A 23-year-long war. Millions of people dead. Thousands of children being kidnapped and taken to be forced into becoming child soldiers. Children afraid to sleep in their own homes. No jobs and no food.
If you are thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’ve never even heard of this,” don’t feel bad because half of the world has no idea about the war in Uganda. This is how the movement got the name ‘Invisible Children.’
Three college students set out to go on a trip to Sudan with only a camera in 2003, having one thing in mind; to find a story. It was not until they reached northern Uganda where they found exactly what they wanted. Jason Russel, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole never imagined the type of story they would find – a story not only about children caught in the middle of the war, but children that most people didn’t even realize existed.
These invisible children more commonly known as ‘night commuters’ travel to hospitals each night in order to sleep in what they feel is a safe environment. The film which those three students created shows thousands of children sleeping on soaking wet ground, with no adults around; only one man who holds an AK47 rifle. The children of northern Uganda live each day in fear that they will be taken into what they refer to as ‘the bush,’ and will never return.
Many children are being abducted from their homes day after day and forced to be in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) or rebels where they are tortured, then trained to kill. Most of these children range from ages five to 12-years-old, which the LRA feels is a prime age to be brainwashed into their destructive ways. One young boy named Jacob had escaped from the rebels and continues to battle each day with the physical and emotional scars that will remain with him forever. He talked about how if the rebels saw you crying they would immediately kill you because they know you are thinking about home. This is when Jason, Bobby and Laren learned that the children in Uganda never cry solely for reason that they fear that they may be killed. Later Jacob went on to say that, “we have no clothes, no food, so it is better if the rebels kill us.”
Although many children are still being abducted, many have also escaped and are trying to rebuild their lives. Some of them talk about what happened to them in the bush. “I still get bad dreams about the rebels, I wake up screaming. I was scared because I saw people’s arms and legs being cut off. If children were too weak to work, they were chopped up and left to die,” states one young Ugandan girl.
The young adults who made the film never thought anyone would actually see the footage they took, let alone have it become the movement it has today. Once they came back from Uganda they showed it to a few of their friends, which turned into a nationwide interest. Shortly after, the non-profit organization Invisible Children was founded in order to raise awareness and help the children and people of Uganda live better lives.
For the past two years peace talks have been taking place in Uganda to stop this 23-year-long war. Unfortunately The Final Peace Agreement has not been signed because Joseph Kony, head of the LRA, failed to show up. Although roughly 800 thousand people have returned to their homes, many are still out there in fear for their own lives.
The Invisible Children organization has taken many steps to better this situation and so can you. Although it may seem impossible to reach them, there are actually many easy steps. First off, spread the word about Invisible Children to as many people as you can. Secondly, visit the website to learn about how you can donate your money or time to the organization. Lastly, do not forget about the children – that is their only wish.
To learn more about Invisible Children go to www.invisiblechildren.com or contact Sarah Beltz (firstname.lastname@example.org), president of Amnesty International, to learn how you can help.