On the Frontlines of Advocacy

Maggie Leahy and Ben Keesey
Photo by: Yeon Hwang

“What do you care about? What do you actually care about? Not what you should care about, not what anyone else says you care about, but what you actually care about?”

In Ben Keesey and Maggie Leahy’s cases what they care about is saving masses of children from Joseph Kony’s child abducting army. For you that may be the environment, war in Gaza, feminism, poverty, incurable disease, animal rights; it could be anything, whether it directly affects you or not. But if you care about it, if you honestly feel that you will deeply regret having not contributed to this cause because your moral conscious will nag you for the remainder of your life and you ask yourself, “what should I do,” the answer is always “you must act”, Ben Keesey, from a place of experience, advised the audience, “When you are worried about what your parents will say, what your teachers will say and what your future will look like, have the courage to say yes.”

“At 21 I left a very successful job to move into my parents house because I had no where else to live. My parents were worried for me.” As the current CEO of Invisible Children. Inc, a non-profit organization that has produced massively positive results in relation to the Kony crisis, using innovative defection promotion methods, with a 93% reduction in killings and the Kony army reduced to less than 10% of its original size, Ben Keesey is an unquestionable authority on the benefits of giving your all to a cause.

Yet, with all the wonders his company has accomplished, it has not always been an uphill ride for Invisible Children. “There will be times when you will be massively depressed and frustrated but you have to stand by what you believe in, through the good and the bad.” A study Keesey mentioned proved that the leading characteristic that correlates with leadership is not charisma or intelligence or creativity, but the ability to persevere through pain.

When KONY 2012 was released, it gained 100 million views in 6 days while the company was little more than 40 strong with a PR team of a single intern. It was difficult at first, especially with all the controversy surrounding the film, as their founder can attest to, but they finally decided that “Nothing will speak louder than results”, and that’s exactly what they went out and got. With more and more defectors from Kony’s army finding their way back home, spurred on by their escaped comrade’s radio messaging and fliers, there is a nally a real possibility that the Kony army will disperse forever in the very forseeable future.

But they did not do it alone. They organized demonstrations and protests and kept on fighting until, a few months after KONY 2012 was released, Jacob, the child who was featured in the film, got to wear a suit for the first time, speak in congress and become the first person to ever testify against Kony, one of the proudest moments of Ben Keesey’s life, as he was a part of the initial team that first found Jacob when he was 11 and attempting to leave Kony for a better future. Less than a year after that, Keesey got to shake hands with Barack Obama, “I walked in and said ‘Hi Mr. President, I’m Ben Keesey’ and I was like yeah! I got my name right!” Invisible Children are people who all believe in doing what’s right and they have inexplicably proved that, “When the people lead, the leaders follow”.

Motivated by the desire to share his experience and drive for avocation and action, Ben Keesey finished his talk by reminding the audience of where they were (the QLC). “You have the opportunity, especially within the next day and a half, to meet new people from all kinds of different and novel cultures. We have a saying at Invisble Children that we like a lot: Be where you are.” So, delegates, keep learning and trying and acting and learning again, repeat the cycle and never stop thinking, never stop acting, never stop striving for what you believe is right because, as Ben Keesey reiterated, “a rote of service where you are looking out for each other and humanity is the highest possible calling.”

 And if you really don’t know what your heart of hearts believes in, get involved with something; anything! You will find your passion. Get involved, in fact, with invisible children, right here in Qatar by going to www.give.invisiblechildre.com/qatar.

 

Written by Anisha Pai