Eliza Dushku's Got a Birthday Charity Mission
Read the interview below, and for more info on the cause and donating, click here!
You have a long personal history of humanitarian work and charity. Your mom taught a class on Ugandand child soldiers and that's how it all began, right?
My mother Judy is a professor of African politics and political science, and she has been going to Africa my whole life, and she'd take groups of students and her kids to Africa on trips. She was actually studying soldiers in the U.S. coming home from war and how PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was impacting them. Because of her teaching, she started thinking about the Ugandan child soldiers who were 8, 9 years old and what that looked like. That's how it all began. She and I went to Uganda and we started to get deeper and hear the stories of these kids who were abducted in the night, forced to kill their family members so they didn't have anyone to come home to. It's the ultimate manipulation where they're taking these kids hostage.
Then we went there and traveled into Gulu ... ended up playing soccer with these kids who now have kids and were impregnated by soldiers in the bush. They're still always in fear of being kidnapped, and we're trying to figure out how you can recover from that. You kill your family, you're raped and then forced to enter back into your community -- how do you recover from that?
So, we're looking to build a center to help them heal through things like art therapy, film therapy. Other things like using sports and putting two child soldiers -- one who had killed the other one's family -- and have them on the same soccer team and have them go back to being kids again. We want to create the center and really focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration into society after coming out of the bush.
Did you always have plans to get involved in humanitarian efforts yourself?
We didn't grow up with no money, but we didn't grow up with a lot of money ... but we traveled with my mom for school, and we got to see all of these situations and economic realities around the world. When you're there first-hand and you see the commonalities we share as humans, people think it sounds cliched but they're our brothers and sisters on this planet. To see them and come home and not try to do what you can to help them out, that wasn't possible for me.
I don't have the money in my pocket to build or complete an initiative, but sharing those stories is what I can do. If I can create any kind of awareness, that's what I can do.
You're establishing yourself almost as the George Clooney of young Hollywood when it comes to raising awareness for causes like this.
I've seen young actors doing extraordinary things. I've been communicating with Alyssa Milano recently and point-blank asked her how to go about fund-raising through Twitter and so forth. I'm still learning about Twitter really. Someone told me I needed to make a hashtag and I was like "I don't know what a hashtag is!" So I said I'd love your help, and other actors too.
And your main goal is to raise $30,000 for the center, right?
Yes, raise $30,000 to buy the land and get the permits and architectural design down. Then we have other requests out to corporations that we can start to build the center and have staffers. The land is $22,000 and we have a number of people on the ground working on this. We need to purchase the land, pay the fees and start building.
Where do you stand right now?
We're at about $9,000 right now. And of course I'm a type-A, so I hit up Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Oprah and a bunch of other celebrities on Twitter. I want to go through it today and write to more! The support has already been tremendous. People have said "I sold my books to get money to donate." We are actually going to auction off a Skype chat on eBay for the causeI know there's I know it's also a hard time for people but we really appreciate everyone's help and support on this.
Aside from this effort, is there anything a little less serious you're hoping for on your 30th birthday?
I'm pretty focused on this, but my little niece and nephews are flying out from Boston on my birthday. My nephew Kyle is 13 years old and to think of my nephew who's 13 and looking at him and trying to imagine his life in Uganda ... it's just always circling in my head and these kids, their innocence and humanity at that age is so incredible to me. That's my birthday wish: To have my niece and nephew come see me.
For more information about donating or to find out more, visit THARCE-Gulu.org.