Here’s a perfect picture of what’s wrong with part of America: Kids, yes kids, duped by charity.
No one doubts the generosity of Americans. But charity must be researched first. And that’s what so many Americans just don’t do.
It would bother me less if it weren’t adults misleading kids. And I wouldn’t be quite so enraged if a series of subsequent adults didn’t affirm the original lie.
According to the Windsor, Colorado newspaper, The Beacon, Windsor High School students in northern Colorado are holding a big fund-raiser November 3 to help children fleeing a war zone in Africa.
The problem is, there is no war zone.
I don’t know if the lead teacher, Jackie Doman-Peoples, believes this. I tried to find out by calling her school and sending her an email, but she didn’t respond. So I don’t know if she just went onto the website of Invisible Children and didn’t dig deeply enough into their pages for the “current history” of Uganda and just got spell-bound by the movie about Invisible Children which no longer applies.
I don’t know if she then just decided, wow, that looks good, just like thousands of American idiots read a Sharron Angle’s poster and decide, wow, that looks good.
Doman-Peoples could have set me and lots of people in Uganda straight, but she didn’t. And I worry that she is leading her students to believe that their hard earned donations would be used to build a school to welcome recent escapees who had been kidnapped and turned into child soldiers by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The LRA hasn’t been active in Uganda for at least two years, maybe longer.
According to Human Rights Watch, the LRA was “pushed out of northern Uganda in 2005 [and] now operates in the remote border area between southern Sudan, Congo, and the Central African Republic.”
So there aren’t any children fleeing an army that no longer exists in a war zone that isn’t.
The Beacon fed into the online version of a major Ft. Collins newspaper, the Coloradoan, where it reappeared.
So, we know the Beacon didn’t fact-check, and we know the Coloradoan didn’t fact-check the Beacon, and we know that Doman-Peoples didn’t take the opportunity to tell me that she didn’t believe what was reported about her.
Now to be sure, the LRA is still a force to be reckoned with, but not in northern Uganda. This weekend the leaders of a number of African nations met in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR), to plan a strategy to finally wipe them out.
This is because the LRA was defeated in northern Uganda, southern Sudan more than two years ago by a proactive Ugandan military mixed with adroit international diplomacy.
The African leaders met in Bangui to discuss the LRA, because that’s the country in which the LRA is now most active. The renegade leader, Joseph Kony, fled northern Uganda when his dwindling forces were being routed and is probably in a hold-up in Darfur, much closer to the CAR than Uganda.
LRA is now active in a place that’s as far from northern Uganda as Windsor is from Las Vegas or St. Louis. The displaced kids from this new war zone can’t be helped in northern Uganda. And unfortunately, these new war zone areas are far too unstable for schools of any kind at the moment.
My irritation is certainly not with the generous souls of those kids in the high school, or even with the good intentions of someone like Donam-Peoples. There are plenty of children still in northern Uganda who still need assistance from the war which ended two years or more ago. They will likely need assistance the rest of their lives.
But I’m mad as hell that the implication is that the war continues, there! It doesn’t! Or that innocent kids are still being displaced, there. They aren’t!
This is also a story of what happens to NGOs when they become unnecessary. They won’t admit it. According to Mark Jordhal, whose wonderful Ugandan blog first broke this story, Invisible Children doesn’t deny that fund-raisers are still using their materials, particularly the film, which claims that the war in Uganda continues.
Their website, under the page “History of the War”, has recently updated the facts. But their promotional materials remain steeped in the past, and it is that pitch, that kids are being kidnapped and escaping into Invisible Children’s welcoming arms in northern Uganda, which is a serious outright lie.
So if Donam-Peoples checked with Invisible Children, a charity which has accomplished a lot of good work in northern Uganda, she could have been misled from the getgo, because that’s what their site does. And good gracious me, why on earth would we question a good American charity?!
It’s so important to the peoples in northern Uganda/southern Sudan – and particularly their children – that we recognize their victory. Claiming that a war still exists trashes their victory and discounts their noble hopes for the future.
There is no excuse for this.
Even though Invisible Children is still showing their film literally to this day to raise money. A film which claims the war continues.
The film was shown Tuesday on the Main Campus of Temple University. Perhaps at the end of the showing the presenter explained it was no longer happening in Uganda, I don’t know. But this once good charity, having run out of its main justification for income, can’t seem to move on. There’s a lot of good charity work left in northern Uganda. This aspect to this story is a story in itself.
But I can’t get over the fact that children are being misled. You don’t muster the power of kids without knowing the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth. It’s called:
Katherine Popowski who wrote for the Beacon didn’t. And then David Persons, the editor of the Beacon didn’t. And by the time that the senior editor of the Coloradoan, Robert Moore, didn’t, it almost seems… true. And Doman-Peoples didn’t let me know if she did or not.
I held the publication of this post for two days to give all the above a chance to comment. I made phone calls to the school, sent emails to the teacher, the newspapers, the on-line reporter. Not one response. Not one email in reply.
They aren’t alone.
