I embarked on my adventure Thursday April 23, 2009 headed to Texas Caribbean Foods in Dallas, Texas. The goal was to meet Josh Orr, Leader for Invisible Children and have a meeting about an extraordinary event that I would help run, The Rescue! Being an early bird, I was there before anyone else and had butterflies in my stomach with all the anticipation of meeting the other volunteers that I would be spending the next who knows now long with, with no sleep!
All the other volunteers arrive and order food. We mingle and introduce ourselves and get to know one another. After having dinner, Josh begins telling us exactly what the weekend might have in store for us. Then we were introduced to Krystal Rodgers who Regional Organizer for Texas and Louisiana. After the meeting we headed out to get things prepared for the upcoming weekend.
Saturday rolls around and was ready to roll! Had my camera, backpack, sleeping bag, few snacks and water. I was now officially embarking on my adventure as one of Joseph Kony's abducted child soldier.
In case you don't know what the event was here are the details:
For 23 years, the government of Uganda and a rebel group called the Lords Resistance Army, led by a man named Joseph Kony, has engaged in Africa’s longest war. In recent years, peace was seemingly within reach, largely due to the Juba Peace Talks that began in July 2006. However, despite a ceasefire signed between the LRA and Ugandan government, efforts toward peace through the Juba Peace Talks were stalled on several occasions by Kony’s refusal to sign the final peace agreement. Kony’s absence at the peace agreement signing on November 29, 2008 proved his promises to be
futile and ultimately disabled the peace talks. Furthermore, the ICC has obtained evidence that Kony used the ceasefire during the peace talks to regroup, regain strength and resume child abductions. Joseph Kony is the world’s first individual indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Since September 2008, hostility in the Orientale province in DR Congo and Western Equatoria in South Sudan has reached a feverish pitch. In apparent desperation and a renewed will to spread terror to DR Congo, the LRA murdered over six hundred and abducted more than one hundred and sixty children to fight amongst its ranks. More than 104,000 Congolese have been displaced since Christmas in attempts to escape the LRA forces. A civil war, originally contained within Uganda’s borders, has now evolved into a widespread regional crisis. Invisible Children, in concert with other policy organizations including Resolve Uganda, The Enough Project, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, now believes an international effort to apprehend Kony and rescue his child soldiers is the most viable way to end the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today.
The Rescue Event Summary
On April 25th, 2009 the international community will unite to deliver the innocent from Kony’s reign and ensure he is brought to justice. Thousands of participants will gather in 100 cities across the world to symbolically abduct themselves to free the abducted. Your abduction will begin on April 25th at 3pm when you leave your home and meet at a designated “abduction site”. You will drop off one of your family photos at the abduction site, symbolically leaving them behind (see below for all items you need to bring). Then you will march as a group, on foot, to the event location called the “LRA Camp” while carrying any supplies you will need for the night on your backs. This march will range from 1-3 miles (2 – 5km) depending on the city, and will be done in a single file line with all participants holding onto a rope. Invisible Children will arrange for photographers and videographers to film this symbolic march. (If for any reason you are physically unable to make this walk, please meet us around 4pm at the LRA camp location itself.) Once you’ve arrived at the LRA Camp, you will set up your “camp” and then wait to be “rescued”. A “successful” rescue requires two things. First, an approved media outlet from your area must show up and cover the event. Second, you and your city must arrange for the attendance of at least one pre-determined cultural or political leader. We are calling this person the “mogul” or “rescuer.” Depending on the size, scope and fervor you create in the next month for your specific event locale, the leaders invited to The Rescue may be a Congressional Representative, State Official, local Mayor or local business/media or community figure. The list of approved media outlets and moguls for each specific city is available on TheRescue.InvisibleChildren.com. For more information on how to approach these media outlets/moguls and how to secure their commitment, please reference the last two pages of The Rescue Packet.
While at the LRA camp, you will write letters to your political representatives, create art/photo projects and seek out media attention in an effort to petition our governments to develop a strategy and support existing efforts to rescue Kony’s child soldiers. For all cities that are successful in getting the media coverage and their Rescuer to come and speak on April 25th, you will stay the night at the LRA camp and make the march back home at dawn on April 26th. For the few cities that were unable to get a media outlet and mogul to participate, we ask that you hold out for the Rescue as long as possible. Because of this, it is important that you begin reaching out to your media and moguls immediately to ensure your Rescue.
What to Pack on April 25th
• Three photographs of you with your friends, family or guardian. Please place a red circle around yourself in the photo, symbolizing that you have been abducted. You will drop off one of these photos at the abduction site, and include the other two with the letters you write to your political representatives.
• Supplies to set up camp and then wait for your Rescue. You don’t need much. The kids in Uganda leave for the bush with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Therefore, please bring the smallest amount of supplies that you need to survive until you are rescued. These supplies could include a sleeping bag, pillow, warm clothes, comfortable shoes, food, water and a tarp (or sleeping pad) if it is forecasted to rain. Remember, you will have to carry these supplies for up to three miles during the march to the LRA camp.
• Supplies to write letters and complete a simple art project. Grab just a small amount of pens or paint to make your letters and art piece your own. If you have extras, please bring some to share.
