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Former 'invisible child' visits Minnechaug to speak on Uganda

Date: 4/12/2010

April 12, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM -- Two years ago was the first time students at Minnechaug Regional High School had the chance to watch the documentary "Invisible Children," a 35-minute clip filmed by three young men traveling through war-torn Uganda.

Now an organization, Invisible Children helps youth in the African nation to take classes through the Schools for Schools program, in which schools here in America and around the world collect donated books to be resold to benefit the rebuilding of schools in Uganda.

Last year, Minnechaug collected around 5,000 books. This year, they collected around 20,000.

The hard work of Minnechaug students was noticed by Invisible Children and on April 1, representatives of the organization -- along with two ambassadors of the program from Uganda -- hosted an assembly at the high school that was also attended by students from Greenfield High School.

"We e-mailed the organization to let them know what we had done and they said they'd be happy to come," Jessica Noonan, the teacher overseeing the work students at Minnechaug were doing for Invisible Children, said.

After a packed auditorium watched the short documentary, the students were introduced to Innocent, a former "invisible child," and his mentor, Christo.

Invisible children are the youth of Uganda who used to travel from their homes every night into nearby cities to find safe places to sleep. If they stayed in their homes, they were more likely to be abducted by rebel armies, only to become child soldiers.

Innocent told the story of the night he was abducted, along with his father, from his family's home. Of the 60 children taken that night -- most below the age of 10 -- only two successfully made it through the rebel army's training.

After a month with the army, Innocent tried to escape for the first time; he was caught and severely beaten. "I thought my life would end," he said. He did not give up, though. His second escape attempt was successful.

"I made it back home but my family was not anymore," he said. "My father was killed the night we were taken ... he was everything to me."

Innocent did not let the tragedy stop him from living his life, though. Through donations from Invisible Children, he is now attending university. Innocent has a goal of becoming the president of Uganda. He will be running for a seat in parliament in 2016 unopposed.

"The children of northern Uganda have big dreams now," Christo commented. "A few years ago it was just to survive ... We still have thousands of kids that could move Uganda forward but we need your help."

Invisible Children has already awarded 800 scholarships -- which cost just $35 a month -- to Ugandan children to further their educations. Both Innocent and Christo stated how grateful they were to the organization for all they've already done.

Following the assembly, student Danielle Buchannon, said, "I think everybody is going to get more involved now."

For more information on Invisible Children and its Schools for Schools program, visit