Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Changing the World One Child at a Time

 By: Alexandra Klauder

KENNESAW, Ga.- There is no shortage of charity on the Kennesaw State University campus this holiday season, whose chapter of Invisible Children has exceeded their expectations, after raising $5,500 for children in Africa, more than ever before.

             “We are going strong with more active members than ever,” said president of the chapter Allyson Tibbitts. “We have raised more money this semester than all our previous years combined.”

            Through bake sales and events such as the recent screening of “Tony”, Invisible Children’s newest documentary, the club affectionately called ICKSU (Invisible Children-KSU), gives students such as Tibbitts and others, the chance to spread awareness and raise money for child soldiers in certain parts of Africa.

Combining efforts for an important cause

            The club works alongside Invisible Children Inc., a nonprofit started by college students who traveled to Uganda on vacation and left with a mission.  They witnessed firsthand how war has ravaged the country, and how a rebel army led by a man called Joseph Kony, are abducting children and forcing them to fight. These children are known as child soldiers.

            “By 2006, over 25,000 children had been abducted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), and no one really knew about it. It was an invisible war that was displacing a million people, and killing, raping, mutilating, and abducting thousands more,” said Tibbits.  “Invisible Children spent several years rebuilding 11 Ugandan schools, and they got the money by high school and college students fundraising and spreading the word about the cause.”

            Much like the students involved with ICKSU, the founders decided to make a difference.  Through their documentary film “Invisible Children: Rough Cut”, the dire situation these children face every day was seen by millions of people in the U.S., many of whom felt called to action.

 Money raised goes a long way

            Today the program raises awareness and money for schools in Northern Uganda, and other parts of Africa, with millions of volunteers helping the cause. While Joseph Kony’s army, the LRA, has moved out of Uganda, they have spread to other parts of Africa such as Congo, CAR, and South Sudan.

            Since fall 2009 when the organization first started, students have helped raise $4,400 as of spring 2011.  In just one semester, they have exceeded that by more than $1,000.     

            “We are trying to raise money to rescue child soldiers by building early warning radio networks, and rehabilitation centers for people affected by LRA violence,” said ICKSU historian Alysha Smith, who will be taking over as president next year.

             The money raised has also helped to rebuild a school in Uganda called Awere Secondary School where Kennesaw State University is engraved on a plaque for their efforts.          

            Portions of the money will go to send students to Invisible Children summits, where they can learn more about the organization, and there are plans to possibly send one student on the trip of a lifetime to Uganda.

Everyone Can Help

            “There are several opportunities for students to get involved on the KSU campus,” said Tibbitts. “We always need volunteers to help bake food items, create artwork, or make tote bags, bracelets, and other items to be sold at our tables.  We encourage students to come to all of our informative meetings, and to speak up in their classes and on campus about the LRA.”

            Most students walk by ICKSU booths set up at different areas on campus, or walk over the chalk messages scribbled on the sidewalk on the way to class, but these booths are selling more than just tasty delights. They are selling a chance to change the world.

            “We believe in a global society. We believe that when one person does not have freedom, none of us have freedom,” says Tibbitts, “If we do not help our brothers and sisters across the globe, how can we expect respect from international communities, or how could we respect ourselves? Invisible Children has done more towards ending this war than all political factions combined. There is power in empathy, the youth are powerful, and you are more powerful than you think you are.”

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