Temple students hold fundraiser to help Ugandan refugees

A long-time political conflict thrusts students into urgent action to help.

(Sergei Blair/TTN)

When she heard about the conflict in Uganda in which children are being abducted and used as rebel soldiers to fight against the government, Temple freshman Joanna Cassidy became interested in the conflict and now offers her time to move students into action and help get the word out.

Cassidy and other students held a fundraiser benefit at the Student Center March 27 to raise funds for Invisible Children, an international non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about the Ugandan war by documenting the lives of those living in regions of conflict.

“I’ve always had passion and a heart to help these children in Uganda,” said Cassidy, 19.

More than 50 students attended the kick-off event, which featured live music and free food, to raise money for the Invisible Children campaign that will make a stop on campus April 20 during its “The Rescue” movement, which spans 100 cities in nine countries around the world.

An independent alt-rock band called Inherit the Fall from Philadelphia Biblical University in Langhorne provided live music throughout the night.

The Ugandan political conflict, known as Africa’s longest-running war, started 23 years ago when woman named Alice Lakwena claimed that she received a massage from a spirit ordering her to overthrow the Ugandan government for being unjust to its people. The Lord’s Resistance Army, now led by Joseph Kony, was created to bring her vision to reality by fighting against the government using guerilla tactics.

According to the Invisible Children, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of the LRA’s troops consist of abducted children from across the country.

The struggle has left nearly 2 million civilians displaced and thousands dead. In a recent incident, the Ugandan army is accusing LRA rebels of hacking 45 people to death in a church in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo Dec. 28, 2008.

Peace talks mediated by the Southern Sudanese government have been futile thus far.

“The whole reason we’re doing this is the fact that media won’t cover stuff like this unless we step up and tell them too,” said event organizer Ashleigh Baxter.

Baxter, a 20-year-old civil engineering major, started her own club on campus at beginning of last fall semester to try to raise awareness among the student body. The club meets every Wednesday, when students plan fundraising events and find new ways to educate others about it the current crisis.

“Temple’s message is to help the local and world community so I wanted to try to get students involved on campus and bring this war to an end,” she said.

Baxter said she and other students from Temple will attend the “Rescue” event, which will take place in an undisclosed location in Philadelphia and other major cities worldwide April 25. She explained that participants will “abduct” themselves to make a statement on behalf of the abducted children in Uganda in order to draw attention from politicians and celebrities to come to their rescue. The goal of this event is to draw as much attention possible using influential people.

Tyler School of Art photography major Harry Eichelberger attended the benefit concert. He said he has been involved with movement since 2005.

“The Invisible Children has impacted my life greatly,” he said. “Whatever support I can give I give because I feel strongly towards this organization for trying to make a positive impact in Uganda.”

Baxter said she hopes that the benefit event would draw people to volunteer and help bring the crisis to an end soon.

“Even on this college campus it’s so hard to get students to come out and get involved,” she said. “It’s sad because there are people dying in Uganda.”

The Invisible Children’s International Rescue tour will make its visit to Temple University’s main campus on Monday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. to show its latest documentary film, “The Rescue” in Student Center room 200. Admission is free.

Sergei Blair can be reached at sergei.blair@temple.edu.

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