Every day, we face the same commute
from home to town for school or work. It’s an ordinary
part of our day that always ends when we finally return home.
But in Northern Uganda, in Africa, a very different commute is
happening, one that is driven by fear. More than a million Ugandans
were displaced in 1996, and more than 10 years later, still can’t
return home. Their situation is a result of a 21-year-long war
between the Ugandan government and Ugandan rebels known as the
Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The LRA has been abducting from their homes and villages, children
ages 7 to 17 and forcing them to become soldiers for the rebel
army. As a result, approximately 40,000 children commute every
night, traveling from their villages to towns where they hope
to avoid being abducted while they sleep.
Most of the population of Northern Uganda—about 1.7 million
people—was forced to relocate to Internally Displaced Peoples’ camps
10 year ago due to the war. Today these camps, which are overcrowded
and vulnerable to rebel attacks, still house thousands of displaced
The situation in Uganda has received little international attention.
However, three young men from California have started a nationwide
movement to push for an end to the war and to help the people
of Northern Uganda.
In 2003, these young men documented the story of the night-commuting
children. Called Invisible Children, it has been viewed, according
the Web site invisiblechildren.com, by more than 1.5 million
Part of this audience are the students of Paul Tran’s Social
Work 2000 class. After viewing it, Jen Thorne, a social work
major, said, “There was no way I could watch this movie
and not want to get involved in some way.”
Thorne is now part of a group of HPU students who are organizing
activities to spread awareness about the situation in Northern
Uganda. Invisible Children was screened in the Sea Warrior Center
on April 11, and a sleepover is scheduled for April 27-28 in
solidarity with Invisible Children, Inc.’s nationwide campaign
called “Displace Me.”
According to invisiblechildren.com, thousands of people in 15
locations on the U.S. mainland will leave their homes and be
displaced for one night to raise awareness about those displaced
by the war.
The war has been going on for 20 years,” Thorne said. “Why
are we just now being made aware of it? . . . It is about time
we get involved.”
Thorne hopes that by participating in these events, more people
will become aware of the situation in Uganda, and that “We
can finally return the displaced people to their homes and villages.”
Students interested in participating in a local sleepover should
e-mail Thorne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Ugandan conflict, visit www.invisiblechildren.com.