By now your Facebook page has probably exploded with friends' posts of the viral video Kony2012. If you're one of the few who hasn't yet seen the video or read the hash tag on Twitter, Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda. He's been terrorizing Uganda and Southern Sudan since 1987, claiming to be a medium of the Holy Spirit.
So, obviously, Joseph Kony is a terrible man.
The LRA is engaged in an armed conflict with the Ugandan government, originally to "purify" the Acholi people -- but today its motives have become unclear. What is clear is that these soldiers roam the country, attacking villages where they kill the adults and kidnap the children. The boys are forced to fight as child soldiers and the girls are sold into sexual slavery. These operations have spread into the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, and Kony is now on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists."
But this video "Kony2012," created by Invisible Children, a controversial charity whose sole purpose is to create awareness and push activism directed at removing Kony from power, isn't doing much to help the people affected by the fighting or protect the children in danger of being abducted.
Awareness is good, but ousting a warlord takes work. Here are five things that will directly affect the people of Uganda in ways that watching a video never could:
1. Donate to Save the Children Save the Children has been helping children in war-torn countries since 1919; today it provides humanitarian aid in more than 25 countries, including Uganda. Save the Children provides education, nutrition, shelter and HIV/AIDS testing and care, and also creates economic opportunities in impoverished countries. A donation of $17 provides clean water kits for a family of four for one month.
To donate to Save the Children, visit savethechildren.org.
2. Donate to (or if you're a doctor, volunteer with) Doctors Without Borders Doctors without Borders, or Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) as they are known in France, where the organization started, is one of the most widely known global humanitarian funds and the only one on this list to have won a Nobel Peace Prize. According to its website, "MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas. In many areas, Doctors Without Borders is the only proper medical care people will receive in their lives, and in times of conflict, the organization can mean the difference between life and death." The organization is currently on the ground in the DRC and CAR as well as South Sudan helping to aid victims of the LRA.
To make a donation or find out how you can become a volunteer, visit doctorswithoutborders.org
3. Help support African economies by giving micro loans The amount of political instability in Africa is directly related to the amount of economic instability in the region. While donating to charities helps with the immediate crises there, micro loans insure long-term stability. A micro loan is the extension of minimal amounts of credit ($5 to $10) to entrepreneurs in underdeveloped countries who lack collateral and would never be able to get a loan otherwise. While the likelihood of your loan not being paid back is higher in these situations, the loan amounts are kept small so the loss isn't as significant to the lender, while the recipient receives enough money to start a small business in a third-world country.
To become a microlender, visit Kiva.org
4. Donate to War Child International War Child International is a global humanitarian organization aimed solely at providing aid to children affected by war. It currently operates in eight countries across the world, including Uganda and the DRC. It aims to create safe environments for children displaced from their homes and ensure that every child has an education, provide pathways for justice when children's rights are violated, and create sustainable livelihoods for those living in war-torn regions.
To donate to War Child International, visit warchild.org
5. Lobby your Congressional reps While giving money to a cause can be extraordinarily beneficial in helping get people life-saving medical care or nutrition, those donations won't help oust dictators and warlords. Lobby Congressto take a harsh stance against men like Joseph Kony.
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To find contact information, visit writerep.house.gov