The walk from Applegate Park to UC Merced won't be anything like the nightly trek of children "commuters" in and around Gulu, Uganda.
In 2005, as many as 40,000 Ugandan children walked from their villages into the town of Gulu and other larger cities each dusk in search of a safe night's sleep.
Overnight abductions were common in rural villages; the nation's leading rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, added nearly 66,000 child soldiers to its ranks through abduction since 1988, according to Resolve Uganda, a nonprofit that promotes peace for the Central African nation.
The night commuting has stopped now, but help is still needed for the country's children who have lived all their years surrounded by death, fear and squalor, said Kieran Hayward, associate director of GuluWalk, a Toronto-based awareness organization.
Uganda is "an area of the world in which children -- and the whole population -- have suffered tremendously for the past two decades, Hayward said. "We want to keep awareness on this issue and focus some pressure on national governments to keep resources -- political and financial -- aimed at this region."
(More than 1.2 million Ugandans lived in displacement camps in 2007, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook.)
A group of UC Merced students is helping the cause.
Student organizers hope their Merced-based GuluWalk, happening this Saturday, will shine a light on some of the world's "invisible children."
"I hope people will learn that there is something bigger than us that is happening in Uganda," said Chelsea Wood, a junior at UC and president of the Invisible Children organization on campus. "And we can do something about it."
Wood has never been to Uganda or met any of the night commuters, but that didn't stop her from pouring countless hours into the event.
She and several dozen other UC students will host a day-long event at Applegate Park that includes a 14-mile walk to and back from campus.
Invisible Children and other student clubs will accept donations at the event, which will help Hayward's organization build a youth center in Gulu, Wood said.
Hayward and the organization's executive director Adrian Bradbury started the walks -- now an international movement -- in Toronto in 2005.
Last October, 30,000 people in 16 countries participated in a local GuluWalk, according to the organization's Web site.
Wood hopes at least 150 Mercedians will turn out for Saturday's event here.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.