This may be the biggest problem in America, today. Not Knowing the Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth. But more importantly, not caring. Standing by your lie.
Thanks to Mark Jordahl in Kampala for bringing this to my attention. Take a look at his excellent blog, Conserve Uganda.
Thank you for setting this straight. I hope you will hear from the school and or newspaper soon, and the funds raised can go to a charity that is, in fact, helping children in need.
I am thrilled that the students are dedicated to helping others, and clearly worked hard to raise a large sum in such a small community.
I enjoy getting your newsletter and hope to return to Africa soon!
go Jim – it’s all mis-information…both Good and Bad…
I support a charity called Sweet Sleep, based out of Nashville, Tennessee, and they are leaving for Gulu, Uganda in 9 days to help children who are being relocated from the displacement camps, which were established as a result of the LRA’s activities in northern Uganda and 24 years of war. While the LRA, was indeed forced out of northern Uganda two years ago, they left behind hundreds of orphans. In researching our work in this area of Uganda, we watched the Invisible Children video with the understanding that the LRA was no longer a threat to northern Uganda, but rather to understand the circumstances which led to the establishment of the displacement camps.
Sweet Sleep has partners in northern Uganda (Gulu) which include World Vision, American Refugee Committee (ARC) and the Child Protection Office. There are still 1 million people living in IDP camps (Internally Displaced Persons) and an estimated 750,000 of those are children in child-headed households. Our partners are working to trace their family name back to their home tribe and then working with the village tribe leaders to determine what land their family owned. They’re then trying to relocate the children into their home land and give them a new chance and hope at life.
As these camps are disbanded and the children relocated to their home villages, Sweet Sleep is providing a straw mat, a mattress. linens and a mosquito net and bible for these children. While there is no more war in northern Uganda, there are certainly still children who need help. So if the adults in charge of the high school group mentioned above would do their homework, they would find the real needs of northern Uganda, and the best way they can help.
I don’t think you have ever been to an Invisible Children screening. At every screening, if they show a film that is out of date, they give an update, which includes explaining that the war has been over for over two years.
Not only that, but the students at Windsor High are fundraising to rebuild schools in N. Uganda destroyed by the war. Exactly that. Schools that can be rebuilt BECAUSE the war is over. Invisible Children is very intentional about transparency and doing what needs to be done. They do not claim that they are saving Ugandan children from a war that is raging in Uganda. If you had ever been to a screening you would know this.
You are right to say the film says the war continues, and you admit that it does… in CAR, DRC, and southern Sudan. You and Invisible Children have the same stance on this.
You also claim Invisible Children is unnecessary, but tell that to the hundreds of students in high school and university from scholarships, the number of schools being rebuilt across N. Uganda, the thousands of farmers re-establishing cotton as a cash crop, heck Invisible Children is even in the Congo helping build radio towers so communities can warn each other about LRA attacks… The list goes on. Invisible Children is not the sole reason these things happened. These Ugandans helped themselves, but Invisible Children helped make that reality possible. In the end, Invisible Children is about Ugandans helping Ugandans.
You claimed to send e-mails and never got responses, but teachers are busy. Did you try to contact Invisible Children? Probably not. If what you claimed in your blog post was true, you would have every right to be “mad as hell.” But, unfortunately, you didn’t fact check.
Go to the link that says “blog” in my report above for the whole story, of which the following is just an excerpt from a blogger in Kampala, Uganda:
“I have written directly to Invisible Children about this issue. Their response is that they have so many people volunteering for them and spreading publicity that they just can’t control it. If that is true, it seems totally unprofessional to me. If false messages are being put out in their name, they should want to have tighter control over it.
They should demand that all public events showing their films or being hosted by their clubs get approved through their central office and they should require that any information being given to the press should be accurate. In fact, they should have a press sheet that gets sent automatically to local media that represents the current situation in Uganda accurately.
Which brings up another issue – why aren’t these local reporters doing any fact-checking before posting their stories? It’s not that hard to do a quick web search to find out that the conflict is over here in Uganda.
The other possibility, one that I don’t want to believe, is that they realize it is in their best interests to have people believe the war is still happening here. Invisible Children is very much associated with northern Uganda, and they may be afraid that their fundraising efforts will suffer if people realize the LRA has moved on to other countries. If this is true, it makes me even angrier because they are preying on the young people who are fundraising for their work based on false information.
I am sure I will hear from somebody at Invisible Children about this post, reaffirming that they just can’t control their press. But, there are dozens of organizations working on the redevelopment of northern Uganda and Invisible Children is the ONLY one that I ever see associated with statements claiming the war is still active here. Why are they the only organization that can’t control their press?”
I appreciate the response, Jim, but you only responded to my last paragraph. I would appreciate a response to all of the paragraphs, specifically 2 and 4.
After googling Invisible Children and Financials in order to find more information I found this video that is very informative and looks like it was recently posted.
Par 2: Not only that, but the students at Windsor High are fundraising to rebuild schools in N. Uganda destroyed by the war. Exactly that. Schools that can be rebuilt BECAUSE the war is over.
