Guest Author – Emily Ip
Setting the Scene
Invisible Children is a non-profit organization that is fighting to end a war in central Africa. This war has been going on for 27 years, making it the longest armed conflict in African history.
Joseph Kony is the leader of the rebel group known as the LRA, or the Lord’s Resistance Army. To date, an estimated 253 LRA combatants are holding approximately 140 women and 70 children captive in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. As a result, 440,000+ civilians have been displaced.
However, there’s hope: 58 people have escaped in 2013, which is more people than the past three years combined.
WHAT’S ALL THE HYPE ABOUT?
Children are being kidnapped straight from their homes, but what happens once they are in the army? Girls are forced into violent sex slavery, boys are forced to carry guns and become child soldiers and if anyone makes a struggle in any action they’re ordered to do, they are beaten on the spot and possibly shot by another child soldier.
The leadership also employs psyops tactics – children are forced to do abhorrent things in order to convince them that they their families will never accept them back, As a consequence they start to believe it. After the initial desensitization is done, the soldiers are trapped in a trance that is incredibly difficult to get out of. The emotional strain is as bad as the physical labor. Not only are the captives severely malnourished, but over half of them suffer from mental illnesses as well. Unless explicitly released, these kids, usually ages 6-14, are held captive for life or until they find means to escape.
Originally, the LRA was born of efforts to ‘cleanse’ the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda. A few years before the LRA came into existence, Alice Lakwena began the Holy Spirit Movement. She was a self-proclaimed prophetess who ended up in jail for teaching rituals the officials didn’t agree with. Joseph Kony, claiming to have the same ‘connection’ to the Spirit world as she, assumed the position of power over the already quite large group. However, he twisted each of the Ten Commandments in the most gruesome way and transformed a group of religious followers into a rebel army. This group became the beginning of the LRA in 1987. Since then, tens of thousands of children have been kidnapped, families have been torn apart, and communities have been utterly destroyed. Children live in fear of being mutilated or murdered in front of their family members and friends while mothers do their best to protect them.
This fall, Invisible Children has a new campaign called #zeroLRA. The motto is “Stand for nothing, celebrate everything.” Standing for nothing means standing up to the LRA. By celebrating, they mean that every single person who escapes will be celebrated- their name, their story, and their life. The number of captives needs to fall to zero. The number zero is literally nothing. This means no war, no child soldiers, and no killings. In order to do this, they are attempting to destroying the LRA from the inside out.
One aspect of this mission is the defection fliers, which are dropped over the jungle in LRA suspected areas. These contain information on how to safely escape. Escapees’ testimonies and pictures printed on the fliers as well as detailed instructions on where to go, locations of rehabilitation centers, and other sources of help. 81% of escapees have said that “Come Home” messaging was crucial in their choice to escape.
There is a new focus with the new season: for every escape, their story will be written and published. For the 10,000 children still missing, their stories are heard through the memories of family members. Invisible Children will not stop until each person is accounted for.
Opondo was ten when he was captured. He escaped using a come home flier.
WHERE THE MONEY GOES
The come home fliers are just one part of the plan that is currently in action. In order for this to be successful, a lot of fundraising needs to happen. Invisible Children’s Four Part Model explains where the money goes, specifically stating how it benefits central Africa. To have a successful non-profit organization, it doesn’t make sense to put all funding toward one area of the world if people on the other side of the globe are going to be involved. Long term solutions are needed.
Media: Informational short videos as well as documentaries that explain and illustrate are created. These videos make it easy for supporters to simply share a summary of what’s going on and reach a much greater audience.
Mobilization: Simply put, mobilization is moving people around the world to action. Volunteers give their time, money, and energy toward traveling to schools, churches, and towns to give presentations. Musical artists go on tour to help spread the word through their music. Activists gather together to show their strength and make a statement about their passion.
Protection: FM radio towers make it possible to connect villages to LRA warnings so that people can evacuate the area. Broadcasts from family members and friends encourage their loved ones to escape, letting them know it’s safe and that they miss them.
Recovery: Schools are built, rehabilitation centers are equipped with the necessary means to help traumatized former LRA members to fully recover (think counseling, reading/writing/money skills, job training) and reintegrate into society. Today, villages show the effects of being involved in merciless war for 27 years and need to be built up again.
How to get involved!
Regardless of what country someone lives in, their impact makes a difference. “Where you live should not determine whether you live” and that’s why we are committed to ending what 3.7 million people pledged to do during the Kony 2012 campaign: make Kony famous and end the war. Whether you make a one-time donation directly to the website or start a club at school (don’t forget to make a fundraising page!), your efforts are essential. The impact of just a few dollars is huge.
Invisible Children website: invisiblechildren.com
#zeroLRA website: zerolra.invisiblechildren.com
Emily’s personal fundraising page for #zeroLRA: give.invisiblechildren.com/liveradically