Thursday, July 20, 2006

Africa Project Picnic

Via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Events Calendar:
To fund their support of the children affected by the war in Uganda, The Africa Project of the Thomas Merton Center is holding its first International Soccer & Family Fun Day Picnic.

The event includes food, African dancers, drummers, and ongoing soccer games. Recent stories, drawings, and videos collected from former child soldiers in Uganda will also be shared at the picnic located at the Oval in Schenely Park. $5 suggested donation.
The Africa Project is the result of my friend Peter's hard work on behalf of the children of Northern Uganda. He's always been good about keeping me informed about opportunities to help out, but somehow I never manage to. I'm sure to attend the picnic, and I hope if you're in the Pittsburgh area you'll consider stopping by The Oval Pavillion this Saturday afternoon (July 22).

I was looking for a picture of Schenley Park at Flickr to use with this post. Searching for 'Schenley Park" I happened upon Daniel Weeks" amazing set of Kite Aerial Photographs (KAP) in and around Pittsburgh. The idea of KAP astounds me and some of the shots of the city are quite cool. Weeks provides pictures and descriptions of his equipment and there are sets of KAP taken elsewhere.

The news from Northern Uganda has been coming fast as furious for the last few weeks. The Lord's Resistance Army has entered into peace talks with the government of Uganda. I've been following the news, but am loathe to comment much recognizing the complexity of the issue. A very good collection of news stories about the developments can be found at The Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN)Web site. Click on the July archives for more.

"Wear a bracelet and unite with the Invisible Children." That link goes directly to The Invisible Children bracelet campaign site and there's a short video about the bracelets. If you haven't heard by now Invisible Children is a documentary film about the night commute thousands of children make in Northern Uganda to sleep in the relative saftey of Gulu. The children sleep by the thousands in basements of public buildings, depots and the like, because they fear abduction by the LRA in their home villages. The film is quite moving and if you haven't seen it consider buying the DVD and sharing it with others.

The filmmakers were so moved by the making of the film that they've committed to doing something good for the children of Northern Uganda. That pleases me to no end, but what amazes me stuck in the dinosaur analog era is the way they are using digital technologies to connect people with the children there. The bracelet project is another in a line of interactive ways to address the suffering in Northern Uganda. Each bracelet is a different color and comes with a DVD of a short film telling the story of a real live child in Uganda. In a way the filmmakers have found a way for the audience to participate in the way the story comes out. You can make a difference. Wow these guys are on to something, check out the Web site Invisible Children.

There are many good organizations involved in the issue of child soldiers. Just typing "child soldiers" sends a pang through my heart. I'm sad to admit I've done little. Here's a link to the War Child International Network worth visiting if only to understand that child soldiers are not unique to the LRA in Northern Uganda.

One of the reasons I'm so eager to attend the Africa Project picnic is to meet some of the young people here in Pittsburgh who are trying hard to make a difference there. There really is power in networks. I think we all can find ways to contribute our unique talents to very honorable efforts. It's never been easier to do. We don't have to be millionares, many worthwile efforts don't require giving money. A very good example is Malaria a computer modeling effort for malaria control. You may have heard of other volunteer computing projects. The idea is that certain problems are so complex they require enormous computing resources. Super computers aren't a dime a dozen, nor are there enough of them to be used for such projects. So volunteer computing is based on the fact that people's personal computers are idle most of the time. A simple computer program allows people to volunteer their computing resources in a giant network for solving complicated modeling projects. It's quite easy, no skin off your back, to help in such a way.

The Africa Project Picnic should be fun. There will be food and the suggested donation is only $5. Hope to see you there. I'll be sure to bring along a stack of Bazungu Bucks to give away. You never know when a Bazungu Buck will come in handy.

Update: I guess I have to be qicker on the draw. The Malaria Control project now has enough computers for their project. However there are other similar projects which you can find out about at the BOINC homepage or wiki.

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