by Keshema Davidson, Co-advocacy Coordinator for Falling Whistles
At the age of nine I, like many children around me, was experiencing the innocence and carefree sensibility that comes along with such a tender age. The world as was revealed to me, consisted of hours spent playing hop scotch in the streets, going to church on Sundays, and walking home from school the following day. The world was a beautiful place- the confines of my home and surroundings showed nothing to contradict that idea. At the same age, thousands of miles away there is Chance Tombola. Her world suppresses everything mine exemplified. One late May evening militias burst into her home killed both her parents and took off with her two sisters both under the age of twelve. Chance then moved in with her aunt and uncle and their two daughters. Two months later some of the same men who took the life of her parents invaded their home, mutilated her uncle and proceeded to rape Chance and her cousins. I first came across Chance’s story over a year ago in the New York Times and I have carried her with me ever since. The question that continues to haunt me is: what’s the difference between a nine year old Keshema and nine year old Chance? The only answer that I could come up with is a geographical one, I was raised in Jamaica and Chance lives in Congo. When it comes down to it, we both feel happiness the same way and, although under different circumstances the overwhelming sense of sadness that I felt when my father passed away is the same sadness she experienced when she lost both her parents.
What has led to our two very drastic stories is both the conflict that continues to prevail in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the indifference of the West. My ignorance eleven years ago can be blamed on my young age and that can be said for many but to those who are now well meaning adults what is your excuse?
It’s ironic that her name is Chance because that is all she wants to be given, an opportunity to have a chance at a full life. A life of dignity where my experience of a carefree childhood is not a foreign concept to her or her sisters, or her cousins, or any of the hundreds of thousands of women and girls who are raped in the DRC every year. As I think about the life that she has had to live, I find myself at times angry at the world for being indifferent to her suffering. But, like with many other instances that will change, the question is how long should we make her wait.
The world is changed by those who dare to speak up when it matters. Here at Falling Whistles, we call those people whistleblowers for peace. Two years ago, founder Sean Carasso stumbled into Congo and there he met a group of boys who told him that kids who were too small to carry guns were being sent to the frontlines of the war armed with only whistles. What he also found was vastly beautiful, not only in the landscape of the country but in the faces and spirit of the Congolese people. Out of that was born a campaign to bring awareness to our world’s deadliest war, to create solidarity with Chance, and the millions more like her who possess such immeasurable strength. Those who stand with us wear whistles as a constant reminder of those boys Sean met two years ago. Their names are Busco, Bahati, Serungendo, Sadiki, and Claude. A chance led him to them and since then all we have done is take chances in the hopes that one day in the near future a free world will mean just that, a free world. Through our whistle sales we have rehabilitated over 400 children and former child soldiers and are continuing to build partnerships with local visionaries. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Take heed to his words.
Keshema Davidson is Co-Advocacy Coordinator for Falling Whistles, a non-profit campaign partnering with with local leaders to advocate and rehabilitate those affected by war. For more information on the work of Falling Whistles check out the video below or visit www.fallingwhistles.com