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Eyewitness Testimony: Mark Hanis


I first heard about Sudan when I was in the cafeteria with a few of my friends at Swarthmore College, and there was a newspaper and there was an article about Darfur. And it was talking about the violence and how there was great concern that there were mass atrocities and potential genocide.

We say, “What can we do? We’re average Americans here in a cafeteria. Average students.” We didn’t have Oprah Winfrey or Warren Buffet on our speed dial. How can we, in the United States, help stop the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, thousands of miles away?

One of the inspirations for this was reading about how the African Union was sorely underfunded. Here, people are willing to put their lives on the line but they just need boots, or they need maps, or walkie-talkies, or tents. And we said, “Why don’t we raise money to help these African Union peacekeepers protect people in Darfur?”

So that’s when we created the Genocide Intervention Fund.

Mark Hanis, Student Activist, Sudan

Mark Hanis, the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors, was a student at Swarthmore College when he read a newspaper article about violence in Darfur, Sudan.

Shocked that genocide was occurring in full view of the world, Hanis and fellow students decided to take action.

They started an organization called the Genocide Intervention Fund, with the
goal of demonstrating to average citizens that they could directly affect the situation in Darfur. They also hoped to compel policymakers to be more responsive to civilian suffering. With the help of advisers from the academic and policy worlds, they turned their ideas into reality.

In 2005, Hanis and his colleagues transformed their student group into a non-governmental organization, the Genocide Intervention Network, based in Washington, DC.