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Club raises $17,000 for refugees

Newport Harbor students are part of nationwide drive to help build schools for displaced children in northern Uganda.

May 11, 2007|By Michael Miller

McKenzie Feitler has an idea — a slight one, anyway — of what it's like to be a displaced person.

The Newport Harbor High School senior is a member of her campus' Invisible Children Club, which seeks to raise funds for children in war-torn northern Uganda. Recently, she and a group of classmates spent the night at the Los Angeles Fairgrounds in a mock refugee camp — creating shelters out of cardboard and subsisting on water and saltines.

"I came home and said, 'I never want to be displaced again!' And I'd only been doing it for 24 hours," Feitler, 18, said. "They've been doing it for 21 years."

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Soon, a group of Newport Harbor students may get an even closer look at one of the world's most blighted areas.

Invisible Children, a San Diego-based nonprofit, has called on school clubs nationwide to raise money to build schools in northern Uganda, where a civil war has raged for more than 20 years.

The club that raises the most for each Ugandan school will get to send a small group of students to help with construction. Newport Harbor, which is assigned to gather funds for Sacred Heart Secondary School, is in the lead with more than $17,000 — and it has two more fundraisers to go before the submission deadline on Wednesday.

"We're here, basically, at the top of the world" in America, senior Brian Siemonsma, 17, said. "We have so much money, and a lot of the time, we don't even look at the people who don't have anything."

Thanks to the Invisible Children Club, led by social studies teacher Keira Kirby, a lot more people are noticing. The club has held three screenings of the 2003 documentary "Invisible Children: Rough Cut," including a special one on campus for parents, and has hosted a benefit concert and other fundraisers.

When senior Brittany Deyan founded the club in February, it had about 12 members; since then, more than 100 students have joined.

The club has planned a dance for 8 tonight at St. Andrew's Church in Newport Beach, followed by a fundraising dinner Monday at the Beach Pit BBQ in Costa Mesa.

Sarah Shreves, the office manager for Invisible Children, said the efforts of Newport Harbor and other schools had far exceeded her expectations.

"The kids are definitely pushing through," she said. "It's insane to see how many have gotten involved."


  • MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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