Invisible Children founder brings message here

April 6, 2010

By Christopher Huber

Jacob Acaye, of Northern Uganda, was abducted when he was 11 and forced into a life of violence as a child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The rebel force, led by Joseph Kony and made up of mostly youths like Acaye, has terrorized the people of Uganda and neighboring nations for 23 years, according to the Invisible Children organization.

But Acaye is one of the fortunate ones. Now 19, he tours the United States with the organization that exists, in part, due to his harrowing life story.

Acaye and a group of Invisible Children volunteers visited Skyline High School March 25 to educate the student body about the children caught up in the ongoing conflict in Uganda.

“After, they feel touched and feel it really has changed their mind,” Acaye said of the feedback he receives from students.

The organization’s presentation consists of viewing a documentary film about the children affected by the conflict, as well as inspirational talks from Acaye and other volunteers.

Jacob Acaye speaks to Skyline students March 25 about his journey out of oppression as a child soldier.

By Christopher Huber

The early-morning assembly capped a week of raising awareness for the cause.

“I think we can actually make a huge difference,” said Tara Northey, Skyline’s Associated Student Body president.

She said it took three years to get the organization — it only makes a couple of stops each year to Seattle-area schools — to come to Skyline. But the wait was worth it.

When she met with Principal Lisa Hechtman in the fall to plan the event, “I said, ‘Listen, we have to do this,’” Northey said.

As the student body filed into the gym, Northey highlighted that they had raised $1,200 in just two collections at lunch that week. She urged them to give more to reach the goal of $5,000. The money goes to rescue child soldiers and help night commuters attend school.

“This war is not talked about. It’s not publicized,” said Invisible Children volunteer Taylor Murdoch.

After the assembly, senior Autumn Brunke walked immediately to the Invisible Children booth to commit her support. About $35 per month pays for a child to attend school, according to organization volunteers.

“I like the cause,” Brunke said, adding that she has a job and is not worried about money. “I figure, why not do something good with my money?”

Acaye and the Invisible Children team tour the Pacific Northwest for two months each spring and fall. Another nine teams tour the rest of the country, they said.

The point is “to get that one-on-one connection,” said full-time volunteer Jordan Fatke.

Three young filmmakers formed the nonprofit Invisible Children Inc. after receiving an overwhelming response to their film, which documented the lives of night commuters and child soldiers in northern Uganda in 2003.

They formed the organization in 2005 to give concerned people an opportunity to help the situation, according to the group’s Web site.

Since then, the organization has partnered with schools and communities across the United States and Uganda to raise awareness about the people suffering from the conflict in Uganda, and raised money and donated books to help displaced children receive an education.

Invisible Children representatives travel the world to show the motivational films and talk to school audiences about the situation in Uganda and surrounding countries. They sponsor benefit concerts, as well.

It’s because of schools like Skyline that Invisible Children is able to rescue child soldiers and night commuters, said Peace Lorna, a mentor and educational specialist who spoke at the Skyline assembly.

“We wanted to bring the stories to … make it alive,” Fatke said.

Once a child soldier, fleeing to overcrowded shelters each night, Acaye said he graduated high school and is headed to college in the fall in hopes of becoming a lawyer.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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