Volunteers to educate campus about suffering children

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    A motor home will park on campus today, and those who have been living in it for the last three weeks have only one message for students: Children are being forced to kill and nobody is paying attention.”A rebel army abducts children and forces them to fight,” said John Rowett, one of four people touring the campus. “It’s an emergency in Uganda and no one knows about it.”

    Rowett is part of a campaign called Invisible Children, a program that aims to help Ugandans by raising not only money, but awareness about the country’s problems.

    The campaign began with a movie about Ugandan children that sleep on the streets to avoid abduction and do not get the chance to have a proper childhood, Rowett said. It has evolved into a nonprofit organization, and Feb. 1, volunteers in seven recreational vehicles began a journey across the United States to show the movie and speak at universities, churches and schools, he said.

    Rowett was studying at University of San Diego when he first heard about Invisible Children. He said he dropped out of school and volunteered to join the touring team. He and three more people have been driving around Texas for three weeks in a 1974 RV with a malfunctioning bathroom and shower, but he said he thinks it is all God’s will.

    “We firmly believe we’re going to change the world and this war,” he said. “Two million people are stuck in a 19-year war that could be ended in a week if we helped.”

    The guerilla movement is led by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, said Alusine Jalloh, an assistant professor of African studies at the University of Texas at Arlington.

    “They go to villages, kidnap young kids and conscript them into a guerilla group,” he said.

    Then, he said, they loot and burn down the villages.

    LRA has been fighting the Ugandan government for decades. The conflict is rooted in religious beliefs of Kony, who claims to be in communication with the Holy Spirit, according to the Human Rights Watch Web site. Kony wants to overthrow the Ugandan government and create a state governed by the biblical Ten Commandments.

    He has been kidnapping children to fuel his army with solders, as well as using girls for “wives” of rebel commanders, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Jalloh said it definitely helps to create awareness of the conflict and already Uganda has one of the largest presences of American volunteers in Africa.

    However, he said, the end of the war can only come when the Ugandan government and the rebel forces agree on peace.

    “It has to come from within Uganda,” he said.

    Eseri Lwanga, a sophomore from Uganda, said she believes only Kony’s death can end the conflict.

    “I don’t think he’s sane because of what he does to people … physically and mentally,” she said.

    She said she is not sure the movie can help end the war, but said awareness is always a step in the right direction.

    “The more awareness people have, the more they can help,” she said.

    The volunteer team plans to spend today on campus visiting classes and speaking to students. The showing of the “Invisible Children” movie is at 8 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. The team plans to introduce the movie and sell merchandise. Half of the profit the team makes from sales of DVDs and T-shirts goes directly to Uganda, and the other half is spent on educating Americans about the Ugandan problem, Rowett said.

    He also said the team initially had bracelets but they sold out in the first three weeks of the tour. He said 100 percent of the bracelet revenue goes to educating Ugandan children. Ugandans make the bracelets themselves and then they are sold in the United States. Every two bracelets can keep one Ugandan child in school for a month, Rowett said. More information on how to purchase bracelets or the Invisible Children campaign can be found on the Web site www.invisiblechildren.com.