'It's Time This Generation Steps Up'

Young American filmmakers with a second-hand camera bought off of eBay made a documentary that has turned into a youth-driven effort to help the orphaned children of Uganda.  The humanitarian effort received spotlight treatment from NBC's June 10 Nightly News.

Coming off the turgid weekend press coverage of Paris Hilton's roller coaster ride back to jail, the story of unknown filmmakers using a movie camera to make a real, positive difference in the world was refreshing. 

The NBC story highlighted the efforts of three young men who traveled to Uganda in 2003 to document the plight of thousands of Ugandan orphans displaced by war who sometimes walk miles just to find a safe place to sleep.

Their film, Invisible Children, has resonated with American audiences.  The NBC story, reported by John Larson, focused on the grassroots, largely youth-driven effort called “Change the World” that the film launched.

Larson:  “Four years later their documentary has spawned a youth movement with up to 100 volunteers, bracelet businesses, a national effort to hook up American and Ugandan high school kids over the Internet, all to raise money to build 10 Ugandan schools, all accomplished mostly by young people.”

Filmmaker Bobby Bailey said, “It's time this generation steps up and starts making a legacy of its own.”  Co-producer Jason Russell said, “They see it, they cry. Then they get angry and hopefully that turns into action. … They've gone out and they've said, 'we want to see change and we're not going to give up.'”

Footage of the Change the World operation included in the story featured dozens and dozens of young people, manning phones, filling orders and proactively engaged in the effort.  The contrast of the news footage of Paris Hilton crying in a police car could not be starker. 

Perhaps if there were more coverage of the efforts American youth are making through organizations like Change the World, more young people would stop idolizing celebrities just because they are rich and famous and would start idolizing real heroes, like the ones featured on Nightly News June 10.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.