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Uganda native shares war experiences, 'I would have been abducted'

Brooke Mayle/Staff Photographer Gudfrey Opiyo from Northern Uganda shares his story of his life back home to students and faculty Tuesday evening in Pearce.

"What I knew was war, guns and burning villages."

Godfrey Opiyo used these words to introduce himself Tuesday evening to a full Pearce Hall auditorium.

Opiyo, a 27-year-old Uganda native, shared his experiences of growing up in the war-stricken East African nation.

He spoke about life during the 25-year-long war led by rebel group Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

"I lost my father, my brother and three cousins at 5-years-old," Opiyo said. "I recall that night very well — I would have been abducted if I hadn't gone to the bathroom."

Opiyo was visiting Central Michigan University as a part of the Invisible Children Frontline Tour brought by the Invisible Children at Central Michigan University club.

Opiyo said he is taking time away from mentoring children abducted or affected by the LRA in Uganda through the Legacy Scholarship Fund to come to the Midwest. He's working with volunteers from Invisible Children to create awareness of the group and of the LRA's move to Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the surrounding areas.

"There was a good turnout tonight and I'm encouraged to see all of the faces," he said.

The Frontline Tour also showed the film "Tony," a tale of a boy that lives in northern Uganda and has also been affected by the war.

Saginaw freshman Natalie Hill was not familiar with the war before watching the film.

"The film made me cry," Hill said. "It was scary because that's not something that happens here, and it's something I want to help with now."

The club shows one film per semester, said Lindsey Fendt, New Boston junior and Invisible Children at CMU vice president. She said the group also participates in a fundraising through bottle drives, off-campus baked good sales and selling shirts and bracelets.

The club's goal is to raise $7,500 in an effort to help build long-range FM radio towers that help warn villages if the LRA is near.

"Our goal is to help end the 25-year long war in Africa that uses children as child soldiers and sex slaves," she said. "I can't imagine one of my friends going through that."

The Invisible Children at CMU club meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in Pearce 137.