Why should Denton care about Africa?
Ojok Francis’s story is only one of thousands but last Thursday, October 7th, he came to the University of North Texas to share his experience. Invisible Children is a nonprofit organization that brings awareness to the atrocities that happen in Africa because of the LRA; as well as raise money to allow people such as Francis to receive an education. They have teams all across the nation called “roadies” who travel in vans to schools and colleges. This year it was called the “Face-to-Face” tour and along with the people from Invisible Children also traveling were students from Uganda who have been helped by Invisible Children’s scholarship program. Thus supporters of Invisible Children would meet the people their donations are helping face-to-face.
“Education always makes a difference; when I got the scholarship from Invisible Children it was my life’s turning point.”- Ojok Francis. The majority of Americans take for granted that our public school system is free and to attend college is very attainable through all kinds of government programs. In Uganda, Africa such an opportunity is sadly just a dream for most children.
Francis grew up in the area of Gulu, Uganda struggling to find the money to attend school and several times dropping out because of financial difficulties. His parents were both killed when he was young by a rebel group lead by Joseph Kony who calls themselves the “Lord Resistance Army” (LRA). This rebel army is made up of abducted children forced to be soldiers. They have been terrorizing Uganda for the past 25 years but have recently moved into the Congo and Sudan.
Most people whenever I tell them about Invisible Children and the work they do, the first question they ask is “What does this have to do with me”. I try to explain that even though it may not directly affect you or your life, we as human beings should think of ourselves as global citizens and not just Americans or Texans or Dentonites. The kids that are most likely to be abducted by the LRA are as young as 8 years old; what were you doing at 8? Probably playing with friends and just enjoying life. The LRA not only takes these children from their family but they make them do horrific things. Things that people like you and I turn our backs to because it is too gruesome even to hear about.
Francis is one of the lucky ones; he is receiving a quality education and has been given opportunity to make a better life for himself. He is 23 years old, likes Chipotle and Lil Wayne is his favorite rap artist. He is just like anybody else trying to live in the present to make a better future but the difference is in his past. The LRA took so much of his life but he is fighting so that someday in the future no other children will have to see or do the things he has.
So what does Africa have to do with me? Honestly, nothing. I could live my whole life in oblivion and not care about Francis or anything that goes on because of the LRA. I can gobble up my food and enjoy my TV with the money I make at the job I got from having access to an education. I can choose to live in Denton for the rest of my life, raise kids and not live in terror every night of them being stolen from my house and made into soldiers or raped. I could, but I won’t. These atrocities against humanity have continued because so many people do nothing. The truth is you can choose for it to have nothing to do with your life or you can choose to care.
At one point in speaking with Francis he was asked him what he wanted to do after he was done with school. He looked at the crowd like he had known us for his entire life and said “I really want to fight for justice”. Something that seemed so simply to me but incredibly complicated in his reality. Two years ago is when I learned of Africa’s longest running war. I am so thankful for that knowledge and where it has led my life today. Education is a wonderfulthing and I moved to Denton expecting that UNT would teach me the essentials that I needed for my life in the real world. Instead the greater thing it has taught me is not from a book or a classroom but from being given the opportunity to learn about other cultures and letting the knowledge take me to places I never thought imaginable.
What does Africa have to do with Denton and why should you care? Denton is just a city, a city on a map full of other cities, full of people just like you. Denton is only a place and is significant only because you make it so. Uganda is also a city, a city full of people who also believe where they live is significant and full of people who are just like you. They want an education, they want for their children to be safe and they want to live full and happy lives. Francis is just one of those people but if you listen to his story you will understand he is representing so much more. And that “more” is why you should care.