Dina Horwedel

Dina Horwedel
Colorado, USA
October 23
I spent the first 20 or so years of my life spelling my last name for teachers. I always knew that it was my turn for the roll-call when a teacher’s face would contort. My last name was not difficult to pronounce because it is a German moniker that I inherited from my father. My first and middle names came from my mother, who named me after a World War II Italian resistance fighter. I always felt like a square peg growing up in Ohio: huggy in a place where the staid German and English descendants didn’t show much affection; effervescent where most people were quiet; and loving a good party. My Italian family gatherings could be heard several miles away. I always thought I was weird because I was nothing like the people in my town who said Eyetalian instead of Italian; where they made grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta. My grandfather was teased as a boy for eating pizza, which was called “Dago food,” and we were outsiders in a town with no Catholic Church. I spent a summer in high school living in northern Europe. It seemed so familiar… threads of the Germanic culture that were woven into that of my hometown. But I never visited Italy. After I went to college, where for the first time I was exposed to many Eyetalian-Americans outside of my family. Later at a job as a journalist, I was surrounded by Eyetalian-Americans: laughter filled our offices, we lunched, invented, wrote, and dreamed together. After law school, I moved West, then overseas, working in Afghanistan, Africa, and Armenia, in communications and law. I used my overseas work as a launch pad for visiting other countries, and found myself in Italy. I wish I could say it was love at first sight. I fought it at first. I never saw the point of stiletto heels on cobblestones. The echoes of Vespas bounced off of ancient stone buildings like swarms of wasps. But over time Italy seduced me with its fecund culture and the simple mindfulness I felt as I sipped cappuccino or ate and ate and ate some more. For the first time I wasn’t mindlessly scurrying from task to task, but was seeing and tasting and living. I understand why my great-grandfather came to America. There was opportunity for his family during poor times. But after visiting Italy I realized I didn’t have to leave la dolce vita back in Italy. I am learning how to live the sweet life right here in the land of Velveeta.


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 10, 2012 5:40PM

Kony 2012 Unmasked

Rate: 16 Flag

The Kony 2012 video, created by the fundraising group Invisible Children, has gone viral, and has touched a nerve with millions of people around the world.

Unfortunately the video is misleading on many levels and possibly violates the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charities (indeed, the organization has declined review by the BBB, according to the BBB's web site).

The video shows scores of young children traveling from their homes in the bush to the city of Gulu in Northern Uganda to sleep on the streets to escape Kony's marauders. This footage is old and the situation has not occurred in many years. Graphics depicting the movements of Kony’s army make the viewer think the army is huge and the narrator never discusses its size (estimates today say it is comprised of only about 200 or so core members). The video also misleads viewers to believe that there is still a “war” continuing (Kony’s army decamped to the Central African Republic from Northern Uganda where the war had occurred. Today it survives by raiding villages, stealing food, and kidnapping children, but is not at war with any government). Yet there are political and other reasons that are behind the fact that Kony exists to this day that the video never addresses.

I got a glimpse of this reality when I lived in Uganda in 2005-06 with my husband, the journalist and author Peter Eichstaedt. There he worked for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting for Uganda Radio Network alongside Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire. Rosebell is on the ground in Africa and writes on human rights issues, offering the perspective and expertise that only a local journalist has. She offers her expertise in this BBC spot, one of many this week.

While living and working in Uganda, Peter interviewed former child soldiers, Kony’s ex-wives, victims, and traveled to peace talks with Kony, which formed the basis for his book, “First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lords Resistance Army,” a Colorado Book Award-winner in 2009. Peter went on to work with African journalists monitoring human rights abuses in Africa for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Peter Eichstaedt with soldiers waiting for Joseph Kony to arrive at peace talks on DRC and S. Sudan border 

 Peter Eichstaedt and soldiers on DRC and South Sudan border, awaiting Joseph Kony's arrival at peace negotiations.

I tagged along on many of the interviews and journeys. One of the most amazing days of my life was spent talking with eight of “the Aboke girls,” young girls who had been kidnapped from their school in Aboke and dragged into the bush to serve as wives and workers for Kony and his soldiers before they bravely escaped. Their resilience was inspiring.

Today I work in the charity world in the U.S. I believe the Kony 2012 fundraising video is not about providing information about Joseph Kony and The Lords Resistance Army. It is about tugging at human emotions to raise money to perpetuate the organization (check out its Charity Navigator ratings). 

