News: Global Night Commute

Working for Uganda's abducted children

Graham Lienhart


A participant in Global Night Commute camps outside, in solidarity with Ugandan children.



Joseph Kony has abducted 50,000 children over the past 17 years, according to the Invisible Children Inc. (ICI), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in Uganda. On April 29 ICI organized the Global Night Commute in Cincinnati and other U.S. cities to highlight the issue.

In Uganda, the Lords Resistance Army has forced male children to kill and become child soldiers and forced female children to have sex with adult soldiers. They are the "invisible children."

Each night children in Uganda walk up to 13 miles to city centers to sleep in safety, returning in daylight to their families. These children are known as "night commuters." Ugandan children live in fear of being abducted by Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army.

When three California college students — Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole — went on an African journey to make a documentary, what they discovered started a movement, leading to the creation of ICI.

"Invisible Children Inc is dedicated to providing financial resources to invisible children by documenting their true, untold stories in a creative and relevant way resulting in a positive change," says the group's mission statement.

About 300 Tri-state youths walked April 29 to the National Underground Freedom Center and slept outside to show support for the Ugandan children. The goal of the sleep-out was to raise awareness and capture the attention of U.S. senators and the president. Each participant in Global Night Commute was asked to write two letters, one to a senator and one to the president, asking for a peaceful resolution for the children of Uganda.

Despite the rain and cool weather, participants closed their eyes so that others would open theirs to the problems in Uganda.

"Those kids over there — to me, they don't have a voice; and I do," said Cindy Tucker, one of the participants. "I have the ability to bring a change, and by doing this and getting a little wet, I can help them."

Tucker viewed the documentary the night before and felt so strongly about the movement that she went to the Freedom Center with a sleeping bag and a pen to write President Bush. She said she felt it was her job to make a stand by sleeping on the streets.

Melissa Beaty an organizer for the event, was pleased with the turnout. She said one group walked all the way from Kenwood to show support for the invisible children.

"We're not asking for troops to go marching over there," Beaty said. "We're just looking for pressure and real guidance on what to do. We as Americans are so blessed, and in coming here tonight we recognize that we are not going against our government. We recognize that we have the power and the material to really make a difference."

Leah Baker, a student at St. Ursula Academy, joined three of her friends for the Global Night Commute.

"I just hope to bring a peaceful end to the guerilla warfare going on in Uganda," she said. "They are abducting children and training them to fight against the people they came from."

Meagan Ferguson, a passerby, asked a few of the participants how they found out about the movement and was interested in learning more. She was horrified to hear the stories of the Invisible Children.

"This cause must be of real urgency to have all these young people sleeping on the ground on a Saturday night," she said.

Shirley Felton, a 61-year-old native of Cincinnati, saw a special on Oprah with George Clooney talking about the war in Uganda. She saw pieces of the documentary, and what she saw made her cry. She went to the Invisible Children web-site (www.invisiblechildren.com) to find out about the Global Night Commute.

"I hope that I am a voice of freedom for all the kids over there," Felton said.

Brandy Moore, a participant, wants the president to give aid to Uganda and the children who can't help themselves.

"I feel that this is really important to our generation, because we were born into a lot of problems that we didn't create" she said. "I am getting to the point where I am old enough now that the problems in this world are going to be my fault if I don't do something about it." ©

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