Friday, March 9, 2012

Invisible Children Speaks Out

My intentions are to ensure that everyone is educated on facts, not fads. Not opinions. That is why I call this blog "Aletheia," because we need truth.

What good is it if we take things at face value, such as the criticism of this organization that has done so many great things in Uganda...and bring them down over inaccuracies? What happens then? The people of Uganda get no help at all?

I think this idea is important for all things. How many times do we take things at face value and run with them? Especially people. We ruin lives, reputations, and causes because we see something, feel emotion, and then start spreading it like wild fire without asking questions or getting facts first.

And what do we do when we find out we were wrong? We put our tails between our legs and walk away with a little, " bad," without even a splash of water on the inferno we just made. It all could've been prevented if you went to the original source first.

That is why it's important to keep checking on the Invisible Children Website to see if any of these issues have been addressed. And yes, indeed they have. Here's pieces of an interview by Good News Magazine tackling some of the controversies on the internet:

GOOD: Out of all the myriad problems facing Africa, why did you choose to focus on Kony?
JENKINS: Firstly, the story was personal to us. We went to Africa intending to document the tragedies in South Sudan, and on our way we stumbled into children running away from Joseph Kony. The outrage that nothing was being done to stop that, and much of the international community was ignorant to it, was a lot of the impetus. But as we got deeper, we found out that Kony was the first man that the International Criminal Court had ever indicted. They said that because of the perversity of his crimes, and because of the feasibility of his arrest, he should be a flagship example of international cooperation to stop a criminal who crosses borders. The ICC chose Kony, and we’ve kind of partnered with them in an unofficial way. We’ve decided to help them disseminate that ideology to a hungry, millennial, global-minded youth.
GOOD: One of the criticisms people have of Invisible Children is that you only donate 31 percent of your money to the people of Uganda. What’s your response to that?
JENKINS: One flaw of the internet is how quickly it can disseminate misinformation. The actual number is 37 percent. Thirty-seven percent of our budget goes directly to central African-related programs, and the remaining 63 percent goes to our awareness programs. Those include things like flying Ugandans to America to go on cross-country awareness tours we pay for. And our staff in America has to go to Uganda, too. We got criticized for spending $1 million on travel expenses, but getting 130 people around the country and around the world is expensive. But aside from that, the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don’t intend to be. I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization.
There’s a rabid hunger to criticize the spending of charities because of abuse in the past. But all of our finances are public record. You can go online and see how much we make. I pay $300 a month in rent and don’t even own a bed. I sleep on the floor. We’re in this because we love it, because this is the job of our dreams.
GOOD: What do you do with the funds sent to central Africa?
JENKINS: With that money, we’re focusing on revitalizing the region so they don’t have a reason to hate the government and start future conflicts once Kony is gone. Of the 37 percent of funds that go to central Africa, I’d say about 30 percent goes toward energizing Uganda. We have 12 partner schools we rebuilt from the ground up; we have 1,000 kids whose secondary school we pay for; we have several hundred kids in college and mentors for all of them; we have a program called Mend in which we teach former sex slaves to be seamstresses. There’s also our Village Savings and Loan Association, through which we teach villagers how to become their own bank, because there’s not a lot of trust for banks there. On top of that, we have literacy programs. Sure, we’re after Kony, but we’re also doing a lot of other things to help create sustainable peace. And if our website ever stops crashing, you can read about all of this there.
GOOD: Invisible Children supports the Ugandan army, the UPDF, in their pursuit of Kony. But it’s been shown that the UPDF has committed its own atrocities in the past, including rapes. Why are you supporting them?
JENKINS: That’s a great question. Yes, it’s true that the Ugandan military has committed crimes in the past. We do not deny those crimes. But in terms of the pursuit of the LRA in the last six years, they’ve made a marked change and are attempting to be spotless.
We were involved in five years of peace talks with Kony. We want peace. But the truth is that Kony abused the peace process, used it to regain strength, and then went to wreak havoc. At that point, if someone’s busting into your house with a gun and robbing you, you can only talk for so long before you start using force. Force is an absolute last resort, and our campaign is trying to get him to surrender. We don’t want a bloodbath. A peaceful end to this is the dream.
GOOD: What do you want to tell the film's critics directly?
JENKINS: Our films are made for high school children. We make films that speak the language of kids. We say, "You may live thousands of miles away from these problems in Uganda, but those kids are just like you, and you can do something to help them by getting your government and your self involved." Our films weren’t made to be scrutinized by theGuardian. They were made to get young people involved in some of the world’s worst crimes. We can’t solve every crime, and we don’t intend to. But we can help fight the worst crimes.
I understand the criticism, because I think a healthy dose of skepticism is important when investing time and money into something. But I’d invite anyone to come to our offices and talk to us. I think when people dismiss us as having "white savior complex," they’re missing the main point: We’re just trying to do a little part to help change the world.
Read the full article here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

KONY 2012...Legit or Scam?