Tim, you have not identified yourself, and if you are somehow associated with the school that would be great, because this is the answer I would have preferred getting from the school or a school representative itself. They declined to do so. So our information comes strictly, therefore, from the reporting in the local town newspaper, which says:
October 9, 2010, The Beacon, an excerpt:
The WHS International Relations class, headed by teacher Jackie Doman-Peoples, chose to help the “Invisible Children” Foundation for their service project
“Invisible Children” are children who are running from child soldiers in Uganda. They are not able to go to school or live in their homes because they are always in hiding. They often become “night commuters” which means they walk all night to find a safe place to sleep during the day.
Doman-Peoples said the class will be raising funds that will go toward building a high school for the “Invisible Children” in Uganda.
This is a lie. There are no child soldiers running from a war, and they aren’t in hiding, because there is nothing to hide from.
Par 4: You also claim Invisible Children is unnecessary, but tell that to the hundreds of students in high school and university from scholarships, the number of schools being ….
You almost have a point here, although I didn’t say they were “unnecessary.” I said they were no longer needed for the project that the Beacon newspaper said the Windsor High School students were raising funds for.
Some may argue this is all nuance, but certainly not the people in Uganda who have taken grave offense that Americans believe their war continues.
Sorry for not identifying myself, I’ve been involved with the Schools 4 Schools program before, but not at Windsor.
It seems to me that more of the issue is with the reporting done by these local newspapers as opposed to the information given out at screenings, because I know for a fact that the information given out at screenings does not claim that the war continues in Uganda. The roadies correct and update the audience if an out of date film is shown. My guess is that the local and school newspapers are writing these articles without fact checking.
It seems to me that Invisible Children can control how the information is presented at a screening, but they can not control if newspapers inadvertently skew the facts.
You’re right, Invisible Children can’t control The Beacon. But The Beacon can control The Beacon. In fact, the much larger Coloradoan can control The Beacon. And Ms. Doman-Peoples could reply to emails or phone calls on issues that are critically important to the people she wishes to help.
I agree with you there. Just having been involved with Schools 4 Schools myself, it hurt to see a similar looking club with “GOOD KIDS TERRIBLY MISLED” plastered over them.
I still don’t think the kids were misled. I think they know exactly what they are fundraising for, which is to rebuild a school that was affected by the war in Northern Uganda, but can now be rebuilt because of the peace that has been around for over two years. The Beacon may have been misleading, but these students were not influenced by that article.
Much appreciated, Tim. But I can’t believe that until someone there says it and calls out The Beacon for what would then be aggrandizing the situation.
I KNOW you were hopping mad for sure – especially knowing your feelings about giving to charity…… But it wasn’t just about that – it was more that, it was more of where those hard earned $$$ were spent. Because I respect YOU and because you seem to respect the Ugandan blogger, I sent an email to the teacher congratulating her on raising awareness but suggesting she find an alternative charity
Jim — I sympathize! When I went to Zimbabwe in 1995, my area secretary in New York, General Board of Global Ministries, asked if I’d be willing to take some materials to Zimbabwe Annual Conference since there was room in my container. I said Sure. It seems someone who had been in Zimbabwe some years before knew that school supplies, personal hygiene items, etc., were (my emphasis!) needed and got his annual conference to collect them and package them for specific schools, including Africa University. Then they found out what transportation costs would be so contacted New York to see if they could send them with a missionary, which would be free of charge from New York on since you pay for the container regardless of how full it is. When the container arrived in Harare, the customs officials agreed to let my personal stuff come in duty-free, as it should, but by then the other stuff was available in Zimbabwe and so carried a stiff duty, even though it was gifts. The Zimbabwe Annual Conference finally had to pay the duty–at a time when they were so short of funds that they hadn’t paid some pastors for months! Rather than pay storage costs at customs, they stored it for two years or more in the Conference buildings, waiting for the prospective recipients to reimburse them for the duty and pick the stuff up. Of course no one was interested. Some of it was eventually stolen. Africa U. finally accepted theirs and sold the items to the students to recover their cost of the duty. I don’t know what finally happened to the rest. I did write a letter to our UM missions magazine explaining why it was important to check with a current missionary and send only materials requested. The letter was never published, though the magazine does try to make that point in a more low-key way.
So the problem is long-standing.
Comments posted indicate what everyone thinks the kids think. You’d think these kids would turn up on Facebook, but I have not seen them yet.
Need a kid to find a kid probably. Got any kids who can friend a kid?
jim…..i would be ticked off also!!!!!!! hope all is well with you………tony ruggiero
This post was mentioned on Twitter by sonjasugira, Kate Bomz. Kate Bomz said: American Kids Duped / Africa Disparaged
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This post was mentioned on Twitter by sonjasugira, Kate Bomz. Kate Bomz said: American Kids Duped / Africa Disparaged
Not so much that the teacher was mis-informed as it is a case of the teacher being the stereotypical American Know-It-All and feeling it unnecessary to fact find. Tsk, tsk, tsk!