Here's a very happy story, which not only highlights the determination of three young men, but can be a lesson for all of us about the power of social media.
In 2003, three young men from California travelled to Africa. Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole were three young film makers with a social conscience, some film equipment, a tiny budget and a huge imagination. They returned with some rough footage and a story that they were determined to tell.
The war in Uganda is by far the most under-reported humanitarian crisis in the history of mankind. It is Africa's longest running civil war, the result being that approximately 1.6 million people have been displaced and put into IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. This suits both the government of Uganda who covets the land held by the Acholi people and the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army), who are determined to overthrow the government. The LRA is run by a brutal madman named Joseph Kony who is responsible for the kidnapping of tens of thousands of children (the estimates range from 25,000 to 50,000) and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.
The result of this conflict is that the Acholi people had no voice, which is why few westerners had even heard of this conflict. Jason, Bobby and Laren were determined to give them a voice. Returning to the States, they put together a film called Invisible Children: Rough Cut. Through the power of the internet, social networking and hard work, the word spread into a social movement with screenings taking place at parties, school classrooms, youth groups and anywhere where young people can be found. Thousand of school children in the U.S. and Canada began raising money to help rebuild schools in Uganda and actively try to interact with their peers inside Uganda.
Maybe I will blog about this more later, but the short version of the story is that the Ugandan government knew that the eyes of the world were upon them now, and soon peace talks began. The night commuters (children who had to walk for miles every night to finds a safe place to sleep) could go home, knowing that their plight was known outside of their country.
Through the power of social media, Invisible Children just won the one million dollar Chase Community Giving Prize on January 23. This was a facebook application where facebook users could vote for their favourite charity.
I will just reprint this from the Invisible Children blog
Last night, at 8:59pm, Invisible Children won $1 Million Dollars in the Chase Community Giving Facebook competition. It was a week long competition, and it came down to the wire. IC won with 123990, and the second place Isha Foundation had 122742. Not only that, but Isha was gaining on us by 300 votes every 5 minutes. If the competition had been 30 minutes longer... we would have lost.
As you can imagine, when 9:00 PM hit with us in the lead, tears burst out and we all leapt in the air screaming with our already hoarse voices! The screaming and dancing didn't stop for hours.
We are forever indebted to everyone of you. You called your friends, you tweeted, you put up with our barrage of facebook comments and updates, notes, tagged pictures, blast emails. We pulled out every stop and every favor. And YOU guys did it. Every one of you that responded, even if you did it out of fear that some intern was going to call you again, YOU did it!
We love and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. And we will walk you all through every penny of this money. We will prove that Invisible Children was the best charity to steward this money to maximum impact. And we are very blessed to now be able to help Haiti in this time of tragedy in such a major way.
Again, endless and humbled thanks.