees there simply have no other means of feeding themselves.  And as much as eduction is valuable, a child who is starving cannot learn…..

 

*Thank you to Diana Britt, Gina Pell, Claudia Ross and Amy Parker for your support and belief in my work and my mission!

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