‘Invisible Children’ Appears at UCI
The Invisible Children organization began in 2003 after three college students, Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey, traveled to Africa and discovered the atrocities of a war taking place that was seemingly unheard of. Not only were mass amounts of people being killed without reason, but children were the soldiers.
A man named Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a group that had long been at odds with the Ugandan government in the south, was abducting children and brainwashing them to be child soldiers.
Shocked that no one knew about the plight of these children, Russell, Poole and Bailey set their video cameras rolling, hoping to give these “invisible” children a face and a name. The fruit of their labor was their first documentary, “Invisible Children: Rough Cut” in 2004. The filmmakers found that the initial reaction upon watching the documentary, in addition to the horror, was followed by the overwhelming desire to help. Seeking to provide a way for people to get involved, the non-profit organization Invisible Children was created in 2005.
Emily Hetu, a third-year international studies major and president of the Invisible Children club at UCI, reluctantly watched “Invisible Children: Rough Cut” over two years ago. Worried that she wouldn’t be able to do anything to help the children in Africa, she was shocked to discover that the film actually gave ways for people to get involved. At the beginning of fall quarter 2007, along with her friend Eva Taxidis, a third-year international studies major, the UCI Invisible Children club emerged.
“I can’t imagine myself, or having a younger sister or brother, being taken away from their parents, and then forced to use guns to kill their own family,” Hetu said. “In the United States, one child goes missing and it’s the biggest deal, and rightfully so, but in northern Uganda there are currently 3,000 children who have been abducted, and Invisible Children gives us the chance to make a difference.”
And a difference is being made. Since the organization’s inception four years ago, over $4 million has been raised by high school and college students as a part of Invisible Children’s School’s for School’s program, a program in which clubs within a certain region raise funds to help rebuild one of 10 sister schools that have been torn apart by the war in northern Uganda. Over the past year, the Invisible Children club at UCI has raised over $1,500 for its partner school, Sacred Heart Secondary.
“Our generation has been stereotyped; we’re lazy, we don’t do anything, we play videogames, we’re stupid, but now we have the opportunity to stand for something and to have our voices heard,” Hetu said.
Hosting rallies is another way Invisible Children is bringing about change. Seeking to protect the people of northern Uganda from the LRA, the Ugandan government forced the inhabitants into displacement camps where they could keep a better eye on them. But such camps were overcrowded, unsanitary and did not provide means for enough nourishment, resulting in over 1,000 deaths per week. This prompted Invisible Children to hold the nationwide event “Displace Me” in 2007, in which 68,000 people “displaced themselves” and slept outside in 15 different cities across the United States and wrote letters to the government calling for action on behalf of those living in displacement camps. United under the claim that every war has an end, this massive mobilization of American youth inspired the U.S. State Department to appoint Tim Shortley to Senior Advisor of Conflict Resolution, giving top priority to the conflict in northern Uganda. With peace negotiations underway, the people of northern Uganda were given the chance to return home.
However, at the end of last year, peace talks failed in Uganda. It was the closest they have ever come to a peace treaty, but Joseph Kony didn’t show up. On Christmas Day 2008, Kony began abducting children again, this time spreading the conflict into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan.
Now seeking to partner with the International Criminal Court in the capture of Kony, Invisible Children is holding another rally just over a month from now. On April 25, the organization will be hosting “The Rescue,” a worldwide sleep-out event taking place in nine countries and 100 different cities, encouraging participants to “abduct themselves to free the abducted.” Hoping to draw 100,000 people from all over the world, Invisible Children desires to draw even more attention to this now international issue.
For more information, visit www.invisiblechildren.com, or look up the UCI Invisible Children Club on Facebook.
Melanie Glass is a member of the UCI Invisible Children Club.