The human impulse to help others is a wonderful thing, but that impulse is abused when disinformation is circulated to raise money by implying that Africans are powerless to help themselves or a situation and donations cannot change it either. This continues the legacy of paternalistic attitudes in a post-colonial world. Issues are rarely as simplistic as they are presented in a video. 

I am not condemning Invisible Children for wanting to stop Joseph Kony. But I do want to urge people to inform themselves about organizations' backgrounds and the issues they support before donating to ensure their money makes a difference. You can check out a non-profit's rankings on Charity Navigator, BBB, and Independent Charities of America. These rating agencies determine how a group ranks with regard to its overhead versus the money it donates to help its constituency; provide independent audits; and determine an organization's commitment to transparency.

I also urge people to give to grassroots organizations with homegrown solutions. These are the organizations that are on the ground, with employees who are living and working and in the communities they serve. They are doing hard, unglamorous work every day, while refusing to compromise the dignity of their people to fundraising for their causes.

There are also great organizations doing good work right here in America addressing great need. The trick is to separate the hype from the reality to determine if your money can match your intentions to do real good. Every donor deserves that.

In the case of Joseph Kony, as with regard to most things in life, things are never as simple as they appear to be.

You can check out Peter’s thoughts about Kony 2012 on his blog.

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A bandwagon traveling at the speed of the web.
Dina: Here's hoping this post can somehow go viral. You raise questions and provide background that most of us never consider in what looks to be a cut-and-dried example of cruelty. Yours is a balanced and sobering reminder that seeing isn't always believing, especially of there's a buck to be made by those providing the images. I would urge folks reading this post to pass it along, post it on Facebook, etc. as the stark reminder that it is. It should also be given an EP, but that can't happen until at least Monday. I'll be messaging Emily on your behalf, for whatever that may be worth. Many thanks.
Thanks Jeremiah! I really want people to think before they give, and research issues and causes thoroughly. Things are rarely black and white. The fact that Kony is a monster is true, but it is also true that a simple video and sending money isn't the solution. The link to Peter's blog and Rosebell's commentary on the BBC show how complex the issue is.
Thanks Jeremiah! I really want people to think before they give, and research issues and causes thoroughly. Things are rarely black and white. The fact that Kony is a monster is true, but it is also true that a simple video and sending money isn't the solution. The link to Peter's blog and Rosebell's commentary on the BBC show how complex the issue is.
I just saw the video and being the daughter of a missionary and having lived in Africa, I see too, there are many misinformed. I am glad I read your post, not being as informed as I thought I was. The atrocities against the African people is their way as horrible as that is, and we can give, as concerned communities, through the right channels, to help save some from their suffering. But sexual slavery and child soldiers is a norm for many African countries. I cringe when I see those who think this is an isolated, one small country problem, it's epidemic. It took me many yrs to understand why my Father said to pray for others, even if we dont know them. I now understand.
Well written post that tells us some of the places we need to look and some of the things we need to think about before jumping on that bandwagon.
Oil reserves were discovered in Uganda. Not long after that, the US announced a new head of Africom.. and introduced a hundred "advisors"... the "Kony" thing is strictly planting a meme in the minds of the Sheeple.
Dina we see the same thing happen time and time again. Much of what was given to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake was given to organizations that did little to help the victims. And I agree that the money should be given to those on the ground doing the dirty work. I also agree that the instinct to give is a great one, but that by giving to this organization rather than a local one does smack of paternalism. However Kony 2012 seems to understand quite well the medium is the message and they have beat that drum for all it is worth. rated congrats on the EP.
Desne, well said. We sure can't argue about IC's sophistication or the medium being the message. Caveat emtpor, however.
I hope word gets out about the Kony 2012 campaign and social networkers adopt more skepticism. [r]
The need to believe that there's a Good Guy in every situation is every strong in Cornball America. There's no Good Guy here. Not a one.

Thanks so much for writing about this issue, Dina. I've worked with child soldiers and bush wives in West Africa, and the impact is indeed tragic. I very much look forward to the day when Kony is turned over to the ICC. Thanks also for the tip on Peter's blog. Best wishes to you both!
Give your money to Oxfam and UNICEF. It's money much better spent for the same purpose.
D- thanks for sharing your very relevant experiences. It's instructive that most Americans haven't a clue about Uganda other than perhaps seeing The Last King of Scotland or for us older folks Garret Morris' 1977 Saturday Night Live Idi Amin impression. (not trying to make light here, I'm serious.)

