News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

These 'roadies' are traveling cross-country showing the documentary 'Invisible Children' around the South. From left, Will Boyd of Huntsville, Lauren Henke of Dallas, Matt Meyer of Newport Beach, Calif., and Kathryn Shuping of Charlotte, N.C.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
These "roadies" are traveling cross-country showing the documentary "Invisible Children" around the South. From left, Will Boyd of Huntsville, Lauren Henke of Dallas, Matt Meyer of Newport Beach, Calif., and Kathryn Shuping of Charlotte, N.C.

Invisible Children
Documentary shows heartbreak, hope of children in Uganda and effects of war

By Danielle Komis · 340-2447

Young people can change the world.

After watching the documentary "Invisible Children," you'll be convinced of that.

In 2003, three college students from California traveled to Africa in search of a story. They found a horrifying one in Northern Uganda, where children were being ripped from their homes and forced to fight as soldiers.

The film that resulted from their trip, "Invisible Children: Rough Cut," shows the effect of a 20-year war on Uganda's children, and manages to be funny, heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time.

Thanks to the work of young Huntsville and Decatur natives, the much-discussed documentary came to Huntsville last week as part of the film's 2007 tour. A group of about 100 people gathered on The University of Alabama in Huntsville campus to watch the film that has made waves globally.

Decatur native Tracey Sykes, along with her boyfriend, Vandiver Chaplin II, and his sister, Sarah Chaplin, were responsible for bringing the movie to North Alabama as part of Invisible Children's Deep South tour.

"It's something all three of us feel very passionately about, so we were willing to abandon our social lives for a while to make it happen," Sykes said.

The filmmakers originally screened the film for family and friends in June 2004, and it soon spread to high schools, colleges and places of worship. In September 2004, the nonprofit Invisible Children Inc. was created to raise awareness and help the children of Uganda.

Last year, when Sykes first learned about the situation in Uganda on television, she was floored.

"I saw it and I was just rooted to the spot," she said. "As kids we all have these scary images in our heads of monsters under the bed or whatever it is. With these kids their monsters are real and they really do have to run from them every night and they don't get to wake up from that dream."

Huntsville native Will Boyd, one of four "roadies" on the Deep South tour, also was struck by the injustice and tragedy of the situation in Uganda after his friends loaned him the "Invisible Children" DVD. The film "destroyed me," he said.

When he found out the filmmakers coincidentally went to his church in San Diego, he was shocked. He said he had heard of Invisible Children and seen people wearing the T-shirts, but had assumed the name referred to a band.

He quickly got involved and committed to being a part of the film's 2007 World Tour.

The tour consists of 50 roadies like Boyd, most of them in their 20s or early 30s, driving vans cross-country from the organization's base in San Diego, showing the film as many times as they can along the way.

The roadies bring a hipness to nonprofits and dress in trucker hats with an outline of Africa on them, fitted Invisible Children T-shirts and jeans. They have no set sleeping arrangements for the four-month tour and are given only a small food stipend — all for the sake of raising awareness and mobilizing the masses.

Their message is aimed at the youths of America, which is a demographic largely overlooked by nonprofits because it's been assumed that young people have no money or power, Boyd said.

"For so long people have been told, you're too young, what skills do you have, what power do you have?" he said. But Invisible Children realizes how untrue that is, he said. Ninety percent of the organization's donations are $20 or less.

"We recognize that we (young people) are the culture of America in many ways," Boyd said. "We decide what we want to listen to, watch and what we wear ... We're a bunch of kids changing the world, and we believe we can."

Want to see the film?

In Huntsville: More showings of “Invisible Children: Rough Cut” will be soon at UAH, minus the roadies, though dates have not been set. Contact Michelle Davis at for more information.

Book it: If you are interested in booking an “Invisible Children” screening with the roadies, they may be able to squeeze in a couple more places in the area. Contact Courtney Hurst at to set up a date and time.

Buy it: Visit the Invisible Children Web site at to purchase a DVD for $20.

Local chapter

An orientation session will be Wednesday night at 7 in the University Center lobby on the UAH campus for anyone in the North Alabama area interested in being part of a local Invisible Children chapter. Contact Michelle Davis at for more information.

How to help

To donate to Invisible Children, buy a DVD of the film, purchase a bracelet and other merchandise, or find out more about other projects and events the organization is heading, visit or

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