Sean Carasso didn’t set out to be a peace activist. He just wanted to travel. So he went with Tom’s Shoes to Africa, gave away some footgear, then headed into the wild. He ended up in what may be the worst place on earth–the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a civil war has been waging for the past 13 years and more than 6 million people have been slaughtered. That’s where he met 5 boys who had just escaped two of the rebel armies.
The boys were all under 15 and had been abducted from their homes, beaten, starved, and forced to fight and kill. As the child soldiers told Sean the stories of what they had been coerced to do, his horror grew – until he heard the story of the whistleblowers.
The youngest boys in the rebel army who were not big enough to hold a gun were simply sent out to the front lines of battle with a whistle to scare the other side. Their little bodies were routinely caught in the crossfire and riddled with bullets – and they’d be shot from behind if they tried to flee. When Sean heard this story his heart broke open in a way from which he’s never recovered. And quite frankly, he doesn’t want to.
That night in the Congo, he sent out an email that was so powerful and full of rage, anger, resolution and brotherhood that it was passed along virally to tens of thousands of young people – and when he came back to America, he had a peace movement on his hands, and the symbol over his heart. His friend Marcus had given him a whistle on a chain and said, ‘No matter where you go, keep those boys in your heart.”
Two years later, Falling Whistles is a full-blown, grassroots coalition of young people who are absolutely committed to demanding peace in the Congo. “It’s a matter of public will– the tools are there, the legislation is there, but we are the ones who have to demand peace and make it happen,” says Carasso.
So he’s been on a 240-event tour to 35 cities, meeting college kids, organizing teams of volunteers, and building a deep and robust social networking and marketing campaign to reach, educate, and activate the passion of young people in developing serious initiatives for building peace in the Congo. And everywhere they go, they leave whistles behind.
Carasso and his team are smart, serious as hell, and creative phenoms– putting remarkable installations about the Congo in 83 of the best store chains in America, holding cool fundraisers with top brand names to captivate young people, and using the web, film, and viral networking to create a groundswell of protest – and make the government sit up and take notice. His goal is to pressure the White House, United Nations and international community to stop the war – and he’s not about to go away until the fighting stops.
While all proceeds from sales of whistles go to support the rehabilitation of 267 war-affected children in northeast Congo, to restore their lives and prevent them from falling back into violence, Falling Whistles also works with visionary community leaders to create Congolese-envisioned, Congolese-operated and Congolese-led partnerships that will sustain life after the war, and rebuild shattered communities.
These young people are on fire to end this vile war, and I can do nothing less than offer my wholehearted, whistle-blowing support. To rise up, stand up for peace… click here to get your whistle, then put your lips together and blow.