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June 5, 2009

Invisible Children

This Extra Ink was written by Teen Ink's Global Issues blogger.

At 2 a.m. on an April night, Malone University students walked from their college campus to downtown Canton, Ohio. As part of the international Rescue event hosted by the nonprofit Invisible Children, these students abducted themselves in honor of the African children who are abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and forced to kill. Six miles wasn't easy for nursing major Emily Woolf, who has arthritis in her knees, but it reminded her why she'd organized the event in the first place.

"That walk was hard for me, but I just needed to suck it up," said Emily, 19, of Louisville, Ohio. "I tried to put myself in their shoes. They have to walk farther than that. That walk changed my mindset."

The Malone University Rescue event started with a screening of the Invisible Children documentary, followed by the walk and a prayer meeting. Event organizer and Malone student Kelsey Moon estimated that 75 to 100 people walked to downtown Canton. Emily's Sunday school class, who wore yellow T-shirts that read "Invisible Adults for Invisible Children" and rode motorcycles, accompanied the students.

"Whenever you turn, you see all these people behind you and motorcycle escorts," said Kelsey, 21, a nursing major from New Castle, Penn. "It was humbling to see all these people who decided to help us and are interested in ending this war in Uganda."

When Malone students returned to campus, they wrote President Obama letters about Africa's longest war: the conflict in Uganda. At 7:30 a.m., firetruck sirens blared. The Canton Fire Department and city councilman Thomas West symbolically rescued the students and voiced their support for the child soldiers abducted by the LRA.

To raise awareness about the Rescue, Malone students posted fliers around campus, passed out T-shirts, created a Facebook group, and shared the half-hour Rescue film with others a few days before the event.

"A lot of students were probably surprised that this is going on in the world right now--not in history," said Alison Miller, an event organizer and Malone incoming sophomore from Ashland, Ohio. "When I talked to people, some didn't know about it, but when they did, they wanted to get involved."

Emily was inspired to organize a Rescue event after watching the "Invisible Children: Rough Cut" film. The documentary features Ugandan children affected by the ongoing civil war, such as Jacob, who witnessed the murder of his brother at the hands of the LRA. When the filmmakers ask Jacob about his brother, Jacob begins to sob uncontrollably with suffocating agony. The filmmakers attempt to comfort him, whispering, "It's okay," but Jacob's grief is too deep for him to respond.

"The life that he's forced to live is just so uncalled for," Emily said. "I don't know the words for it, but it broke me to pieces. Kids should be playing outside and coloring, not being forced to kill people."

Three American college students produced the "Invisible Children: Rough Cut" documentary. Kelsey said she saw them as an inspiration for her own generation.

"The fact that they're kids our age and they're trying to help all these children-it's awesome to see," Kelsey said.

Alison said that uniting with other students for the same cause was one of the greatest feelings. She encouraged other young people to find that support.

"If you have something you're passionate about, partner with other people," Alison said. "We don't have to be silent about it. We can speak out."

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