Monday, May 23, 2011

Whistleblowing of a Different Sort

Meant to post this Thursday but, well, obviously I didn't. The weather's been horrendous again of late - seven straight days of cold and damp and rain and occasional thunder and lots and lots of pain in my automail.

However, I'm still going to work, which is fine, because I love my job, and my coworkers are super nice about this pain crap.

I get to meet a lot of fascinating people at work. The neat thing about working where I do is that many of our customers are genuinely supportive of the whole fair trade movement, of which Ten Thousand Villages was actually the founding organization. And when you're interested in one bit of social activism, it's very common to also be interested in others.

On Thursday I was chatting with a new customer, whose appearance I remember mostly for two reasons. One was because I quite liked her striking red hair. The other was because she wore a whistle around her neck, which I thought was a little strange, so I asked her about it. It looked vaguely antique, so I thought maybe it had sentimental value.


"It's from Falling," she said.

"Okay, so what is that?"

What, indeed.

The Congo, which is one of the countries from which we sell handcrafts at Ten Thousand Villages, is the home to the deadliest war raged on this planet since World War II. More than six million people have died so far. Arguably worse, children are taken from their families and forced to serve either in the National Army or one of the rebel factions.

What does this have to do with whistles? Well, the youngest and smallest of the boys taken into the fighting aren't able to hold guns. So they're given whistles instead, and placed on the front lines. They blow the whistles to startle the enemy into attacking...and then take the first blows. So they are quite literally sent into the fight with the expectation that they will die. If they try to run, they are shot from behind.

Falling Whistles is trying to spread the awareness of this situation by selling whistles. As my new acquaintance explained, you purchase a whistle; the money helps them to continue their mission of working for peace in the Congo; and then you wear the whistle and use it to share the relatively unknown story of the whistleblowers' fate. "As I've just done with you," she concluded.

The entire movement, incidentally, came about because of someone writing. Sean Carasso, who describes himself as a "vagabond scribe," wrote a very emotional journal entry about his experiences meeting five rescued child soldiers and what he learned from them. The entry is on the site (click the "Story" link at the top of any page) and I defy you to read it with a dry eye.

Want a whistle of your own? Order them from the website. They're available in original silvertone, copper, gunmetal, brushed metal, bronze, or limited edition gold. Each whistle comes with the original Falling Whistles journal, to help you share the story. They range in price from $34 to $104. You can also use the retail locator to find stores near you which sell the whistles on behalf of the organization. Of course, as with most any registered nonprofit, you also have the option of making a tax-deductible donation - one time or on a recurring basis. And to keep up on the latest news from this important peace effort, be sure to follow the assorted blogs on the website.

My acquaintance at the store (who may or may not ever read this, I don't know) became exactly what everyone who purchases a whistle or otherwise supports the cause is asked to become: "a whistleblower for peace." She told me about it. Now I've become one too, because I've told all of you.

Your turn.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Photo contest! Check it out! (These are mine.)