During a week of heated local and campus elections, Scovia Angiro, a college student from Northern Uganda who dreams of being a member of the Ungandan parliament, had a simple political message for USF students: every story has a face.
That’s the message she spoke of in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom for the University Lecture Series (ULS) Tuesday night after a documentary on Invisible Children was shown.
Angiro is a full-time volunteer with Invisible Children, a nonprofit organization started by college students that aims to share the stories of victims in the war between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a U.S. recognized terrorist group responsible for the rapes, murders and abductions of many children and women in Uganda.
At the age of 14, Angiro and her seven siblings moved to a displacement camp after the LRA attacked her home. Schooling was something she said she could barely afford. After the Invisible Children Legacy Scholarship provided her with the funds to attend college, Angiro knew she had to teach others the importance of taking action.
“Each time I watch this documentary, it breaks my heart,” she said. “It was the life I grew up with.”
Jenny Levine, a volunteer for Invisible Children who is called a “Roadie” due to a full-time schedule that requires her to travel around the country, said she hoped the free event would raise students’ awareness toward the difference they could make.
“I really want (students) to know that they have the power to make a difference,” she said. “Whatever that capacity may be, whether it’s buying a T-shirt or participating in an event.”
Merchandise created by Ugandan individuals in displacement camps was available for purchase and all proceeds went to Invisible Children.
“It helps that (the sale of these goods) actually provides jobs (for Ugandans),” Levine said. “The proceeds go back again (to them).”
Being self-reliant, a key point stressed in the film, is something that contradicts the Western ideology of “helping” Africa as a continent in need of being fixed or saved.
“The best thing you can give an African child is an education,” Jolly Okot, a Ugandan advisor to the founders of Invisible Children said in the film. “That will create a future leader. Not a pair of shoes.”
The founders, Laren Poole, Jason Russell and Bobby Bailey, created Invisible Children after taking a summer trip to Uganda while they were in college.
That power of college students’ innovation is what Nicole Kummer, programing director for ULS, said she hoped students would take away from the lecture.
“If they didn’t already know about the situation (in Uganda), then I hope they’re aware (now),” she said. “(I hope) they can take steps towards being proactive.”
Kummer said the event didn’t cost ULS money, touching none of the student fees designated for bringing speakers.
The event provided several venues for students to take action. Attendees were invited to take a pledge of silence for 25 hours and donate $25 on April 25, or sign up for a monthly donation program of $25, symbolic for the 25 years that the LRA has been active in Central Africa.
“The world can be a better place,” Angiro said. “(Change) is not big. It’s in you.”