Hundreds become displaced locally for Uganda - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

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Hundreds become displaced locally for Uganda

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2007 11:00 pm

(Editor's Note: This is the third in a three-part series on Invisible Children, an organization that is raising awareness about the war in Northern Uganda.) For one night, hundreds of local students and residents got a somewhat-realistic feel of being displaced, eating Saltines, drinking bottled water and being pushed around a bit by the elements during Phoenix's Displace Me event. A dust storm, complete with a sprinkling of rain, blew through the beginning of the event around 3 p.m., as hundreds of mostly teens and college students hunkered down, holding on to their cardboard shelters for dear life. For the Invisible Children organizers, who struggled mightily to find a location in Phoenix after losing the rights to use Phoenix's Barrios Unidos Park, it was all about the bigger picture. And that picture saw approximately 500 people gathered at Gilbert's Mesquite High School April 28 as part of the larger national protest in 15 cities, which garnered 67,871 people in support, according to IC. Those who left their homes to sleep in fields, in parks and in Washington D.C., on the National Mall, did so with the purpose of raising awareness to the crisis in Uganda, which has endured a 21-year-old civil war and finds many of it's northern Acholi population entrapped in internal displacement camps. The aim of the event was to raise awareness for the tragedy and to experience in some small measure the life of a Ugandan living in an IDP camp. Many of those who came to be displaced wrote letters to their congressmen and called friends and family members to tell them about why they were there. For many, the call to action came after viewing the documentary film that was the catalyst to the founding of Invisible Children. "We've all seen the video. Watching that is pretty intense," said Tabor Lewis, a sophomore at Chandler's Hamilton High School. She said being a part of such an event, which lasted from 3 p.m. April 28 until 10 a.m. the next morning, was radically different than anything she'd been a part of before. "It's crazy, because this is in Arizona and we don't have a lot of protests here." The crowd drew a variety of church youth groups, students from local high schools and colleges who participate in the Schools for Schools program mentioned earlier in this series, and even some who came from other states like New Mexico, California and Nevada. "Awareness is definitely going to go up," said Hamilton sophomore Aubree Colclasure, who has already purchased all of the bracelets made in the Ugandan IDP camps, and sold by IC to raise funds to aid the Ugandans. "I brought stacks and stacks of paper to write letters to Congress." Those letters, which were collected by organizers at the end of the night, were to be delivered to Congress in the coming days, as Invisible Children's leadership also planned to show videos from each of the Displace Me protests across the country to U.S. leaders. While Basha High School sophomore Kyle Burnett was disappointed that more of his friends at church did not show up for the event, Lewis said those who did come all across the country were making an important statement. "The youth is a main part of it because nowadays youths don't stand up for anything." --Adam Gaub can be reached at (480) 898-7903 or agaub@aztrib.com.

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