In the spring of 2003, three young University of Southern California cinematography majors journeyed to Africa in search of a story. What they found there would change their lives forever.
What started out as a film project about northern Uganda transformed into much more when these men discovered a tragedy that simultaneously disgusted and inspired them, a tragedy in which children are both the weapons and victims.
After returning to the United States, the three men created the documentary “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” a film that exposes the tragic realities of northern Uganda’s night commuters and child soldiers.
Uganda has been in turmoil for 24 years, causing it to be deemed Africa’s longest running war.
The documentary was originally shown only to the family and friends of the filmmakers, but has now been seen by millions of people, according to invisiblechildren.com. The non-profit Invisible Children Inc. was created in answer to peoples’ question of “How can I help?”
Tuesday night the MU chapter of Invisible Children held a free screening of the documentary and bake sale at Waters Auditorium.
“The part I love about this organization is that it is totally geared toward my college-aged and young adult generation. The films are cool, upbeat and not what you expect from a documentary,” said Annie Bastida, founder and co-president of the MU chapter of Invisible Children. “Their means of communication and awareness is technologically based using Facebook and Youtube and other tools that we use everyday to get the word out around the world at lightning-speed.”
According to Bastida, the chapter at MU averaged 10 people at its meetings last year but has since grown tremendously: now averaging over 40 people at their weekly meetings, over 80 at their first screening, and 300 on their Facebook group and listserv.
“We’ve got a lot of potential, but it’s hard to get such a large community all rallied behind one cause. We spread awareness through screenings of the films, fundraise, created our own apparel, and are staying in tune with the political side of IC. We have written letters to our senators, signed the petition for the bill, and informed as many people as possible about this cause,” said Bastida.
A big focus for the chapter this semester is the Schools for Schools Competition.
“We’re paired up with a school in Uganda, Gulu Senior Secondary. We have 100 days (until December 18th) to raise as much money as possible for them. We’re also competing against other schools in the Midwest,” Bastida said. “If we have the most money, the most books or the most creative idea to raise money, we get to send someone from Mizzou to our school in Uganda to meet the kids that we raised the money for.”
The chapter has experimented in a variety of ways to raise money for the competition. They are holding a book drive that is taking place in the schools of journalism, health professions, nursing, education and engineering in addition to the residence halls and the Textbook Game store downtown.
“We have had bake sales, sold t-shirts, car decals, tickets to a local comedy club, having murder mystery dinner parties, and a benefit concert on December 6, at the Underground Cafe at 7,” Bastida said.
“Use your talents to get the word out there about our cause,” Braden Schatsiek, co-president of the MU chapter of Invisible Children, told students.
“I hope people come away with the fact that they can actually do something about this situation by getting involved with the chapter here or by writing a letter to their Congressman asking that something be done about this,” Schatsiek said.
According to Invisible Children Roadie, Kaitlin Orner, Clare McCaskill has not signed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, a bill asking the current administration to devise a strategy to end the war in Uganda.
“Your voice is powerful,” Orner said. “One person can affect change in the world.”