In the war-torn regions of Congo, Africa, boys who are too young to carry a gun are deployed to the frontlines of battle carrying only a whistle to alert the rest of the soldiers if opposing troops are advancing.
More than 7,000 miles away, in Fort Collins, a group of CSU students are carrying their own whistles to give these boys a voice.
â€œWe view their weapon as a protest, and wear it as an item that gets talked about and raises awareness,â€ said Brittany Lynn Ricketts, a junior pre-landscape architecture major and a member of the CSU Whistler Society.
The Whistler Society, which was started this year by senior apparel merchandising major Laura Schmalstieg, is an extension of Falling Whistles, a national organization aimed at selling hand-made, vintage whistles to benefit relief efforts in Congo.
Falling Whistles was founded by Sean Carasso, an American who was visiting Congo during what he thought was a short detour from other philanthropic efforts. After hearing the stories of the whistle-blowing children in Congo, he was inspired to write a diary entry that eventually led to the creation of Falling Whistles.
Schmalstieg and Ricketts created CSUâ€™s chapter after a chance meeting with Carasso. This meeting led them to recruit friends and other activists on campus to join the organization.
â€œWhat was inspiring about Carasso was that he used his passion to make a real difference,â€ Schmalstieg said. â€œAnd I think that itâ€™s important to make the campus more aware, and to realize how lucky we are to have what we have.â€
The society, which currently has 10 members, hosted a benefit concert on Sunday night at Hodiâ€™s Half Note, and in between whistle and ticket sales, raised more than $1,200 for Congo.
Tonight, the Whistler Society will be at the Fashion Group Internationalâ€™s â€œRecycled Fashion Show,â€ to hopefully sell more whistles to benefit the organization.
â€œFalling Whistles combines apparel and activism, two things that serve the event well,â€ Schmalstieg said.
Schmalstieg is interning this summer at the national chapter and said that after graduation, she hopes to continue using apparel to make a difference.
â€œIâ€™ve fallen in love with being able to help people, and I want to keep doing that in the future,â€ Schmalstieg said. â€œI also want to play a part in perpetuating an image of social responsibility in the fashion industry.â€
Ricketts, who will take the reigns of the CSU Whistler Society after Schmalstieg graduates, said that being involved with Falling Whistles has been a life-changing experience.
â€œIf nothing else, itâ€™s taught me that we have so many privileges as Americans, and we have to appreciate what we have,â€ Ricketts said. â€œAnd Iâ€™ve also learned that for the people who donâ€™t have what we have, we ought to help them get those opportunities.â€
News Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.