|Photo by David Stone
For over 23 years, an estimated 1.8 million people in northern Uganda, many of them children, have been living a nightmare—a nightmare impossible to wake up from without the aid of people who care.
Forty students and their teacher at Corona del Sol high school are out to fill that role. They are taking an active part in helping these children by raising money to rebuild schools and provide other aid through a group known as Invisible Children.
Invisible Children is a nonprofit awareness and development organization founded by three young film-study students from Southern California—Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole—who traveled to Sudan in 2003 looking for a story.
They found their story, but not in Sudan. They ended up instead in northern Uganda where they discovered thousands of people affected by the brutality and attacks of a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The three young men ended up creating Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, a documentary that chronicles their experiences learning firsthand about the conflict largely unknown, at that time, to the rest of the world.
They were also informing audiences about the great humanitarian crisis of child soldiers abducted by the LRA and trained as guerrillas.
LRA, founded in 1986, calls itself a Christian guerrilla army engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government. In the name of war, its members have inflicted brutal violence, including rape, kidnapping, torture and murder.
For over 23 years, LRA has abducted large numbers of children and young adults, forcing them to participate in hostilities or as sex- and labor-slaves.
The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself to be a spirit medium and the spokesperson of God. The LRA, recently designated a terrorist group, has been accused of widespread human rights violations including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement and forcing children to participate in hostilities. Clubs have been founded throughout the U.S. to aid in the plight of these invisible children.
The Invisible Children Club at Corona was started out of the blue by Audrey Hirschl a little over a year ago after she noticed another student wearing a unique bracelet.
“I asked him what it was for, and he said that it supported an organization called Invisible Children,” said Hirschl, president of Corona’s club. “I Googled the name later and found their website. I watched some videos and immediately began to feel for these children. I started the club the next day.”
The documentary, Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, has inspired many young people to sign up for the club, which is sponsored by social studies teacher Darren Ridge.
“There was a screening of the movie at school and something just drew Emily Monahan and me to go see it,” said Bree Purdy, the club secretary. “I had never even heard of it, yet after I saw Rough Cut, I knew that I had to help these…children.”
“Watching the Invisible Children video seriously makes you cry. That alone is so moving,” said Nicole Davis. “The video had a lot to do with me joining the club. Also, Audrey's passion was inspiring and made me want to be more involved.”
The Invisible Children Club at Corona is also participating in a nationwide competition called Schools for Schools through Invisible Children. The program’s focus is for schools to raise money to build schools for children who are often orphaned and without homes or a means of education.
The school raising the most money to help these displaced children gets to send two students on an expense-paid trip to Uganda.
“It would be unbelievable to go to Africa and actually meet the kids that I’m helping,” said Hirschl. “It would be incredible. I would love to learn about their culture and share mine with them.”
“If I was the one chosen to go to Uganda, to be able to see the effects our efforts have made would be absolutely amazing,” said Purdy. “To be able to see the people we had helped would mean so much to me.”
Corona’s Invisible Children Club goal for this year is $20,000. In the past they have raised money selling Africa-shaped cookies and hosting a benefit concert. This fall they have lots of fundraising activities in the works including collecting books for the Uganda school children, a benefit night at Wildflower restaurant, a silent auction and wrapping presents in front of Wal-Mart during the holidays.
Corona’s major fundraiser, though, will be a garage sale on Nov. 15 at 30 E. Maria Lane, Tempe. You can purchase items at the garage sale or just donate money to the Invisible Children cause. The club will also accept items to be sold by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, the students will continue to sell the official Invisible Children bracelets made by Ugandan children helped by this organization to spread the word about what is happening in their country.
One of the main goals of Invisible Children is to raise international awareness and to challenge young people to actively participate in their changing world. It is having an impact on several students at Corona.
“I’ve learned a lot more about the war itself that is going on in Uganda,” said Davis. “This club has also made me realize how much of a difference one person can actually make, and how much more a group of many people can make.”
“I've learned a lot more about what’s going on in other parts of the world, and not just in Africa,” said Monahan. “It's really opened my eyes.”
“I’ve learned that there are so many other people out there around the world that need the things that we take for granted,” said Purdy. “There are people out there who want nothing more then an education, something we take for granted everyday, but they are not able to obtain that, due to war and a lack of money.”
The Corona Invisible Children Club is open to anyone interested in helping others. The club meets Thursdays after school in room H206.
You can learn more about the Invisible Children Schools for Schools competition at http://s4s.invisiblechildren.com or by emailing email@example.com.
“The best thing about this club is the amazing people that actually want to help,” said Hirschl.
“I get chills every single time I see a new member walk in the door at a meeting. At the first club meeting, there were over 40 people there. There was not one seat open in the room, and people were sitting on the floor. I could have died of happiness.”