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No longer invisible

BY LISA BRAHM | APRIL 06, 2010 7:30 AM

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Geoffrey Howard Okot grew up surrounded by child soldiers in Northern Uganda.

And on Monday night, the 25-year-old Ugandan man shared the struggles he faced during his youth with University of Iowa students at an Invisible Children event.

“The one most important thing that I think people in this audience need to know about Invisible Children is how they can get involved in what we are doing,” Okot said.

Around 90 students gathered in the Pappajohn Business building for the screening of a documentary about Okot’s younger brother, Emmy, and how the Invisible Children helped his family.

The goal of the Invisible Children, which began in 2003, is to use documentaries to inspire people around the world to help improve the quality of life for children like Okot and his brother.

UI sophomore Keely Kemp developed a passion for Invisible Children after watching the group’s first documentary, Invisible Children: Rough Cut, during her sophomore year of high school.

“I was really moved by it; it was very disturbing, and I felt very passionate about the topic,” said Kemp, who has been involved in the organization since then.

This semester, she was named president of the UI chapter of Invisible Children, pushing to bring more of a national presence of the organization to campus.

The UI chapter consists of about 10 students who meet biweekly, Kemp said.

Kemp said Invisible Children is aiming to “put a face with the war and give people a living breathing human being that they can name and identify so it has some sort of human interest to it.”
And it has worked.

Iowa City resident Annette Martin said she came to Monday’s event because she wanted to hear Okot speak.

“I am a concerned citizen who wants to know more about what is going on in Africa,” Martin said. “I had never heard of Invisible Children, but as a trained social worker I care about what is happening to children all over the world.”

UI senior Emma Cutkomp agreed.

“The whole situation is horrifying,” she said.

Okot, who started as a volunteer mentor to children in northern Uganda, is now employed by the Invisible Children as a full-time mentor and the head of the Legacy Scholarship Fund.

The fund, pioneered by Okot’s aunt, Jolly Grace Okot, asks for donations of $35 a month to support 590 secondary and 181 university students’ schooling in Northern Uganda, where access to education is limited.

By donating to the fund, UI students can be involved in aiding these “invisible children,” Okot said.

“We believe that once we educate somebody in that region, we will have given him an everlasting hope for his future,” Okot said. “I have a smile on my face now because someone helped me.”



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