When a group of four young, fresh-faced, 20-somethings came to my school recently to show a documentary about freeing kidnapped children in war-stricken Uganda, my fellow classmates and I were just excited for the hour off classes. Little did we know, their presentation would completely enlighten us on the conflict that has been raging in Uganda for almost 25 years, making it Africa's longest-running war.
These young people -- Ryan, Tracy, Torian and Collines -- were touring the Mountain West as "roadies" for Invisible Children, hitting many schools in Northern Utah along the way. Invisible Children is an organization that describes itself as a group of "storytellers," but storytelling through their documentaries isn't their only mission. Their mission is to stop the LRA, a guerilla army committed to creating a theocratic government in Uganda. The LRA is headed by Joseph Kony and has reportedly kidnapped more than 66,000 children that have made up the main force of the army since 1986.
Invisible Children was founded in 2003 by three young filmmakers who headed to Africa looking for a story. After seeing how terrible the effects of the LRA on Uganda were, they were moved to create "Invisible Children -- The Rough Cut," and have since created eight more documentaries, each capturing the lives of an individual child whose life has been changed by the war. After the video at my school ended, the students found that one of the roadies, Collines, was a Ugandan directly affected by the war.
The documentary was based off the life of Tony, a teenage boy in Uganda. To avoid the kidnappings, he and hundreds of other children from his and surrounding villages would go on a "night commute" to sleep in a nearby city that was safer from LRA abductions. Flooded floors and cramped spaces in buildings they sought refuge in made for a harmful and frightening environment.
Tony's film was incredibly well made because it portrayed him as a relatable and funny teenager: He was constantly cracking jokes and making references to American rappers and singers. His story was very moving; he had lost his mother and seen some of his dear friends abducted or killed. The fact that someone so much like us was growing up in a war zone moved my student body to take action.
After the presentation, the roadies sold T-shirts, bracelets, DVDs and "Action Kits" to raise funds and awareness. The Action Kits were sold for an April 25 worldwide event in which people pledge to go 25 hours without speaking to raise $25 dollars each in honor of the children whose voices have been silenced by the 25-year war. I found it really cool to see my friends and classmates so passionate about the cause; the majority of students bought merchandise and some even spoke to the roadies about joining them in the future.
The youthful spirit shown in the roadies and my student body powers Invisible Children. Young filmmakers, graphic designers, public speakers and others are the driving force behind the movement which has been featured on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and in the New York Times. The movement pushed for the passage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in May 2010.
The movement isn't over yet because Kony and the LRA are still active. With the recent uprisings in Egypt and Libya, Africa is on the world stage now, making this an even more crucial time to take steps to end the conflict and help the victims of Uganda.
What can you do to help? You can make a pledge to stay silent on April 25 or purchase merchandise on the organization's web site, www.invisiblechildren.com. If you want to learn more, St. Joseph Catholic High School will host a free public screening of a documentary at 7 p.m. April 7 in the Evans Black Box Theatre, 1790 Lake St., Ogden.
Invisible Children isn't merely a charity organization, but one of activism. Recently, the group developed a system of radios in Uganda to alert villages of the movements of the LRA and has created schools and rehabilitation centers for rescued child soldiers. The mission is directed and goal-oriented, and the cause won't stop until the LRA does.
Emmie Oliver is a junior at St. Joseph Catholic High. Contact her at email@example.com