Author: Brenna Murphey
There’s a certain conflict occurring in central Africa that has existed for 27 years and despite the combined effort of many different people- it has not been brought to an end. This semester, HEAT members decided to take part in the effort to bring about an end to the longest running war in Africa. This war, which began with a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighting back against what they perceived to be an oppressive Ugandan government, has spread from Uganda into South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). An inspiring organization known as Invisible Children has played a vital role over the past 10 years in changing the nature of this conflict. Their current programs in central Africa are providing an opportunity for abducted child soldiers within the LRA to escape. Their various child soldier defection programs utilize defection flier drops, “come home” messaging recorded in native languages and broadcast over LRA occupied regions, and an early warning radio network to connect these remote communities. Beyond that, they also have rehabilitation programs in place to help support these child soldiers that are beginning to rapidly leave the LRA, thus depleting the rebel groups forces.
HEAT planned a fundraising event, entitled ZestFest, in order to fundraise for these life-saving programs in central Africa. The event was a food and music festival that featured local bands and food and craft businesses. Throughout the night, there was live music that festival-goers could enjoy while shopping the craft tables and enjoying some delicious San Marcos food- who doesn’t love a handmade bracelet from Uganda paired with a delicious Manske roll from Gil’s Broiler? The event, itself, fundraised around $700- not including the $425 raised during some promotional quad days and the numerous private donations made throughout the fall semester. And to top it all off, the majority of fundraised money was matched by a generous donor- resulting in a fundraising total of $4,295! All of this money went towards Invisible Children’s #zeroLRA campaign aimed at bringing the LRA down to, that’s right, ZERO. No more child soldiers, no more killing, no more war.
With that amount of money, Invisible Children will be able to purchase enough air time, or minutes, for three remote communities in central Africa to be able to call for help and report escapes twice a day for one year using the early warning radio network as well as provide a scholarship for one secondary student in northern Uganda to attend school. Though this conflict may seem a world away, HEAT members recognize that we no longer live in a world bound by borders. We have a responsibility to our fellow man, and this was exemplified through the outstanding fundraising that they engaged in throughout the course of the fall 2013 semester. Here’s to a world with ZERO LRA! Stand for nothing and celebrate everything!