‘Displace Me’ event hosted to raise awareness of displacement camps

Tricia Friesen

Imagine living in an inhumane environment, the water is scarce and the only way to get food is through foreign aid. This is an everyday reality for the people living in Internal Displacement Camps in Uganda.

“Displace Me” was an event that challenged people across the country to imagine they lived in similar conditions.

Last Saturday, April 28, approximately 20 Washburn University students attended the event “Displace Me” at Kaw Point Riverfront Park in Kansas City, Kan. This event, hosted nationwide by Invisible Children, was held for people to experience first-hand what millions of people in Northern Uganda experience in camps each day. The event was held for 24 hours and participants were only allowed to bring a sealed box of saltine crackers, a 1.5 liter sealed bottle of water, enough cardboard to build something the size of a small tent and a sleeping bag.

According to Vicky Luttrell, alumnae and graduate student of Washburn University, the goal of the event was to raise awareness that 1.5 million individuals in Northern Uganda are living in displacement camps, some for 10 years.

“About 1,000 people are dying a week, it’s similar to the crisis in Darfur,” said Luttrell.

Fifteen cities across the United States are participating in this event, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Kansas City, Kan., and Nashville, Tenn., to name a few.

“It’s important for us to know what’s going on all around the world,” said Luttrell. “This [Washburn] being an institution for higher education, I think it’s important to instill those values and help others obtain those goals.”

Invisible Children originally begun as a documentary made by three student filmmakers – Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole – from San Francisco. They bought their camera equipment off eBay and set off to Africa, not really sure of what story they would find.

It wasn’t long before the three found their story.

They discovered children of Northern Uganda who commuted every night before nightfall from their homes in Acholiland, to a city called Gulu to sleep in the streets, bus parks or hospitals. The children live in fear of sleeping at home because the Lord Resistance Army could abduct them. The LRA is a rebel group led by Joseph Kony that is in the middle of a civil war with the Uganda government. The LRA kidnaps about 50,000 children a year and turns them into child soldiers. The LRA seeks out young children ages 8-14 because they are easy to brainwash and mold into soldiers.

According to invisiblechildren.com, the internal displacement camps were formed in hopes of providing protection from the LRA. The Ugandan government forced its Northern citizens from their homes giving them 48 hours to relocate into camps. These camps have very inhuman conditions and are not safe to live in.

To support the people of Uganda, the three filmmakers started a non-profit organization called Invisible Children Inc. which has helped put 540 children of Northern Uganda through school since 2005. Each student is assigned a mentor who is there to help them with schoolwork and any problems he or she may have.

Schools for Schools, a club founded by Invisible Children, was recently formed at Washburn. The mission of Schools for Schools is to raise as much money as possible to promote education in Uganda. According to the Invisible Children Web site, in Northern Uganda only 30 percent of children finish their primary education. In some classes, there are 300 students for every one teacher.

“The students involved here at Washburn University, are dedicated to raising money and contributing to the schools in Uganda,” said Luttrell.