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Student column

Here’s the second student column, which we’ve started running once a month since January. This month’s column is by Evangel Penumaka, student representative to the Newark Unified school board. She attends Newark Memorial High.

Last month’s column was by Fremont student school board member Jennifer Siew. Next month, we’ll hear from Leslie Salvador of Logan High School in Union City (New Haven Unified student board member).

LETTING INVISIBLE CHILDREN BE HEARD

BANG TEEN COLUMNIST EVANGEL PENUMAKABy Evangel Penumaka

Newark Unified student board member

When I tell people about the club I started at school, I am sometimes met with skeptic faces and replies such as, “Invisible Children? What, do you go searching for kids that are, like, invisible?”

The other responses I get are positive, as most people become curious about what the club is, and if they’ve heard about it, they are eager to help.

Invisible Children is a non-profit which started in spring 2003 by three filmmakers from San Diego who traveled to Uganda. They were looking for a story and an adventure, but what they found shocked them. They learned about the war that has been waging in Uganda for more 23 years between a rebel army and the government. The rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, is led by Joseph Kony. When support for the movement to take control dwindled, Kony resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight in the war.

This war has taken millions of lives, left thousands starving in displacement camps and robbed the innocence of countless children. While there have been attempts to stop the rebels, peace talks have failed, and Kony continues to wage his war and hold the child soldiers hostage.

What Invisible Children has done over the past few years is raise awareness of this situation through the media, national tours and events, and other campaigns. They have established programs to provide jobs and schools for the people of Uganda and continue to do everything they can to stop one of the longest-running wars in Africa.

This movement has had a huge impact on the youths of America. We’ve realized that what is happening is not fair and are shocked that nothing is being done to help the people in Uganda stop Kony.

The club I started is one of countless Invisible Children organizations in schools across the Unites States. Our main goal is to raise awareness and money. A program called Schools for Schools pairs each American school or university with a partner school in Uganda. Newark Memorial is partnered with Anaka Secondary School in Gulu. Through January, our club hosted a book drive, change drive and other fundraisers to help Anaka.

As club president, it is daunting trying to figure out ways to get students who don’t know about this situation interested and involved. We want and need help from as many people as possible. It is difficult when we are brushed off by students who have no interest in something that does not directly affect them.

When we hosted a screening of the film “The Rescue” as part of Invisible Children’s Rescue and Recovery National Tour, two representatives from Invisible Children were present to show the film, sell merchandise and answer questions. As it was an afterschool event, I didn’t expect many students to show and was surprised with the 50-plus students that attended. Many stayed after to buy bracelets and T-shirts and signed up to join the club.

My passion for this cause grows every day. My hope is to get as many students as we can involved in our efforts. The children of Uganda are invisible because their voice is not heard. Their story isn’t being told, and we want to change that.

Linh Tat