Invisible Children

Greetings to those of you reading this. This is an important message … one that needs to be passed on. First … some history.

About Me:
My name is Meghan and I am a mentor for team 1568 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (I am finishing up my last year at the University of Rhode Island). This is my first season with FIRST and so far it has been fantastic. I am excited to say that my team has qualified for the championship competition in Atlanta, so for those of you who will be there … see you there.

Point of Post:
There is this crazy awesome thing happening across the country on April 29 (last day of competition) and, as luck would have it, one of the cities in which it is happening is Atlanta. It is called the Global Night Commute. I was going to take part in this in Providence (capital of RI) until my team qualified for Atlanta, so I have decided to still do it, but in Atlanta. What is this event you may ask? Here is some background.

Background of Event:
Basically, a few weeks ago, I saw a rough cut of a documentary called Invisible Children. Three college-aged kids from California went to Africa in 2003 in search of a story, and found one in northern Uganda. There, a civil war has been waged for the past 17 years and the children of Uganda are being conscripted into the guerrilla army. Watching the film was moving and heart wrenching. When asked what we could do to help, all the children responded that what they wanted most was education. Many had dreams of becoming teachers and lawyers and engineers, but did not have the resources to do so. These children are forced to commute every night to the large city of Gulu to sleep in the streets. They do this because they fear being abducted by the guerrilla army in their villages. The children are called Night Commuters. The college students returned from Uganda and took their footage and put together a 55 minute rough cut. A feature film version will be released sometime next year. Their mission now is to simply raise awareness of the subject, and to do so, they have dispatched 7 teams across the country screening the movie to colleges, high schools, churches, community centers … wherever they can. On April 29, all across the country, they have organized what we are calling the Global Night Commute. They are asking anyone and everyone that want to help out these children to grab a sleeping bag and pillow and sleep in the streets. Currently, about 100,000 people have signed up. This is going to happen simply to raise awareness of what is going on.

My Mission:
So, my mission right now, is to try to let every single person who will be at the competition in Atlanta know what is going on

I strongly suggest you check out for more information on the movie, the global night commute, and the movement.

Spread the word!!!

I dont know how to respond to this. Im wondering if you are serious?

The mentors and teachers who travel with their 13 to 19yr old HS students are responsible for their safety. Usually we required our students to be in their rooms by 11 or 11:30PM with the understanding they cannot leave their rooms, or have visitors during the night. Additionally students are not allowed to leave the building the event is held in, unless accompanied by one or more mentors.

You are asking for a huge shift in protocol to let these same students spend saturday night sleeping on the streets of downtown Atlanta with thousands of strangers. I cannot imagine many parents or school officials going along with this in the middle of an official school trip.

Not to be insensitive, but I don’t see how me sleeping in the street is going to help someone in Uganda sleep in a house. If anything, I think it would only help me catch a cold.

the idea is that people who participate in this event will understand what its like for the kids in Africa. Sometimes we cannot empathize with another person until we share a similar experience

its one thing to talk about jumping out of an airplane, but until you jump from one and fall through the atmosphere at 200mph, you will never really know what its like to be a paratrooper.

Once people are able to understand first hand what its like for those kids in Africa, they will be motivated to help them, motivated on a personal level.

I think its a great idea for individuals to participate in at their parents discretion. I’m having a very difficult time fitting this into the scope of a HS robotics team, maybe thousands of miles from home, on a school sponsored trip. Also I cant imagine FIRST being too excited over any notion that this event is piggybacked onto the Championship. FIRST goes to great lengths to ensure the safety and security of the students attending official FIRST events.

I agree this would need to be done with parent’s discretion. I by no means am asking students to sneak away from their hotels. I also realize that for many, due to rules and such, even if they wanted to participate, it is just not feasible. However, for those few who can (such as other mentors who perhaps do not have direct responsibility of looking after students or students who have their parents permission), I simply wanted to let people know what was going on if they wanted to/are able to participate.

Hi Meghan,

I respect your initiative, but what you’re asking is difficult for most teams to accomplish for safety reasons. Many teams fly or drive back Saturday after Awards ceremonies, so ATL will be a hectic place.

