Whistleblowers in the Congo: Selling Jewelry to Fight Malaria

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The New York Times calls the war in Congo, “never-ending” and “the world’s worst war.” Yet we hear very little of it Stateside. The war, also known as “the Great War of Africa,” officially began in 1998 but had even then been a long time brewing. And despite a peace deal in 2003, the country is still largely run by militia—many of whom are young boys.

In 2008, American Sean Carasso went to Africa seeking adventure. What he ended up finding was the world’s deadliest war. Carasso met five boys in a Congolese military encampment. Each of the boys has been abducted from his home and thrown into combat as a child soldier. The five boys represented two opposing rebel armies. Carasso asked if the boys considered themselves enemies. They laughed. And then one boy reached over and kissed the other boy, saying: “We are only boys, how can we be enemies?” And that is when Carasso’s life changed forever.

Carasso founded Falling Whistles, a campaign for peace in Congo that is funded by their hip, meaningful whistle jewelry. “We sell the whistle as a symbol of protest and ask you to be a whistleblower for peace,” Carasso says.

In just four years Falling Whistles has invested in eight peaceful Congolese visionary entrepreneurs, and built a coalition of 35 Congress-people, 16 Senators, 200 retailers, and over 55,000 whistleblowers.

One of those entrepreneurs is Blaise. Amidst all of Congo’s problems, Blaise fixed his eyes on solving one really well. Congo, like most of Sub-Saharan Africa, loses lives and workers to malaria every day. Malaria medicine in Congo was too expensive for most people to afford (70% of the country lives on less than a dollar a day) because the medical companies imported the product. However, the malaria pill they were importing was made up of ingredients that natural-resource-rich Congo already had plenty of—namely Quinine that exists in the bark of Congo’s Quina trees.

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Blaise started a co-op of farmers to extract the bark. He was on his way to creating a successful life-saving industry in Congo, but he lacked the capital to transport the raw materials to a processing plant to be turned into malaria medicine. In Congo, bank credit and loans are not an option. Blaise faced a dead end.

And then Blaise met the Falling Whistles team in Congo. Thanks to the support of so many whistleblowers and whistle necklace buyers, Falling Whistles was able to provide Blaise the $14,000 in start-up costs he needed to make his local malaria medicine a reality. Blaise has already provided malaria treatment medication to over 330,000 people, over 50 jobs to a co-op of farmers and producers, and his business is now profitable.

“It brought hope to people,” says Blaise. Hope out of the world’s worst war.

To become a whistleblower simply visit the Falling Whistles website and pick a way to get involved.

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