Children in Uganda have become pawns in a mystifying and brutal civil war. The Lord's Resistance Army kidnaps rural children at night, turning the boys into killers and soldiers and using them as shields, while using the girls as camp and sex slaves.
To avoid this, northern Ugandan kids leave their homes every evening and walk, sometimes for miles, to a secure village where they can sleep in relative safety. In the mornings, they walk back home.
Shocking. But more so for the fact it's been going on for 20 years with hardly any awareness in the larger world. That changed last month when the documentary hit Spokane and touched something inside kids here.
Three weeks ago, there were 43 Spokane signatures on the Invisible Children Web site. By Tuesday, there were 814, and many of those attended an awareness-raising exercise last weekend.
During the poorly termed "Global Night Commute" (which made the event sound more mass transit than humanitarian), hundreds of local teens -- and some adults -- walked from their homes or staging points to the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church, where they spent the night with only sleeping bags.
When intense rain and cold hit at 2 am, people were allowed to go indoors but some stayed out, noting that Ugandan kids didn't have the option. For some, it may be the first steps on a journey greater awareness or involvement.
In an e-mail, Lewis and Clark sophomore Mandy Edwards wrote that "I first found out about the war in Uganda because my 21-year-old brother... showed me a documentary about children in Uganda... that opened my eyes to a devastating holocaust happening right now.
"Walking from a house to downtown to lay in freezing rain and wind, soaking wet for hours with not the slightest hint of sleep obviously didn't directly 'do something,' yet the information about the war needed to get out. If the media knows about the problem, it will hopefully stir Congress, which will... get America to care. When America cares, maybe something can be done in Africa."
In an e-mail, Edwards' classmate Karlee Cassel voiced a similar thought: "The Global Night Commute, for me, was something I could get involved with that may actually make a difference. Something that could save lives and, eventually, end a war."
Another friend, Nora Taylor, also wrote of the documentary's power to alter priorities: "When I found out about the Global Night Commute, I knew I had to go. Even though we were sleeping on bare pavement in pouring rain without any tents or other devices to shield us from the rain, I knew I was helping make a difference in someone's life." -- compiled by Inlander staff
For more information, visit www.invisiblechildren.com.