The College Union Ballroom was teeming with activity last Saturday night as students built cardboard huts to create a makeshift refugee camp as part of Invisible Children's "Displace Me" program.
The event was held in order to spread awareness of the horrors of the situation in northern Uganda. As information passed out at the event stated, for the past 23 years the Lord's Resistance Army has been fighting a war with the Ugandan government. Nearly 2 million citizens have been affected, as the government has failed to protect civilians from the rebel militia.
In 1996, the Ugandan government relocated thousands of people from their homes into camps, where they suffer from horrendous living conditions. Due to insufficient support, the LRA found an alternative source for soldiers in Uganda's children. It is estimated that 90 percent of the LRA's troops are children.
Invisible Children Inc. was started when three student filmmakers went to Uganda and ended up making a documentary about the war between the LRA and the Ugandan government titled Invisible Children: Rough Cut. The film exposed the reality of the fates of Uganda's child soldiers. Now, Invisible Children is a non-profit organization focused on generating activism against such atrocities.
The organization at Geneseo works to extend the focus of the larger party to the campus by hosting events such as Displace Me, showing films and spreading awareness on the issue in Uganda.
"Invisible Children had a Displace Me event spread out over 15 cities," said sophomore Justine Porter. "We're trying to replicate that."
Students attended on their own, and with organizations on campus. "We're really excited that everyone came out, and we hope that everyone learns something," said junior Megan Herbold.
The Displace Me event is one of the biggest programs that Invisible Children organizes. From 10 p.m. on, attendees filled the ballroom using cardboard provided by the event to build huts of their own design.
"Basically, people are displacing themselves and making their own huts to live in for the night," said junior Katie Conley.
Many people brought pillows and blankets, making the event feel like a large sleepover. Music over the loudspeakers also added to the atmosphere. Groups like the Wyoming Hall Council gathered to pool their energy and have fun. Each participant was given a shirt with a red X on it.
"I think it's really good initiative, and it's a bonding experience," said junior Aaron Smith, senior resident assistant in Wyoming. "It's wicked cool."
"It's good to know that students are taking initiative to spread awareness," said sophomore RA Kerisha Hawthorne.