An excited murmur emanates from room 118 in Humanities Hall. The time is 5:30 p.m. and the meeting has just begun. Among the over 30 people inside room 118 is a Chilean exchange student, a girl whose father performs plastic surgery on children with severely deformed cleft palates, a computer technician and a transfer student. Four students from completely different walks of life all unite for one cause: the children.
It seems all non-profit organizations are attempting to save the children these days. These children are invisible — so to speak.
In Northern Uganda, a madman named Joseph Kony abducts children ages four to 14 into the Lord’s Resistance Army. For the past 23 years, these children have been stolen from their homes, beaten, raped and forced to kill, sometimes by their own families. Because of the AIDS epidemic, many of them are already without parents, and others have no birth certificates.
Six years ago, three college students — Laren Poole, Jason Russell and Bobby Bailey — took a trip to Africa. During their trip, they learned about the abduction of these children, and filmed a documentary about it. These men started the organization we know as Invisible Children. Their goal was to make the invisible seen.
24-year-old UCI Chilean exchange student Felipe Brahm was one of the people influenced by their documentary.
“I was really touched by the images shown in the movie and how a thing like this could be ignored by the rest of the world,” Brahm said.
The first two rallies took place before I became involved with Invisible Children. But this past April, I joined in with roughly 100,000 people in 100 cities around the world in Invisible Children’s largest rally yet. We slept outside to raise awareness, and weren’t allowed to go home until we were rescued by a celebrity or politician. And it worked. It was one of the most inspiring and unifying things I have ever been a part of. After The Rescue, 2,000 people stormed Capitol Hill to lobby congress to push for the capture of Joseph Kony this past June.
Kevin Wilkenson, the UCI Invisible Children club’s operations administrator, is a fourth-year Information Computer Science major who got involved with the club when the organization first began. He sees the organization as more than a way to fight injustice, he sees it as a way to bring people together as they fight.
“The success of this organization isn’t simply based on the end of a frivolous war that is affecting millions of innocent people, ” Wilkenson said. “Where else have you heard of 100,000 people, most of them kids, sleeping in streets across the world to stop a war? I got involved because I am needed. These kids need to be rescued, and this organization needs me to do it.”
Clubs are encouraged to compete with the others in their region to see who can raise the most money. Money raised by each club goes directly towards rebuilding their partner school. The Invisible Children Club at UCI is partnered with Sacred Heart Secondary, the only all-girls boarding school in the region of Northern Uganda.
Freshman Dina Saleh joined the Invisible Children club after being inspired by how her father’s line of work changes lives.
“My dad is a plastic surgeon. He does a lot of work on children with horribly deformed and split cleft palettes. I’ve seen how he can improve children’s lives, so I have joined Invisible Children to see what I can do to improve children’s lives,” Saleh said.
The Invisible Children club at UCI does a myriad of fundraisers, such as the entertaining “man pageant,” Mr. UCI and the Swipe-2-Save program that allows students with meal plans to donate the monetary value of one of the extra meals they inevitably have at the end of the quarter. The fundraising is back in full swing this quarter as club members prepare for their third annual Mr. UCI pageant taking place Wednesday, Nov. 18th of eighth week.
Lauren Stockly is a third-year transfer student from Glendale College. After the unforgettable experience of meeting Ugandan refugees during a trip to Europe in the seventh grade, Lauren began a Save Uganda club at her high school. She is currently on the board of the Life in Africa Foundation.
“I was moved by the stories [of the refugees] and started getting involved in whatever way possible. Life in Africa has consulted with Invisible Children on many projects and I will most likely be going to Uganda in December,” Stockly said.
The students in room 118 in Humanities Hall know that while so much has been done, the capture of Joseph Kony will not mean their work is over. Become a part of the effort to rebuild a nation, help end the longest running war in Africa, join the revolution.
For more information go to www.invisiblechildren.com or join the Facebook group “UCI Invisible Children.”