Friday, March 2, 2012

War Dance & The Patongo Fund

Did anyone read the book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier?  When it came out a few years ago it really put a face on the atrocities people, and especially children, were living through in war torn African nations. Since then, we really have heard a lot more about these rebel forces that form, and effectively carry out their wars using child soldiers that are abducted from their families. 

In the time that has passed since I read the book, I have spent time better informing myself about situations like this around the world. When I was younger, I spent a lot time informing myself and others about issues like this, social issues, environmental issues, and pretty much anything else that touched my life in some way. 

I remember then, because I still hear the excuse now, that there were folks that didn't want to hear any of it because they felt that the issues in their backyard were enough of a reason to ignore the problems anywhere else in the world. No one cause is greater than the other, and no other cause excuses the need to educate ourselves or do something about it. When I reflect on this, I include myself in the group that has no excuse too, because as life takes over, we tend to get wrapped up in whatever it is that we are doing and all the other stuff out there is forgotten. Basically, if it is not your life, you don't always work to change it. 

PBS has this wonderful series, Women War and Peace, that began this past October. One of the films, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, tells about the war in Liberia and how the women of the country moved the peace process along. More important, it really does a great job of showing us why it is important for us to do something about these situations around the world-- because they do touch our lives too, even though you might not even know it.  In Liberia, and these other war torn nations, most of the time peace is only brokered when the rebel leaders themselves, the very men that gave orders to carry out these atrocious crimes for purely selfish reasons, are given some form of power in the new government. These are men that our nation then goes on to recognize as leaders, men that we work with in the future in many different capacities. It does make a difference in your lives folks. 

So what does this all have to do with War Dance and The Patongo Fund? Well, if you have not heard of it, War Dance is an Oscar nominated documentary that follows three children in war torn Uganda. It speaks about the power of music, the idea that there is still hope in the most hopeless situations, and like the children say, even though they are from a war zone, they can do good things. 

War Dance Trailer

Set in Northern Uganda, where the rebel Lord's Resistance Army controls the region and raid villages, killing adults and abducting children, the Patongo School Children, who all live in a refugee camp meant for 5 families but now holding 50,000+ people, amazingly qualify for the National Music Competition. They are up against some stiff competition, but all of them have this incredible drive that you just don't see in children, much less children wanting to compete in a music competition. 

The things they admit to, the things they are dealing with, are really just heartbreaking. You cannot listen to them, because the kids are the ones doing the talking in this film, and think for a second that any of this is okay, that it is for them to deal with because they had the misfortune of being born into a war torn country.  

Even though they are still living in Northern Uganda and still live in a war zone, these children have thrived. After the film came out, The Patongo Fund was established to help the children seen in the film and others still living in the camps. Because music has been so influential in my life, The Patongo Fund is the cause that I will be supporting this month. Monetary gifts are not the only thing needed though, your time and ability to spread their message is also valuable, so please share this with your own friends and blog readers. 

Right now, the entire War Dance film is available for viewing on Hulu. I am not sure how long it will be up, because films come and go on Hulu pretty frequently, so check it out while you can. 

What do you all think? Are these not beautiful children? It's a hard story to tell, harder to hear, but it needs to be told and we need to hear it.