Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Voice Project support Ugandan effort to bring child soldiers home

Singing The Soldiers Back Home

The Voice Project launches to support Ugandan women’s groups who are using music to bring the child soldiers home - Featuring Andrew Bird, Mike Mills, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Joseph Arthur, Joe Purdy, Dawes, SoKo & many more to come...

The Voice Project a US based non-profit supporting the women of Northern Uganda who have been using music effectively to bring soldiers home from Africa’s longest running war, the 24 year old conflict that has devastated the region of Northern Uganda, Congo, Southern Sudan and CAR.

Many soldiers fighting with Joseph Kony's LRA were abducted as children and forced to fight. Many were made to kill their own friends and family, and while many do eventually escape, they often hide in the bush ashamed and afraid to come home because of what they were made to do.

Women in the region, widows and rape survivors, have been banding together into groups to care for each other and the orphans left by the war. Often without the right to even own land, these women have been taking a lead role in the Peace and Reconciliation efforts, one of their main tools: using messages carried in songs spread on the radio and by word of mouth into the bush to let the soldiers know that they are forgiven and that they should come home. And it's working. Soldiers have been hearing the songs and coming home.

Considering the atrocities the women have been subjected to, this is clearly not only one of the greatest uses of music, but also one of the greatest acts of compassion, love, and forgiveness one can find. Co-Founder Hunter Heaney first heard of the women’s efforts and how they were using music to call the soldiers home while working at an IDP camp (Internally Displaced Persons) in the tiny village of Agoro on the Uganda/Sudan border in 2008. He learned the women’s songs from different groups in the region and when they asked him to teach them some, the first one to come to mind was Joe Purdy’s “Suitcase.” Heaney brought the story of how the women were using music home with him, telling friends like music producer Chris Holmes and filmmaker Anna Gabriel.

Together they assembled a team of friends like Internet entrepreneurs Kelleigh Faldi and CC Lagator, Web Developer Jason Young, Nicole Grable from the NGO world, and music industry veterans like Jay Sweet, Andrea von Foerster and Ana Calderon, and together started The Voice Project to support the women.

The story was passed to Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros who offered to combine the record release party for his new band’s debut album Up From Below with the project to raise money for the ladies. The money was used to start a small farm in Gulu. The women celebrated and sent their thanks in song, a phone call to Heaney singing the Joe Purdy tune he had taught them nine months before, and a short video of them singing the chorus to Edward Sharpe’s “Home” which has been making its way around the Internet.

From there, the idea for the “cover chain” was born. Taking the lead from the women in Uganda, the friends decided to keep the chain going and have artists pass on the story of the women to other musicians by each covering another’s song, with The Voice Project team filming each link as a series of episodes that would eventually circle back around to the women in Uganda, posting each online and raising money along the way from sponsors, advertisers and donors to support the women, the peace movement, and rehabilitation programs for former child soldiers.

Episodes featuring Andrew Bird, Mike Mills, Dawes, Joseph Arthur, Tom Freund, Joe Purdy and SoKo have already been shot and posted, with upcoming links from Peter Gabriel, Devendra Banhart, The Submarines, Bedouin Clash and many more on the way. A number of non-profits have also been getting behind the project in hopes of raising awareness and support for the war-torn region, including Oxfam International, Witness, HOPE and others.

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Peter Eichstaedt said...

For an in-depth look at Joseph Kony and the LRA, see the book, First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Khakjaan Wessington said...

Return From the Mainland [Today's News Poem March 28, 2010]
“LRA combatants specifically searched out areas where people might gather — such as markets, churches, and water points — and repeatedly asked those they encountered about the location of schools, indicating that one of their objectives was to abduct children. Those who were abducted, including many children aged 10 to 15 years old, were tied up with ropes or metal wire at the waist, often in human chains of five to 15 people.”
--Arthur Bright, Christian Science Monitor, March 28, 2010
“One girl refused to have sex with her assigned rebel and she became an example to the others. As the other children watched, she was beaten to death. To magnify the horror of the “execution,” the other children were forced to beat the child’s dying body... Frequently, some of the abducted children were forced to participate in unspeakably barbaric rituals involving the bodies of slain combatants. These cannot be described here.”
–MIKE HINKLE The Edmond Sun

“And every time I neared a nervous lapse,
I thought of you; regained my urge to fight.
The boy was one of many native traps:
A spell they cast to gull the few who right
The awfulness of murder—it's obscene.
I testify his death was fair and clean.”

“The zombie myth we tell is not a lie.
Our lovely children: fear their vicious ways—
With wickedness a golden age did die.
This platform on the sea is home to praise
Of clans and nurture. Faith is never lost
If innocence survives—and damn the cost!”

“The books before the fall refer to crimes
In distant lands. The citadels of wealth
Ignored the spreading plague until the times
Infected them, by means of cunning stealth:
And every murder they allowed, a prayer
That God abandon us: why should it care?

The boy was only twelve, like some of you.
He had a gun, but also had a tome:
A bible book, I saw he'd read it through.
I buried him at sea—he sleeps in foam.
I needed self-redemption, some small act
To show I know that any death detracts

From every living being that loves to grow:
I buried him for me and not for show.”