The Invisible Children group has only nine core members, no budget and is not even an official St. Thomas club.
But the group is slowly starting to attract students’ attention.
“It takes a while to get established,” said junior Maggie Meyer, one of the group leaders. “But students are beginning to see how important this cause is.”
The St. Thomas Invisible Children chapter is part of a national nonprofit organization that is trying to raise awareness about the plight of children in war-torn Uganda. The national Invisible Children organization was started in 2003 by three young filmmakers who went to Uganda and saw the devastation caused by a civil war that has been going on for 20 years.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a guerrilla army led by Joseph Kony. The Invisible Children said members of the LRA kidnap Ugandan children from their homes, force them to become soldiers and make them fight in the war.
“It’s not a well-known war,” Meyer said. “When students hear about it, they’re surprised by the atrocities. People can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on.”
The group is also raising money for the Schools for Schools campaign, which provides funding for books, scholarships, teachers’ salaries and student housing at schools in northern Uganda.
Becuase the group doesn’t have a budget as they are not yet an official St. Thomas club, they’ve had to use their own money at times and have also thought of creative ways to fund events.
“We’ve had two fundraising events already this semester,” said junior Erin O’Flaherty, another group leader. “We made $68 from a Davanni’s fundraiser night and we’ve also been trying to sell shirts.”
The group is planning a “Be Visible” dance show fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, in the Brady Educational Center auditorium. Invisible Children is partnering with student groups PULSE and Dance Club to put on the fundraiser.
“We wanted to think of a fundraiser that would really appeal to the student body,” O’Flaherty said. “PULSE and Dance Club are both strong clubs with lots of support and they’re also stimulating and entertaining. We saw some of their dances and they worked with our message of social justice.”
Students can purchase tickets for a suggested donation of $3 and there will be additional opportunities to donate at the event.
“There are no overhead costs so all the money can go straight to Schools for Schools,” said junior Kaitlin Rattigan, another Invisible Children leader. “We’ve made 380 bracelets with the words “Be Visible” to get the word out about the show.”
Past events and future plans
Meyer, O’Flaherty and Rattigan all got involved with Invisible Children after hearing about it from their friends. The group held a few events last year, but this semester the group has made an effort to be a larger presence on campus.
“We’ve had four film screenings this semester,” Rattigan said. “Over 30 people showed up for the first one and we’re trying to get our whole email list of 60 to show up.”
The most recent film screening was on Tuesday, Dec. 8, when the group showed the film “The Rescue,” which tells the story of children in Kony’s rebel army.
“’The Rescue’ really put a face to what I, and thousands of other people, are fighting for,” freshman Bianca Jones said.
Jones said being involved with Invisible Children is different than being involved with other groups on campus.
“Unlike some other clubs and orgs, we’re not a part of the organization because it would look good on a resume or sound impressive to our peers,” Jones said. “We’re a part of this cause because we simply care, and we want to see change happen in northern Uganda and surrounding regions.”
Meyer, O’Flaherty and Rattigan have a number of plans for the group. They want to become an official club in the spring and are considering holding a book drive next semester.
“It’s been a roller coaster since we started,” Meyer said. “We’re grassroots right now, but we’re hoping to keep growing and spreading the word.”
Katie Broadwell can be reached at email@example.com