Three months and 4,500 miles is not your average bike ride, but this summer, 11 students from New York and Missouri – including two Geneseo students – will make that ride across the country on behalf of the Los Angeles-based organization Falling Whistles.
Falling Whistles began with the daunting goal of giving a voice to children in the severely war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the organization's website, Falling Whistles is comprised of "individuals of every color and creed pursuing freedom in the face of opposition, toward a goal many call impossible – peace in Congo."
So what do whistles have to do with objectified children? Right now, young boys in Congo are routinely taken from their families by rebel groups and forced to fight grown men's battles. Those too small to hold guns are given nothing but a whistle to blow so they can warn of an approaching front. They act as living, breathing shields, and in the words of Falling Whistles founder Sean Carasso, "Their only choice is to feign death or face it."
On Saturday, the Geneseo chapter held a dinner at the InterFaith Center to raise money and awareness for both the cause and the upcoming bicycle ride. The proceeds from the dinner will be split up amongst the 11 riders and used for repairs and food throughout the trip. The riders, which include senior Justine Porter and sophomore Brandon Shufelt, have worked to plan potluck dinners, campfire discussions, retail events and benefit concerts in cities across the country to raise money for grants and to spread overall awareness.
The group will initially be separated into three teams that will begin in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. The teams will travel separately for the first two months and then meet in Denver to ride the last leg of the journey to Los Angeles together.
The students plan to stay with host families across the country. Porter says that the families seem "pretty sympathetic when I email them … even if they don't know who I am."
Shufelt and Porter were upfront about their anxiety concerning the ride.
"What we're doing is pretty cool, and I hope that other people will be inspired to do things that scare them," Porter said. To find out more about the organization and ways to help, visit fallingwhistles.com.