Aaron Rodgers makes real difference

"I think the easiest way to portray it," he said, "is to reference a movie such as 'Blood Diamond,' where in Sierra Leone the warlords aid their war machine with diamonds to buy weapons and wipe out entire villages.

"The same practices are being used in the Congo. But instead of diamonds, it's gold, it's tin, it's tantalum, it's tungsten -- minerals that are used in our smartphones, our computers, our jewelry. And that money is fueling the war."

Chriqui, who played Sloan in the HBO series "Entourage," was moved to tears when she saw a video of what was happening in the Congo.

"We started Raise Hope for Congo five years ago, and it's grown since then," she said at the rally. "What we're doing tonight is trying [to educate] people about conflict minerals. Because people don't realize they're indirectly contributing to a massive conflict over there. The pain and suffering that country has seen is just beyond anything."

There was a moment in the 45-minute rally when Rodgers raised his cellphone.

"Many of you in the crowd are holding your cellphones up," Rodgers said at the rally. "A device that I take everywhere with me that means a lot. It's my lifeline to my friends, to my Candy Crush, to my Twitter account in the offseason. This is the heart, the lifeblood of these warlords.

"And we can say to these tech companies that we want to live in a world where our electronics do not fund rape and war."

Opening up

Andy Mulumba did not trace a typical path to the NFL.

He first played football at a French-language secondary school in Montreal and later at high school before matriculating to Eastern Michigan University. Earlier this year, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound linebacker signed a free-agent contract with the Packers with a $5,000 signing bonus.

Many media reports have listed him as a native Canadian, but Mulumba was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then left at the age of 12. He is the league's only active player from that unlikely starting point -- and only the second ever.

Mulumba connected with Rodgers for the first time during training camp at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. The quarterback was wearing his Raise Hope for Congo T-shirt.

"Why do you have my country on the back of your shirt?" Mulumba asked him.

"It was probably the first time we had a real conversation," Rodgers said. "I can't imagine some of the stuff that Andy had to live through and what a normal life was to him."

Mulumba made himself useful on the Packers' special teams and started three games. He contributed 30 tackles and a sack and recovered a fumble.

When the subject came up in interviews earlier this year, Mulumba didn't volunteer much information. Making the decision to appear at the rally was difficult.

"It's hard for me to open up to people," he said. "I've seen the struggle that people are going through, so I need to open up a little bit so I can make people know what I lived and what my people in the Congo live at this moment, so they can do something about it."

Making a difference

There are more than 150 colleges involved in Raise Hope for Congo's Conflict-Free Campus initiative. Student leaders organize rallies and information sessions to raise awareness of the issue, then persuade students to help pressure electronics firms to invest responsibly in the Congo's mineral trade.

According to the group, some companies have made great strides toward more responsible sourcing, while others have not.

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