SINCE INVISIBLE CHILDREN’S Kony 2012 awareness video went viral last week, the Internet has been awash with discussion of the plight of Ugandans at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Knowledgeable reporters, celebrated columnists, concerned world citizens, and would-be activists have been weighing in with their own praise and criticism of the video and the group that produced it.
Over one week later, the film has largely accomplished its goal. The world is quickly becoming aware of the destruction, murder, and abuse committed by the LRA, and is just as swiftly becoming impassioned about a cause that, until recently, many of us were content to ignore.
So now what?
Awareness is important—that can’t be denied. The first step in attacking any major social issue is ensuring as many people know as much about it as possible. When it comes to the sociopolitical issues of Uganda, Invisible Children has been instrumental in raising awareness about the issues the country faces, but that’s where their influence seems to have lost steam. Few inspired by their video have had the courage, time, or desire to do something tangible, and that’s where the problem with this campaign lays.
Last year, Canadian Senator and former United Nations commander Roméo Dallaire visited the University of Ottawa to talk about his latest book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers. He offered the following advice to students who want to make a difference: “Just get on the ground—get your boots dirty.”
Student activists active only on social media need to take those words to heart. Enragement is not enough. If we want to do something about the LRA in Uganda—or any other social issue that speaks to us—we need to do something more than hit “share.”
Awareness is the first step, but action must follow. No real difference is going to be made in Uganda or anywhere by simply talking amongst ourselves. We need to educate ourselves about the issues in Uganda and find where we can make a difference.
If you want to drive change in the world, join a non-governmental organization, get on the ground, and ruin some boots. Invisible Children not for you? Try Theatre Against Corruption, Clowns Without Borders, Safe Motherhood Initiative, All Children’s Support Network, All Nations Christian Care, or any of the other countless groups sending volunteers to areas in need.
Have more pens and paper than you do spare boots? Then get writing, and not just to your members of Parliament or local newspapers, but also to Beverley Oda, Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation, Margaret Biggs, President of the Canadian International Development Agency, or David Collins, Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.
The truth is, we all want to change the world, but as students know best, little work ever gets done sitting behind a computer screen.
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