Kony 2012: Trend Today, Gone Tomorrow

Kony 2012 #stopkony
By Kennet1 (Own work)
People may forget about Kony next week, or better yet he will be brought to justice. Unfortunately, the problem still won't be solved - millions of people are affected by the war and there are many real ways to help.

 Having initially viewed the Kony 2012 video on Wednesday morning, I had some reservations pertaining to what the video entailed but overall, I felt it would open people’s eyes to what has been happening in Uganda and many other African countries for many years now.  Sadly I came to the grim realization that people don’t want their eyes opened. They want a cause that they can believe in, but don’t have to do much about. Watching a 30 minute video and then making a clean jump from your bed to a bandwagon will not solve the problem overnight. I feel the same about Kony 2012 as I do about the Occupy movement, highlights a problem but does little to solve it. Shouting “Fuck Kony” (a guy whose existence was unknown to you last week) will not help the people of Africa who have been displaced by war, rape, famine, drought, nor will it help the Invisible Children.

I’m not trying to shit all over what is a noble and very-well-though-out concept. I do hope that Kony can be found and brought to justice (which should not be a swift bullet to the head and a burial at sea – he should be made to answer for his crimes) but there are literally thousands of great causes, organizations, nonprofits that have existed for a number of years that seek to help and empower these people. Africa is not going to heal any faster if one deranged lunatic is gunned down in the middle of a jungle by American troops. I hope this will be informative and open people’s eyes.

Christina Tamer’s Story (someone who many of you know):
I’ve been involved with Project Have Hope since 2009. It’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart. Project Have Hope works with a group of women who have been displaced by the war in Uganda. This war is Africa’s longest civil war, led by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Over the last 25 years, the war particularly affected the Northern region of Uganda and parts of Southern Sudan. The violence has subsided in Uganda and has moved instead to the DR Congo. Unfortunately, many of the women and children Project Have Hope are working with are still suffering the effects of the war.

Most of the women were originally from the North, but a number of incidences drove them to seek refuge in the South. Family members were raped, tortured, and killed. Homes were burned down with people still in them. Children were kidnapped and forced to fight. Neighbors disappeared. Not only were the women’s lives uprooted, they will carry the traumatic memories of torture, violence and loss of friends, family, and loved ones for the rest of their lives. Due to the war, most of the women were unable to finish their education. Now it’s very difficult for them to go back to school and get a job to support the children.

Project Have Hope encourages women to start their own businesses because that is a sustainable way to help the women achieve self sufficiency and rise out of poverty.

I’ve been talking about bettering the lives of these women for years, I’ve offered easy ways for people to get involved – volunteer, buy a pretty necklace (all money goes back to women), donate, go on a trip to Uganda, and so on. There are a number of ways to help that do not involve clicking share on Facebook or Youtube. Working with Project Have Hope defined my career. I'm now working for Invested Development which is investing in technologies in emerging markets like Africa to ultimately create sustainable development.

Kony 2012 #stopkony
By Mateusz OpasiƄski (Own work)
The Kony 2012 Campaign

I believe very strongly in the power of social media. It’s the greatest thing since those loaves of bread that come pre-sliced. What pains me is that I’ve been harping on about this cause for years and only now are people paying attention. Invisible Children is not a grassroots organization. In fact, they’re questionable at best. A nonprofit of that size should have much higher levels of transparency. It shouldn’t be pushing out the little guys.

It’s great that they’re organizing and raising awareness about Joseph Kony. Unfortunately, telling the world about an insane guy who is hiding in the jungles of the Congo is going to do very little for the families who have been affected by his actions. I think everyone wants to see him brought to the appropriate type of justice. If this happens, it will not undo that damage that has already been done. Organizations like Project Have Hope, Solar Sister, and The Real Uganda will.

Misconceptions of Africa
African women workingI’m annoyed that Africa is trending worldwide. People have this stereotypical perception of Africa that creates the bleeding heart people, the Angelina Jolie complex of ‘If I could adopt all those poor African children, I would’. I hope that people understand that Africa is one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial continents on the planet. They’re doing things with mobile phones and other technology that we can’t or won’t do here in the States. Innovators are creating alternative energy solutions that are renewable and sustainable – something Americans are still struggling with. Kenya has one of the highest recycling rates in the world, because people value their money and will return bottles to get the 5 cents back.

Africa has come so far along in terms of development. It’s a beautiful continent of one billion people who have the capacity and willingness to rise out of poverty. As with every other continent, it has it's problems. There is corruption and questionable governmental practices. We saw an end to apartheid, Kenyan officials have been put on trial for crimes against humanity, and in Egypt we saw an uprising and revolution when citizens stood up for their rights to democracy.

Things are changing. Africa is no longer the ‘dark continent.’ The Economist called it ‘hopeful’ on its front cover at the end of last year, when ten years ago, the same publication dubbed the continent ‘hopeless.’  Economics deem that development and policy come together, and as the citizens of 54 countries leverage entrepreneurship to innovate and create their own businesses – both big and small – then governments will fix themselves. Healing is well underway in Africa.

Why I Got Involved and How You Can Help
African children playing happy
Visible Children that can be helped too
I don’t think that everyone has to care about Africa, or poverty internationally, or foreign wars. I was once a very concerned 19 year old girl in a social ethics class (this is still Christina talking - I never took a social ethics class). My professor said at the beginning of the class that he wanted to ‘ruin’ us. I think he succeeded in ruining me. He opened our eyes to the many problems of the world and how it’s our responsibility as human beings to solve them.  With the most genuine concern in my heart, I recall asking, ‘how are we supposed to solve them all?’ to which he answered:

 If everyone tackles a small problem, owns a small portion of the issues in the world, makes that their area of expertise and finds their niche where they can make a difference, then we can get closer to achieving a perfect world.

Essentially what he meant was to find an issue that you’re passionate about and own it. If you own the issues you care about, you’ll motivate others to own issues they care about, thus closing a hole in the loop. I sincerely hope you all find your niche where you can truly do some good in the world.

In closing, I (Joe) would like to say that I had the pleasure of meeting Grace, the woman who runs the Project Have Hope show in Uganda, and I know Karen, the founder. Grace had us all enthralled with a small snapshot of her life, speaking frankly about the war, how she survived it and is well on the way to rebuilding her life and the lives of those around her. These women are two of the most inspirational I have ever met. They are so dedicated to the cause and hell bent on allowing these women in the Acholi Quarter, their niche, to grow their lives from the devastation of war and ensure that people like Kony will never be able to hurt them again. A lesson we can all learn is that the world will become a better place when we make it so.

Check out my volunteer trip to Uganda with Christina a few months later >>>

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