For more than a decade, children from Uganda have been abducted from their homes and forced to serve in an army of terrorist rebels. In recent months, the abductions have increased in numbers and UC Davis students aren’t standing by to watch.
Invisible Children, a campus club composed of undergraduate students, is dedicated to raising awareness and relieving the situation in the East African country, Uganda. The UC Davis club is part of the national organization that was established in 2003.
The mission of the club is more or less synonymous with the mission of the Invisible Children organization itself, said Tracy Jalaba, president of Invisible Children at UC Davis.
“We want to raise awareness about this horrific situation both on campus and in our government,” she said in an e-mail interview.
Jalaba, a senior exercise biology major, said the club also raises funds that go directly toward improving the lives and education of the Ugandan people, specifically children in Northern Uganda.
The war in Uganda has been going on for 23 years and involves a conflict between the Ugandan government and a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
As the group became desperate to strengthen its army, the rebels abducted children in the night and forced them to join the troops, Jalaba said.
“In attempts to avoid abduction, children would be forced to leave their homes and sleep on the floors of bus-parks or hospitals in the main towns,” she said.
According to the Invisible Children website, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of LRA’s troops were abducted as children.
The LRA inscribed children into their ranks not only to use as soldiers to battle the Ugandan government, said Brian Hua, treasurer of Invisible Children at UC Davis.
“The children soldiers have been used to induct more children into the army,” said Hua, a junior biochemistry major.
What may be more distressing is that the LRA affects surrounding countries as well.
In just the last two weeks over 90 children were abducted from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jalaba said. Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic have also been targets.
In an attempt to protect the citizens of Northern Uganda, the government’s temporary fix was to move people out of their homes and into Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps which, Jalaba said, have poor sanitation, pathetic food and water rations, and minimal access to education or health services.
“The IDP camps are not home for the over one million people still displaced nor [are the camps] a solution to the problem, but merely a quick fix,” she said.
To help ease the problem, the Invisible Children club at UC Davis is organizing numerous campus events to raise proceeds for the people of Uganda. They are looking into sending care packages to Uganda and are currently involved in a program called “Schools for Schools.” The program partners the club with a school in Uganda called Anaka Secondary School.
“The money that we raise at our school goes to refurbishing, getting supplies, and hopefully to get mentors for the children in Uganda,” Jalaba said. “That way the children can have a positive adult figure to help them stay on track.“
The club also shows screenings of a film called “Invisible Children: Rough Cut” that documents the broken lives of Ugandan children. The film is said to be inspirational and is shown twice every quarter. At the end of each screening session, attendees are asked to participate in a letter-writing session.
The letters are written to Congress to urge them to become more aggressive about trying to help the situation in Uganda, said Betsy Fouts, publicity officer of Invisible Children at UC Davis.
“The more we write, the more they’ll realize it’s a priority that they need to pertain to,” said Fouts, a sophomore communication major.
The sessions also take place at various times during the year at the Quad. There are pre-written letters where all the students have to do is sign their name at the bottom, Hua said.
“There is also an opportunity to write a personal message,” he said. “It can be a few sentences or a paragraph – it’s up to the student what they want.“
Hua encourages students to attend the sessions and to learn more about the cause as it helped give him a different perspective on life.
“I could have lived my life not knowing about this place where kids are being forced to kill people,” he said. “There’s a huge contrast between the lives that they live and the lives that we live.“
After he learned about the cause and what he could do, Hua said, it just made sense that he should try to help.
To become more involved with the club and the cause, students can attend club meetings at 1150 Hart at 8 p.m. every other week. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 10.
E-mail Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
THUY TRAN can be reached at email@example.com.