Sunday, April 05, 2009

Rescue Child Soldiers

My good friend A’ishah Meghan Hils is working on a really cool project I am only too happy to share here. She blogs at A'ishah's Notebook.

Hi, my name is A’ishah Meghan Hils. I’m from Tallahassee, Florida, and I’m 21 years old. On April 25, 2009, I will be abducted to save Joseph Kony’s child soldiers. I want you to come to the Rescue.

The event: On the afternoon of Saturday, April 25, 2009, in 100 cities throughout 9 countries, people will meet at a predetermined site and be abducted to symbolize the tens of thousands of children abducted by Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda. They will walk single-file, holding a rope, from the abduction site to their designated LRA camp, and wait there to be rescued. Rescue entails bringing media coverage to the problem and also having cultural and political leaders speak at the event.

The goal: The short-term goal is to bring media attention to the war in Uganda and the displacement and abduction of children there, as well as to the problem of child soldiers more generally. We are specifically seeking international pressure on Joseph Kony to free the children who make up 90% of the LRA; international help in arresting him for his crimes; the attention of governments and the passage of legislation for aid for the situation; the building of schools and safe places for the children of Uganda to sleep; and the development of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs for child soldiers in Uganda.

The background: Since 1987, the LRA, under the leadership of Joseph Kony, has abducted children to serve as soldiers in their war against the government of Uganda. Estimates range from 20,000 to 50,000 and up, but because no records are kept of their names or ages and their own armies deny they exist, exact counts are impossible to obtain. These children truly are invisible. In addition, thousands of children have been displaced due to the war, and many more are forced to commute miles each evening to city centers to avoid being abducted from their homes. The issue of child soldiers is a human rights problem that is only beginning to gain awareness; outside of Uganda, an estimated 300,000 child soldiers also serve in armies throughout the world, many of them in conflicts supported through money and armaments by the United States.

Many children are abducted and forced into battle; many join the army because they believe they might receive food or shelter in return, or because they have no one else. They are hopped up on drugs, often forced to commit atrocities in their own communities so that they can never return. There are almost no programs to help former child soldiers transition back into society, and the few that are, are almost never equipped to help girls, even though female child soldiers make up more than 1/3 of the forces in some conflicts. Children are most popular for use in deactivating mines and are often put on the front lines to essentially serve as human shields. Improvements in the manufacturing of small armaments have made it relatively easy for kids to carry AK-47s.

Why bother? It’s not like anything is going to come of yet another protest about yet another cause: The non-profit organization Invisible Children began several years ago when three film students traveled to the Sudan to film the conflict there and ended up in Uganda instead. They created Invisible Children: the Rough Cut documentary, as well as many other documentaries that followed, and traveled all over the country telling the story of Uganda’s invisible children. Since then, they’ve held two major national and international events: the Global Night Commute and Displace Me. Through their efforts, the United States government assigned a senior official to investigate the situation in Uganda, another round of peace talks was opened, and the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Joseph Kony. They have also built schools and started business programs in northern Uganda. One of the reasons I love IC so much is that their programs and events really have brought change to the situation. It will not be an easy road to peace in Uganda and freedom for its children, but the gains of the years since IC began have showed the world that it can be achieved. For individuals who want to help solve problems like the one in Uganda, but don’t know how or feel they can’t because they don’t have money or connections, IC is a great way to get involved. You can participate in small ways as well as large ones; it doesn’t require being rich or in charge. And it does work.

How can I help?

* Visit and watch the 36-minute documentary on Joseph Kony’s child soldiers.
* Find your local event on and sign up to find out the plans for the Rescue in your area.
* If the closest event is too far away, check and see if anyone is carpooling. If you absolutely can’t go, please consider spreading the word.
* If you think you’ll be able to go, network with your local IC group to find out their process for contacting moguls, or to find out if they need volunteers for the event. Make sure you find out from them the time and location of the abduction site and the specifics of their march to the LRA camp.
* Consider purchasing the Rescue t-shirts from IC’s store if you can afford it, or donating a small amount of money. You can also purchase the original Rough Cut documentary, a DVD of the Rescue documentary, or other DVDs, t-shirts, and bracelets to support Invisible Children’s work.
* Create a DVD asking celebrities and political leaders to rescue you - people are asking everyone from Bono to Oprah to the Queen to Obama. Here’s how.
* Spread the word. Please link to this post or to the main Rescue site ( on your blog. Pass it on to your family and friends, and encourage them to watch the Rescue documentary on the main site.
* Whether you’re planning to participate in the Rescue or not, consider getting involved with your local Invisible Children group or getting on the national group’s mailing list.

For More Information

Invisible Children main page

Invisible Children: the Rescue site (with info about the event and the 36-minute documentary on Joseph Kony’s child soldiers)

IC on YouTube

IC on Facebook

Background on the War in Uganda (BBC)

Saving the Child Victims of Uganda (NPR)

Invisible Children: the Rough Cut (the original documentary that started it all)

More about child soldiers

Child Soldiers Global Report

Emmanuel Jal: War Child (the story of a former Sudanese child soldier)

Ishmael Beah: A Long Way Gone (the story of a former child soldier from Sierra Leone)

I told you my name, age, and where I am from because no one knows their names or ages. No one knows where they are from. I am being abducted because they deserve a childhood. I am being abducted to bring them home. I am being abducted because they are invisible.

Who are you to rescue the children? Who are you NOT to?