May I suggest something else instead?

Make this a point of awareness for your team, or make a booth, or a poster, or a flier, that you can pass around with the url on it, and some background information. Offer it to people as they pass - if they decline, respectfully don’t bother them. If they accept, share what you have learned. Remember, those kids in Uganda want education, but people outside of that situation need education to want to help the situation. I admire you for putting such a commitment in, but in this situation it might be best for you to simply raise awareness by passing out fliers.

Good luck!

  • Genia

Just a little side note: If you do plan to do this, please look up local laws and ensure that it is legal. I happen to know that in my town (Sarasota, FL), that it is illegal for someone to sleep/rest on public property, punishable by jail time/fines.

I looked at the website and found a way to sign-up for the Global Night Commute by city, but no information on where the designated place will be in Atlanta. Do you know where the place is?

I spent several years living in various parts of Atlanta from the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s. I question whether any place downtown could be considered safe for sleeping in the streets. I recall that local laws back in the day prohibited sleeping in the streets. I question whether FIRST could sanction such an activity for anyone participating in the Championship. I’m sure my team would not permit it for any of our students.

I thank everyone for their suggestions and comments. Perhaps I was too hasty and excited about getting my message out to fully think it through. You all brought up very good points about how impractical it is for the students to join, being on a school sanctioned field trip. I would never have been able to do something like this when I was on a high school field trip. All I would like to do now is simply have people visit just to find out what is going on so they are aware. Awareness is the number one priority right now.

Thanks again everyone!

Meghan’s idea to get-involved with the Invisible Children movement is a good one, and everyone on every team should be coming-up with similar ideas on how you can harness the energy of your FIRST team and turn it into social responsive action.

  1. Sure, we all know that this is a “suggestion” and not endorsed by FIRST, etc. It is purely a suggestion & thought.

  2. In Atlanta, I find no references to who may be actually organizing any events except for the following screenings of the “Invisible Children” movie
    – April 24th 2006 Georgia Tech University Georgia 8pm @ Student Center Ball Room
    – April 25th 2006 University of West GA, Atlanta Georgia 8:00 PM at University of GA, Atlanta
    – April 26th 2006 UGA Tate Center Georgia @ 7pm (Georgia Hall)
    – April 30th 2006 Crossroads Church Georgia 5 pm Youth Group

I don’t see anything specific about the actual planned 4/29 sleep-out, but would assume that any FIRST team that cared could VOLUNTARILY join-in this effort, but it’s way outside the scope of FIRST (Plus, FIRST has planned its own party with all the other teams in Centennial Park for the evening of 4/29)…

From their Invisible Children’s web site:
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – March 28, 2006 – On April 29th, thousands of people across the country will take a new approach to ending a devastating war abroad – they’ll take it lying down. Invisible Children Inc., an organization committed to ending the war in Northern Uganda where children are forced to fight as soldiers, has organized a Global Night Commute in 136 cities across the country. “It’s a moral outrage to see thousands of children that have been abducted, that have been maltreated. They are going through the most horrendous torture by the rebel movement and that same group is now being neglected by the whole international community,” said Jan Egeland, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. “I cannot find any other part of the world having an emergency on the scale of Uganda with so little international attention.”. The event promises a wide variety of people from celebrities and legislators to activists and authors. Actress Kristen Bell, from the hit show “Veronica Mars” heard about Invisible Children through co-star Ryan Hansen. “Invisible Children is not only an inspiring movement, but it has forced me to act,” said Kristen Bell. “On April 29th you’ll find me in the streets Night Commuting.”

  1. BUT…More importantly, this could be something that you want to take-back to your own home town and plan-out some involvement in this program or something similar (e.g plight of homeless families). Do your homework on how to participate in an event safely and legally. Do your participation in a way that contributes to the goals of FIRST and gracious professionalism.

BEST OF ALL…Just go for it and keep these ideas coming!

ps: Meghan, thanks for bringing this to my attention, I went to their web site and donated funds for one of their bracelets and DVD… :rolleyes: