By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Lending a voice to the 'invisible'

Photos by Jason Redmond / Star staff: Invisible Children President Jamie Mynatt, left, hands out a bag of mistletoe to Jane Yoshimoto during the student group's lunch meeting at Simi Valley High School last week. The group is selling the holiday decoration to raise money. Invisible Children is a worldwide organization that raises awareness about the child victims of the 21-year-long war in Uganda.

Nonprofit seeks to help the children of Uganda

Seventeen-year-old Jamie Mynatt will never forget the first time she learned about Invisible Children, a worldwide organization that raises awareness of the 21-year-long war in northern Uganda between the Lords Resistance Army and the Ugandan government.

"The worst part about this war is that the LRA abducts children ages 5 to 14 and makes them their child soldiers," said Mynatt of Simi Valley, a senior at Simi Valley High School. "Invisible Children is trying to get the United States government to help out and bring peace to this region."

With that, Mynatt got involved with Schools For Schools, an organization within Invisible Children in which campuses around the country raise money to help build schools in northern Uganda.

As the founder and president of a new club on campus dedicated to the cause, "I decided to start Schools For Schools at Simi High because even though peace talks have been going on in Uganda, when the war is over what is going to happen to all the kids? That's where we come in, providing books, supplies and even schools for these kids to get an education and make something of their lives."

The club has about 60 members who meet on Wednesdays during lunchtime.

"It's exciting to see students take an active role in their school and community, as well as global issues," said Principal Steve Pietrolungo. "Jamie is very dedicated and passionate about this endeavor and has done an outstanding job getting her fellow classmates involved."

Andrew Cohen, 17, said the club is important because "a life is a life no matter where it exists. What I hope to achieve at the end of the year is to bring hope and aid to the heartland if Uganda."

The inspiration for Invisible Children began in the spring of 2003, when three young filmmakers from Southern California traveled to Africa in search of a story. Their filmmaking adventure became much more meaningful when they discovered a tragedy where children are both the weapons and the victims. After returning to the States, the filmmakers created "Invisible Children: Rough Cut," a documentary that exposes the tragic realities of northern Uganda's night commuters and child soldiers.

The film, originally shown to friends and family, has since been seen by millions of people, and the overwhelming response has been, "How can I help?" To answer this question, the nonprofit Invisible Children Inc. was created, giving compassionate individuals a way to respond to the situation.

When Erin Davis saw the movie for the first time, it touched her heart.

"I really think that if enough people care, we can make a difference," said Davis, 17, club vice president. "I just don't think anyone deserves to go through what these kids go through. I want the children of Uganda to be able to go to sleep at night feeling safe and looking forward to what tomorrow brings."

Invisible Children is unique, Mynatt added, because "I, along with hundreds of others, had never even heard about this war all money donated or raised for Invisible Children is nonprofit, showing that all efforts are going to the children in this war-torn area."

Mynatt first heard about Invisible Children from her brother, Corey, who watched a documentary about the organization in one of his classes.

Inspired to learn more, she did her own research and got involved in projects and events that support the group.

"What the LRA does is take kids from their homes and brainwash them into thinking that killing is a good thing and that they're supposed to be doing it," Mynatt said. "The things that happen to these kids are horrible and people should know about it."

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