Paula Truex has been on a mission recently. This semester, she has been actively spreading the word about Falling Whistles, an organization that promotes awareness of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The organization's founder, Sean Carasso, will share his experiences from the DRC at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 in John R. Emens Auditorium . Truex, a senior organizational communications major who toured with Carasso and Falling Whistles as a part of an internship, said her goal is to bring 1,000 people to Carasso's Muncie event, which would be a large crowd for the organization.
"For three and a half months, I heard Sean speak two or three times a day, and every single time I heard the presentation, it still grabbed my heart," Truex said. "You don't have to be a social activist or someone who loves Africa to listen to this presentation. It empowers you to follow your passion and do what you believe – and it truly meets every single person."
Truex said one day toward the end of her time with Falling Whistles, Carasso asked her how she was going to stay involved once she was back at Ball State.
Truex answered by asking Carasso to come to Muncie and speak because the way she first found out about Falling Whistles was by meeting with TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie when he gave a presentation on campus in the spring of 2010.
Carasso agreed to give the presentation. Before he left, he handed Truex a note that said "1,000 people in Muncie. Do it, Paula."
"The whole time we were on tour, we never had a 1000-person audience," Truex said. "We went to 38 cities across the U.S. and lived in an RV, doing three presentations a day for three and a half months, and the biggest group we spoke to, maybe once, was a little under 500."
The first 1,000 people that attend will receive free shirts, which Truex said is a way to prove to Carasso that more than 1,000 people will come.
"[The note has] been on my mirror, staring me in the face, since then," Truex said. "Now this semester, things have come together and we have the event completely planned. We just have to get 1,000 people."
Truex and others have secured sponsorships from organizations such as the Student Government Association and the Ball State Federal Credit Union. They're advertising by word of mouth, presentations to classes, a Homecoming parade float, Facebook, fliers and, of course, whistles.
Shared on Falling Whistles' website is a journal entry of Carasso's that explains the whistle's significance:
"Many of us had heard the stories of child-soldiers...I had heard. I had even reacted and raged. But when these boys told me of the whistleblowers, the horror grew feet and walked within me," the entry said. "Captured by Nkunda's rebel army, some boys not big enough to hold a gun were given merely a whistle and put on the front lines of battle. Their sole duty was to make enough noise to scare the enemy and then to receive – with their bodies – the first round of bullets. Lines of boys fell as nothing more than a temporary barricade."
Carasso writes of returning home and receiving as a gift from a friend, a whistle. When he wore it around and fielded questions from people curious about its significance, he realized this could be a way to keep the memory of what he had witnessed alive.
Now the organization sells whistles, encouraging people to wear them and open the door for discussion about the war in the DRC.
Truex said in addition to awareness, 100 percent of whistle sale profits are used for rehabilitation and advocacy purposes.
She wears hers every day.
"It's there if anyone wants to have a conversation about it," Truex said. "When I first heard about the DRC, I thought I needed to stop whatever I was doing and just go to Africa. But that's not always the case. I think the key is to find what you love and match that with the problem that's happening. If everyone did that, we would solve so many problems."
Interested students can search "Ball State + Falling Whistles" on Facebook for the event page and details or visit the event website at 1000whistles.com.
Whistles are available from $34 at fallingwhistles.com. Students can also watch videos, read blog/journal entries and find out more about the DRC there.
- The event is 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at John R. Emens Auditorium.
- The first 1,000 attendees receive free T-shirts.
- It's free and open to the public.