• Your official Rescue T-shirt. Invisible Children has released two official Rescue T-shirts. Either shirt is appropriate, but ideally please wear the Green “AK-47” Tee. Please wear this shirt on the outside of your clothes so it is visible to the thousands of the people that will see this event.
• Your Rescue Tote Bag. Use this bag to make a statement in the month leading up to the Rescue. Then please bring it on April 25th to carry your photos and art supplies.
• $5 Dollars, Euros or Pounds. Please bring 5 bucks to the event. This money covers the cost to host this international awareness event.
What to expect on April 25th The tone of this event should be very peaceful. We do not want you to bring loud noisemakers, aggressive signs or graphic images. We want this to be an emphatic demonstration where we stand in solidarity with the abducted kids in the LRA. Therefore, the march to the LRA camp will require a somber and respectful mood. The atmosphere at the LRA camp will be similar. For those of you who’ve attended our previous two events, Global Night Commute in 2006 and Displace Me in 2007, we loved the feel of those nights. People were peacefully moving around, meeting new friends and discussing world issues that really matter… while writing their letters and completing their art projects. The climax of the night will be when your Rescuer arrives and pledges their support for The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s child soldiers. When this happens you should be very proud of what your city was able to accomplish and we hope that you celebrate and then stay until dawn the next day when you march
back home. Spending the night in the Camp is a unique experience. For one night, you will forfeit the comforts of home and sleep in solidarity with the thousands of kids who have been abducted during this war. Your commitment to stay overnight shows the sacrifice that you are willing to make. This sacrifice will speak to our leaders.
For those cities unable to get their media coverage or Rescuer to attend on the night of April 25th, do whatever you can to hold out and wait for them to still come. Calling a news station and saying that you will not go home until they come to your Rescue sends them a powerful statement. We do not want you to become confrontational with anyone or violate any park rules, but to the extent that you can- hold out and wait for the Rescue. Of all of the cities participating in The Rescue, these cities will really show the world your determination and what it is like to be waiting for others to come to your aid.
This is what our mission was. After arriving in Dallas, I was quickly put to work on getting the site of the LRA camp ready and getting things ready to abduct the people that would be arriving at City Hall Plaza.
The WHOLE Saturday was full of meeting extraordinary stories on how they came to know Invisible Children and what they have done with the organization. Personally, I have been involved for about three and a half years and participated in Displace Me in 2007 in Austin, Texas. (I will be posting a few photographs from that as well in the next couple of days) The experience of sleeping out in a park with complete strangers with the same goal is an amazing power to be part of. We were one for all and all for one. Dallas was rescued about 7:30 p.m. Saturday by a representative sent by Congresswoman Bernice Johnson and Channel 5 news. After we were Rescued our Rescue Riders packed up and were getting ready to hit the road to Little Rock, Arkansas. I had a HUGE decision to make, to go or not to go. This organization is truly a major part in my life and would do anything for them. After several minutes talking to Krystal about going, I decided I would call my mom. Its always mom that put your mind into a rational state, and that was definitely a good thing. At 11:15 p.m. I made my decision not to go to Little Rock with the Rescue Riders, even though truly I wanted to so bad! I remained at the Dallas LRA camp with Nick until the next morning. After only getting maybe and hour or so of sleep through the night, the camp packed up and headed back home. I headed back to my apartment for a much needed shower and crash for a couple of hours. After getting up I began getting things together to head to Longview for the rest of the weekend. While driving home I stopped and had lunch when it dawned on my, Austin, Texas was not yet Rescued! They needed me to come and help! After calling my mom once again, she seemed she wanted me to go. So I send Nick a text and told him I was on the way to pick him and Tank up and we were headed to Austin!
At about 8 p.m. we arrive at the Capitol with our sleeping back and stash of food and water ready to once again sleep outside for the night. Once we got there we checked in with Brin who was in charge. Brin currently is a Roadie for Invisible Children. With out hesitation she gave us a warm hug and made an announcement via bull horn to the whole LRA camp! Instantly people came gathering around us, welcoming and thanking us for our support.
After getting to know people and mingling we setup camp and waited to be Rescued! About 4 hours into the night, we found out that we could NOT sleep on State grounds and had to remain awake the whole night! Already running on a couple hours of sleep, it began to sprinkle and I headed back to the Jeep to put my camera gear up and decided to sleep for about an hour or so in the back end of my Jeep.
Waking up from my little nap, we gathered as a group and began making signs and posters for when the Senators and Congress Representatives come to work at 9 a.m. at the Capitol. We also began making phone class to those Representatives to try to get one of them to come to our rescue!
At about 10:45 a.m. we were still not officially Rescued but did have a confirmation that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was going to be our Rescuer! Nick, Tank and I loaded the Jeep back up and we headed back to Arlington. Once I got back to Arlington I had to immediately get back on the road to head to Kilgore for an awards Banquet.
This weekend could not have been better! We are now down to once city left. Nick and I have decided that after finals that if Chicago is still not Rescued we are going there! We might need your support to make the trip there! These experience I have had with Invisible Children have been life changing and life moving. I will never forget them. 876 miles, 3.5 hours of sleep in 3 days! Below are some photos from the weekend.
The Rescue - Dallas
Here are some videos from different people and what they came up with at the Rescue. If you look hard enough you can see me in a lot of them!