Local non-profit giving a voice to victims of Ugandan war

On April 2, 2012

A few weeks ago, the non-profit organization Invisible Children created a viral video sensation that soon led to a movement known as Kony 2012. With this particular movement, Invisible Children highlights the horrors led by Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, over much of the 1990s and much of the last decade.

Invisible Children is not the only non-profit currently doing work in Uganda, though. Here in Durham, there is a group called ChildVoice International, a non-profit that looks to give a voice to those who are most often affected by the war in Uganda.

The organization was founded back in 2006 by a group of New Hampshire natives who, after seeing the atrocities that were being caused by the war in Uganda, wanted to find a way to help.

Their solution was an organization that tries to help individuals, specifically women and children, who have been affected by this war and help reinvigorate their lives. ChildVoice does this by offering group and individual counseling, vocational training, and basic education to those in need.

"We operate as a therapeutic community," Abigail McNamara, ChildVoice's executive assistant, said. "So we have 32 child mothers, and their children come in at any one time. They stay with us for 18 months, and it is an intensive program that really includes a variety of different aspects to help these girls heal and to grow."

When Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video went viral a few weeks ago, McNamara said the reaction from ChildVoice was rather mixed on the issue of the video and the controversy that soon engulfed Invisible Children.

"I'd say that we are pretty neutral. From a marketing [and] PR perspective, this campaign is incredible," McNamara said.

For McNamara and ChildVoice, Invisible Children was well known before Kony 2012. In fact, ChildVoice has even utilized some of the videos being produced by Invisible Children in order to better explain the issues in Uganda.

Despite this, the way the Kony 2012 video displays the current situation in Uganda is what has caused a somewhat neutral reaction from ChildVoice International. On one side of the argument, the exposure the video has provided for the issue has been beneficial for ChildVoice and the work they do in Uganda.

"We are excited that this conflict is finally getting attention worldwide, and that people are starting to talk about it. That Kony is starting to become a household name," McNamara said. "So the awareness perspective of this is great; it's pretty incredible."

On the other side of the debate, however, is how Invisible Children misconstrued the situation in Uganda. According to McNamara, the Ugandan people are upset with how their country is currently being viewed.

"From working on the ground in Uganda, and knowing the issues that are going on in the community in terms of the presence of the LRA, it is hard to judge whether or not this will be a good thing," McNamara said. "You know, Kony has not been in Uganda for about six years now. And that wasn't really portrayed well in the video, so that has caused some controversy within the country. They are actually a pretty peaceful country right now."

By Adam J.

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