Sean Carasso // Falling Whistles
By Alyce Gilligan
December 16, 2009
When Sean Carasso found himself in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he’d already spent time working with a number of social causes, philanthropists, and big names like TOMS and Invisible Children. He was also aware of the violence inhabiting the lush landscape, but the reality of the world’s largest war became personal when he met five young boys who were living a tortured existence in an illegal military prison.
During his visit, he learned that many young children are taken by the Congolese army and sent out in the front lines to meet the rebels—with only a whistle. Too small to even carry an actual gun, their job is to make as much as noise as possible before receiving the first round of fire, their lifeless bodies then serving as a barricade. Heartbroken by this injustice, Carasso poured out his feelings into his journal, then forwarded the entry to friends and family that evening. By the time he left Congo, having successfully worked with the UN to rescue the five boys, the story had already begun spreading around the world.Upon returning home, Carasso struggled with what to do about the innocent bloodshed in Congo. Then one day, a friend placed a whistle around his neck and said, “No matter where you go, make sure you keep those boys alive in your heart.” It was then that Falling Whistles was born.
Just over a year later, Falling Whistles is a quickly growing nonprofit based on this idea: we are all whistleblowers for peace. Their plan is two-fold. They sell whistles, much like the ones worn by the child soldiers, for the purpose of protesting the war in Congo and, as Carasso says, to “use it as a tool to elevate common conversation.” All of the profits from the whistles go toward rehabilitating and advocating for the freedom of children who are victims of the system in Congo. Support has been overwhelmingly positive, and even stores like Fred Segal and Steven Allen have featured Falling Whistles products.
“The peace symbol is impotent because it’s ambiguous,” Carasso says. He believes that we can produce real change when we shift our view from solving the problems of the world at large, and focus our protests on particular purposes, such as with Falling Whistles.
“If we believe that God made us equal and free, if we believe that they are in fact our brothers and our sisters, then we have to live with that burn inside,” Carasso says. “One child enslaved is unacceptable. Anyone who says otherwise has compromised.”
To spread the original Falling Whistles story, purchase your own whistle or donate to their work, please visit FallingWhistles.com.