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.

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