Displace Me brings students' attention to Ugandan war

On Saturday night in the College Union, Geneseo's Invisible Children organized "Displace Me," an event which aimed to expose students to the horrors of the war between the government of Uganda and the rebel militia movement of the Lord's Resistance Army.

Sophomore Nick LaGrassa, president of Invisible Children, said that the goal of Displace Me was "to take a serious issue going on in East Africa and put it in a more positive light to get people involved." For years, Invisible Children has worked to spread awareness about children abducted by the LRA and forced to become soldiers.

Displace Me featured a hut building contest, where the students who built the best hut out of cardboard received a $50 prize. Some students even planned to spend the night in the Union, immersing themselves in the experience of everyday life for Ugandans in internally displaced persons camps.

Junior Amanda Cupido spoke at the event about her trip to Uganda, where she spent a day in a Ugandan IDP Camp. Years ago, the government of Uganda relocated thousands of individuals to these camps in the hope of protecting them from further LRA attacks. The proximity of the cardboard huts being constructed in the Union Ballroom was the feature that most reminded Cupido of her visit to the Ugandan IDP camp. "You have no privacy there," she said. "Even though you have your own hut, there are people five feet away from you and thousands of people living in the camps overall."

Freshman Keri Martin was glad that Invisible Children could "raise awareness and show people what it's really like." She added, "We are only doing this for one night, but these people are actually living in huts like this every day."

Bobby Bailey, a co-founder and filmmaker for Invisible Children, heard about the Geneseo chapter's Displace Me event and was so impressed that he did a Skype session during the event. He thanked everyone in attendance for their support and reminded them, "We have a lot to do and this is just the beginning."

Sean Carasso, co-founder of the non-profit group Falling Whistles, also spoke at the event about his travels in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the resulting formation of his organization. While in the Congo, Carasso told about how he met five young boys who were being charged with war crimes after being abducted and forced to be child soldiers. These boys told Carasso that children who were abducted, but too small to carry guns, were forced to the front lines of the battle field with only whistles. They were told to walk forward blowing the whistles to scare the enemy and, when they had been shot, their bodies would serve as a shield for other soldiers.

The theme of the night was not charity or pity, but connectedness. LaGrassa said that if there were one message people should take away from this event he would want it to be that, "In this world we're all people and we should be here for each other."