University's Invisible Children Efforts Recognized Nationally

Jan. 26, 2009 -

A campus-wide effort to raise money for Invisible Children, an organization established to aid child soldiers kidnapped and forced to fight in the Uganda conflict, has garnered national recognition for the university.

The campus' student chapter of Invisible Children raised almost $78,000, making the group the second most successful fundraising club in the nation during the fall 2008. About 2,000 schools vied for the honor.

Because of the honor, Redlands student and Invisible Children co-president Ashlee Buczek will be traveling to Uganda this summer to see the work of the organization first-hand. She will be visiting schools built and operated by Invisible Children, as well as meeting with volunteers based in Uganda.

"I have never been to Uganda before and I am so excited,” Buczek said. "I am eager to meet the children and to see them in school, working to make a future for themselves. "

Buczek, as well as co-president and club founder Emily Sernaker, said the organization was able to raise so much money because of widespread support for Invisible Children across campus.

About 200 students are involved in the club, and a number of staff and community members also are active in the club. More than 30 students regularly attend meetings. The club works in some way with each residence hall, sorority and fraternity.

Through the "Change for Change” project, small jars for donating change are placed across campus. The jars can be found on the desks of some administrators and professors, as well as in residence halls and the campus bookstore.

The jars generate about $1,000 a month for the organization.

The club also has a "Compassion Fashion” campaign, where volunteers sew Uganda-shaped patches onto hats. The club makes thousands of the hats a year for the nonprofit to sell while showing film screenings.

Sernaker said the university's fraternities have been particularly supportive of the sewing project.

"They'll call me and ask, ‘Can we have a sewing party while we watch the football game?” Sernaker told the Redlands Daily Facts for an article published Jan. 12.

The club also has organized benefit CDs and concerts featuring university students, who wrote and recorded songs with peace and equality-oriented themes. The club also hosts "parties with a purpose” at the Greek houses and hosts "Care-ioke” events.

One Redlands graduate donated a car that was sold through Hatfield Buick, raising $2,000 for Invisible Children. The Christian non-profit Wellspring International also provided $30,000 in matching funds for the group.

"It was really neat to see the way everyone came together for this cause,” Buczek said.

The university shows a documentary about Invisible Children during freshman orientation.

"Students see the documentary, and they understand that this is a huge movement on campus,” Buczek said. "It gives our club the opportunity to provide students with a way to help.”

Buczek said working with Invisible Children has been a valuable learning experience for her.

"I have learned how to tell the story of these children in a way that can inspire others to get involved and help,” she said. "I have seen changes in many of the people who have become involved. People have told me how this movie has changed their outlook on life – and showed them the importance of school. It is neat to be around a lot of positive and optimistic people that are willing to give it everything they've got.”

As part of the nationwide fundraising competition, Redlands students made a 26-minute film chronicling their fundraising efforts. The film is divided into four segments on the following YouTube links:

Call the Student Leadership and Involvement Center at 909-748-8103 for more information.

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