Project influences: Invisible Children

A child soldier in Southeast Asia

What happens when you have three film students from USC and UCLA going through Africa in search of fun and adventure who stumble across a global human rights issue that is so prevalent there that it can not be ignored? They get inspired to make a difference and show you how you can get involved. Hit the jump to find out more.

These guys were behind the documentary Invisible Children. Three young filmmakers made a rough cut of all the horrors they saw and eight years later, they have a globally-conscious group who better describe what they do here in their mission statement:

“We are story tellers. We make documentaries about war-affected children in east Africa and tour them around the world.

We use the power of media to inspire young people to help end the longest running war in Africa. Our model has proven effective, and hundreds of thousands of people have been called to action through our films and the volunteers that tour them.

We are made up of a tireless staff, hundreds of full time volunteers, and thousands of students and supporters. We are young, we are citizens of the world, we are artists, activists, and entrepreneurs. This fall, we are using our voice to ask President Obama to spearhead efforts to bring peace to Northern Uganda. We are mobilizing a generation to capture the attention of the international community, and make a stand for justice in the wake of genocide.

With the support we receive from our tours and young supporters, we are able to implement cutting edge programs on the ground in Uganda. To prioritize and understand the needs of the community, our Uganda staff is 95% Ugandan. We focus on long-term development, working directly with individuals and institutions, to best understand the needs of these war-effected areas. We rebuild schools devastated by war, benefiting over 8,400 Ugandan youth in the areas of water and sanitation, books and equipment, refurbishment of structures, teacher support, and technology and power. We provide 690 scholarships to specifically chosen secondary students and 180 full ride scholarships to University. We employ mentors that holistically oversee healthy development for our students. We have also implemented micro-economic initiatives that are impacting 360 Ugandan’s in transition from internally displaced camps to their original homes as well as 13 formerly abducted child mothers who are now self-sufficient through our tailoring center that provides training in savings, investment, numeracy, literacy and health. These savings-and-loans initiatives have allowed villagers to save money and earn interest for the first time, freeing them to start their own businesses and provide for their families like never before.

We believe that the problems of central Africa need to be tackled comprehensively, from peace to education. Solving them is no easy task, and it will take all of us doing all that we can to ensure it. Join us in the race for peace, click here to find out what you can do to get involved.” – Taken from <http://www.invisiblechildren.com/what-we-do>

If you want to see the film, you can stream it free here on Free Documentaries.

The group has an interesting networking approach to promoting awareness: they encourage people to host screening parties at home or on campus, and they have branded themselves so that the idea becomes a meme and a movement. It is that creativity and connection to youth culture that helps them promote the idea, because if you tell someone to go save the world, sometimes you’ll get interested individuals who don’t know what to do or lose focus fast, other times it just won’t stick with them because it sounds like work.

The branding process takes an idea and a label, or meme, so when I say “invisible children” and immediately I can tell of who knows what Invisible Children is or have seen the film. Likewise, I can say “Nintendo” and people immediately think of “Mario” or “Wii”. So if I say “invisible children”, people think “child soldiers” then think “bad” then think “fix” and the thought process goes on thanks to the memes created and promoted from the branding process–well, at least as far as I understand and define it.

Although skeptics will find in Google searches that some people have some reservations and criticism against the group, ultimately, is undeniable that they are raising awareness of the issue of child soldiers, especially in Uganda. Furthermore, many people make a lot of quick judgments before researching, and even in the research process, there are many factors they do not know about, and as I’ve discovered, a few opinions from disgruntled Internet rants end up being taken as fact and the research ends there.

Overall, check out the film and the group. They had humble beginnings and they are making a difference now, so who is to say that I can’t?

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