Seeing the Invisible

Chelsea Woods

“Meet Sunday.  Only 15 years old, there isn’t a part of his life that hasn’t been affected by the war.  Orphaned at a young age, he lives in a displacement camp and struggles to survive amid the effects of poverty, disease and malnutrition.  Having no family left to depend on, he must try and provide for himself.”

   This quote marks the back of a promotional card distributed by Invisible Children, a non-profit organization working to bring peace and cohesion to children’s lives in regions of Uganda devastated by war.  The front of the card bears the face of the young African boy, his expression heavy with hopelessness. 

This boy, Sunday, is one of numerous Ugandan children highlighted by Invisible Children’s Bracelet Campaign, a movement designed to both create jobs in African communities and raise awareness of the poverty and conflict in Uganda.  The bracelets sold by the organization are handmade by Ugandans, providing employment and serving the dual purpose of an ad campaign to generate support. 

The Bracelet Campaign is one of many ways Invisible Children is trying to attract the attention of the global community to the largely unknown conflict in Africa.  Created in light of the horror and tragedy of war and violence in Uganda, Invisible Children focuses not only on revealing the devastation perpetrated in the area but also on bringing aid to the people of the region.  Its Web site calls the conflict in Uganda “Africa’s longest running war.” 

“The war in Uganda has been called the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today,” says the site, which provides a succinct but accurate history of the war. 

In light of the destruction, Invisible Children focuses on bringing education and economic progress to the region through three major programs, including the Bracelet Campaign.

Invisible Children was not always such a budding organization, however.  In fact, the project was born only recently after three young filmmakers from Southern California visited Uganda to make a documentary that exposed the tragedy of childhood in a country filled with war. 

“Children are both the weapons and the victims,” says the Web site, which goes on to describe the realities of child soldiery within the context of the Ugandan conflict. 

It is estimated by Human Rights Watch’s Web site that between 200,000 to 300,000 children are currently used globally as spies, messengers, mine detectors, lookouts and soldiers, armed with weapons such as AK-47s and M-16s.  These child soldiers are employed by rebel groups and governmental organizations alike. 

“As society breaks down during conflict, leaving children no access to school, driving them from their homes or separating them from family members, many children perceive armed groups as their best chance for survival,” says Human Rights Watch on its Web site.  Uganda is listed as one of the many countries in which this sad fact rings true.

What the filming founders of Invisible Children witnessed of these horrors during their visit to Uganda eventually became “Invisible Children:  Rough Cut,” a starkly inspiring film that exposes the raw facts of Ugandan night commuters and child soldiery. 

At first only screened among the filmmakers’ friends and families, the unmasked tragedies and the need for aid has brought the documentary and, subsequently, the organization to new levels of operability. 

Invisible Children is on the move, not only in Africa, but across the globe as well.  And now they are coming to Villanova.

On Monday and Tuesday, members of Invisible Children will be working with Villanova’s chapter of Amnesty International to host a screening of “Invisible Children:  Rough Cut” at 4 p.m. in the Connelly Cinema. 

“We’ve made this one of our major [priorities], because we want to focus on drawing attention,” says Amy Knop-Narbutis, a senior honors major and president of Villanova’s Amnesty International chapter.  “Invisible Children has a program which sends volunteers around the country raising awareness for their organization, showing the movie and answering questions.  Groups [like Amnesty] can request them to come to their campuses.  It’s something our chapter is really looking forward to and hoping a lot of people will come out for.” 

The one-hour screening, which counts as an ACS cultural event, will precede a question-and-answer session for anyone interested in finding out more about Invisible Children and its mission. 

When asked why Villanova’s Amnesty International chapter had decided to bring Invisible Children to campus, Knop-Narbutis says, “Everyone who came out to see the film the last time it played [here] came away very inspired.  As a group, we wanted to see that happen again, especially for freshmen who are new to campus.”

The documentary has touched the hearts of thousands across the country and started a push for greater awareness of the conflict and the need for peace globally.  Knop-Narbutis and Amnesty International are hoping to see some of that occur again at Villanova. 

Invisible Children is giving a voice to the voiceless.  Now is the time to listen.