02 April 2011

#2 Because Children Should Not Fear Sleeping in Their Own Home

25 Reasons Why I’m Going Silent on April 25 
There is a note at the beginning of my previous post to give a tiny bit of background to this series. 
Last night, I re-watched “Invisible Children: The Rough Cut.” If you haven’t seen this documentary, this real-life story, you need to. (In fact, if you are in Sonoma County, come see it at my house this Friday, April 8th. Leave me a comment, or send me an email for more details.) Just like the first time I watched it, I was shocked and challenged. Please find a way to watch it.

As you watch this movie, you travel with three young filmmakers as they discover and befriend the “Night Commuters.” What are “Night Commuters?” Night commuters are the children of Northern Uganda, who travel from their village home every night to sleep in the protection of the bus station and the hospital floors and corridors. Every night. Let me help you visualize this. Think of a homeless shelter in a big city. I picture a big room with cots evenly spaced in rows—everybody with some semblance of personal space. Maybe men are in a separate area from the women. Now envision this room with no cots and multiply the number of people by ten. Then double that. And it is filled with children—toddlers to teenagers. Some have carried infants with them. There is no personal space. You roll over and you are nose-to-nose with your neighbor. Every night.

Many of the children walk for miles every day from their own villages to the city of Gulu, to sleep in these “sanctuaries.” Why do they do this? Because sleeping in their own home, would leave them vulnerable to be taken by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to be brainwashed and conscripted into the ranks or tortured and killed (or maybe both). Many of the children have already experienced this trauma and have escaped. I imagine all of the children know someone who has been abducted and/or killed by the LRA. Many have seen family and friends brutally murdered right in front of them, yet the night commute is a way of life for them. You will find children playing or doing their homework and even waking up early to wash their faces and say prayers—and then travelling back to their home.

In 2006, after first viewing this film and learning about Invisible Children as an organization, I was able to participate in an awareness event they called the “Global Night Commute.” I though the tagline was so clever: “We’re taking this lying down.” What I did (with some of my friends), is travel on foot (and public transportation) to our nearest Global Night Commute location—Crissy Field in San Francisco. We carried everything we needed for the night and slept outside, together with hundreds of people in San Francisco and thousands of people in other cities around the world. The purpose was to raise awareness for the troubles of these people in Northern Uganda, by recreating their daily trek. Each participant was asked to write their local and state representatives about the issue. And in the morning, we packed up our things and traveled home (the same way we came). I bought a shirt for this event, and before, during and following the event, nearly every time I wear it in public, I am asked about it. I love telling people what it is about. One more person who knows, is one more person who can help.

Although our one-day experience resembled that of Northern Uganda’s Night Commuters, we only experienced one night, and we did not fear for our lives on the journey, nor when we returned to our homes. Yet, it gave us the tiniest glimpse into their lives. And knowing even that much helps me know that we must keep moving forward to bring change and to remove fear. Home should be a place of security and comfort. It should not be a place of fear. That is why I will speak out in silence with thousands of others on April 25th.
If you would like to find out more about Invisible Children and the “25” campaign, go to www.invisiblechildren.com. You can CLICK HERE to go to my fundraising page.

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