That said, just getting young people around the world aware of the whole situation is the important thing about this project. Social Media as a phenomena is just getting its legs, pretty soon good people of the world will all be connected and the haters will slowly, or hopefully quickly, die off.

That said, these guys need ZERO donations from anyone. YouTube video hosting is free of charge- so they have no overhead, and videos are no contributed, again freely, from folks all over the world who just shoot them on their phones. The editing software is free. There is simply no reason to donate, only to advance the cause, and to add the info you've added, again, thank you.

Those of you who've never had to deal with "rebels" in a post-colonial country have yet to learn what real fear actually is.

Imua (Onward)
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Agree that Oxfam is a great charity and UNICEF. They also have much greater reach. Awareness is great, but when it is inaccurate awareness, it doesn't do much good.
The Better Business Bureau is a for profit corporation. It receives monies whilst promoting certain businesses it chooses to rate and this is yet another example of how people are often misinformed about facts and fiction.

If anything, the Kony 2012 video gives attention to the ongoings in African nations where it's dangerous to be a child where drug lords and corrupt militia maime, rape and kill children like we do to insects in our landscapes.
Check with www.factcheck.org for additional info on charities, etc.

International/American Red Cross
Doctors Without Borders
Salvation Army
Scottish Rite Hospital
Easter Seals/St. Jude's

20/20's investigation of BBB; there are plenty more available online-google is your friend.
Part of the problem is that we have a system that rewards hype and propaganda more than it encourages good research that is presented to the majority. This is just the latest of similar stories some of which may not be entirely frauds; others include Stones into School by Greg Mortenson, who is almost certainly not as sincere as many of us originally thought and Ismael Beah, who may have relied on memory that has made some mistakes but had good intentions.

Other reporters have done a lot of good work like PW Singer and Jimmie Briggs but they have a hard time getting as much attention. Mortenson is probably the one that received the most attention for his fund raising of these three and did the least.

The problem is that the system isn't set up to provide incentive for the most sincere people; instead it is designed to make it easier for those that are more concerned about making the maximum amount of profit without doing as much to benefit the actual cause.

This doesn't mean that people should stop supporting these causes but they should stop relying on those that spend a lot of money on promotions and in the long term we need to reform the system so that it provides more funding for sincere people that are more concerned with the well being of the majority than with the profits of the people that are often already rich.

Think before you give is excellent and sound advice. Check various sources before you give a charitable organization money or supplies or volunteer time.

Forbes gives a few tips on some global nonprofit groups.

World Vision
Worldwatch Institute
www.guidestar.org lists 1.8 million IRS recognized nonprofits...
Thanks for adding some additional sources for checking out nonprofit organizations.
I would have to respectfully disagree with you on this. In my own blog post, I argue that the critics of "Kony 2012" should not be heeded. Here's why: http://open.salon.com/blog/antonprenneis/2012/03/12/would_the_world_be_a_better_place_without_kony_2012_1
I am looking forward to reading your post, Anton.
I just read Anton's blogpost and this one, which so far seems to have garnered the most comments from readers. I searched the subject out on OS because I just heard someone who sounded like an apologist for African "rebel" movements on BBC, and also because I frankly did have a slightly negative reaction after watching the original Stop Kony video.

I am sure of one thing - there will be from now on be a proliferation of similar viral movements to counter the infinitude of unfairness and atrocities in this sad world. I tend to believe that the LRA is one of the worst and that it would be a good thing to put an end to it. I do not believe that the filmmaker has any greedy motives, and it doesn't bother me if his articulate little son is blond. But in a years time there will be so many demands (not to mention conflicting claims) that the candle may just gutter out.

Belinda and others, thanks for the references. Oxfam is great, UNICEF is good considering it is bureaucratic and topheavy, and if you are averse to mixing religion and humanitarianism, be aware that World Vision is a "Christian organization".
I agree completely about Kony needing to be tried for war crimes at the ICC. Of course, as in many movements (al Qaeda comes to mind or the Taliban), when you kill one snake, another comes to the head to lead it. Ordinary Joe, you bring up an excellent point that I hadn't thought of: donor fatigue. I wonder how long it will take us to become inured to these videos?
Thanks so much for this informative reality check. I will link this to Facebook immediately.
Here is an interesting story that shows Ugandans' reaction to the Kony 2012 video in Lira (an area we visited that was hard-hit by Kony): outrage. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/joseph-konys-victims-aghast-at-white-campaign-20120315-1v495.html