You may have seen this video going around.

The Daily What

You may have seen articles like this going around, too.

Reader discretion advised.
What you are about to read may be heart wrenching. It may pull at certain places of your heart that you tend to stay away from. But it's truth and we can't keep ignoring it.

Imagine yourself... 10 years old and sitting in your home in what seems like another normal day...and suddenly your home is invaded by a bunch of children equipped with guns. You witness the murdering of your family and you are kidnapped and taken to a place you've never been to before. You are handed a gun and forced to invade other homes and wreak the same havoc on other innocent families, killing and kidnapping over and over again. If you fail to do so, you are tortured and manipulated. If you fail to do so, you may also be killed.

One find visage to escape. However, you don't know where to run. All your family is gone, and you have nowhere to go. But for the sake of your life, you keep running. Until finally, you hit a small camp that, if you had only blinked, you would have missed. You discover other children your age who are also running. They are sleeping in insanitary abandoned buildings, and as you stay with them, you discover that the protocol is moving from camp to camp every night to ensure safety. There are some nights that the camps are invaded anyway, and you are forced to hide in flooded, cockroach infested basements. You can't go to school. You can't have hobbies. You can't even eat every day. You can't do anything but live in fear for your life and attempt survival. day you are discovered by 3 strangers from a distant land. In the matter of hours, you go from being hopeless and invisible to an instrument for a greater cause.


Let me preface. I have been a supporter of the Invisible Children since 2006. I have been following these guys since they were just some kids from the US traveling to a 3rd world country looking for a story. I have followed them into the depths of Uganda where they discovered hundreds of orphans hiding in flooded, rotting basements fearing for their lives and missing their loved ones that they either watched being murdered...or were forced to murder themselves.

I've had experience with Invisible Children when they came to Evangel. I was even seriously considering becoming a "roadie" for a season. A few months ago, I got to meet up with IC again when they came to Aveda, but this time I got to meet one of the former victims of the guerilla warfare. She talked about how before the IC came into her country, she would walk to school in fear for her life, sometimes witnessing her friends being abducted before her eyes...wondering if she was next. Now, she has hope that she will never have to relive those days again.

So the article. Word has it that Invisible Children has come under fire for using only 31% of their donations toward "helping". Now, assuming the statement provided in the article is true, every expense is laid out for the organization. When I look at it, I would say they're pretty legit. The "31%" seems to be a random number that the author decided to type out to try and shock people into ceasing in posting this video onto their facebook/email. The organization does not only build facilities to help, but forms teams that travel around the United States raising money and awareness for the cause (roadies). You can have Invisible Children come to your school FREE OF CHARGE. How is it free of charge when there are people who are taking months off work and school to travel around and help save these kids? Donations. Just like any other Charitable Organization, there is a lot more that goes into serving a cause. But what really matters is that it gets the job done and lives are saved.

They have a 3 star rating on Charity Navigator, not 2, and the only reason they had points deducted was because they HAVE been audited...only not by an entire committee. That's an automatic 7 points. The other few points were because their Privacy Policy was not deemed easily accessible enough (minor citation). Everything else they have come out of golden. Because I've been following them for so long, I can tell you that only a year ago they were about half a million dollars in the hole while planning their projects such as their schools, medical facilities, and NOW their "911" system to try and stop the guerilla warfare. So if they're swimming in money and this is a scam, and if they're ignoring poverty and diseases, then how come lives ARE being drastically changed and all these systems are being put in place? How come they are ensuring these kids are helped even if they don't know where their next check is coming from?

Invisible Children HAS made a huge difference, I can tell you that from seeing their very first video made when they decided to jump ship and travel to Uganda without a single dime in their pocket to save an entire race. How many people actually do that? Expenses for airfare are completely legit, what good are you going to do building a project in another country by sitting safely in front of your computer? How can you truly understand your cause without putting yourself directly in those peoples' shoes? They are risking their lives every time they go over there. And yes, they need the funding to raise awareness. And yes, they need to be able to support their families while they're off in a third world country risking their lives for a community of people that no one thought existed.

I would also encourage you to watch the original video of when the guys traveled to Uganda and discovered this story.

It all makes a difference, the person writing this article needs to do their research, because I have met one of those children and she told me all about it. I have also taken the time to look at the costs (assuming the document itself is fact), and they look entirely legit. However, Invisible Children will be traveling to my school again in the next few weeks and I plan on printing off this document and presenting it to them. I'm going to ask questions and get my facts straight. Which is what we should all do before jumping on bandwagons without being educated as to where they came from or where they're headed.

There are orphans who thought they would have been better off dead who now, finally, feel like they have a purpose. They can go to school, have hobbies, eat every day. As someone who has had personal involvement with this organization for many years, it is upsetting to see people trying to sabotage this cause simply because they don't wish to be spammed with videos from people who have a heart to help the helpless, or they're only taking things at face value.

Do your research.

Save lives.

KONY 2012.