BETHANY, W.Va. – Students in the Bethany College Freshmen Honors Seminar spent their lunch hour Thursday, Oct. 17, educating their peers about the ill effects cell phone production has on the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cell Out for CongoPaisley Travis, of West Finley, Pa., Lauren Starr, of Venetia, Pa., Marie Shindledecker, of Inwood, W.Va., and Alexia Chavez-Brown, of Frederick, Md., turned off their cell phones from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday as part of a Cell Out to raise awareness of deadly conflicts in Congo and encouraged other students to do the same.

The African nation of Congo is home to large quantities of columbite-tantalite, better known as coltan. When refined, coltan can hold a strong charge for a long time, making it desirable for producing cell phones and other electronic devices. According to statistics presented by the students, mining of coltan has resulted in conflicts that have led to the highest death toll since World War II.

The students said they learned of the ongoing conflict during a recent visit by Bethany alumnus Paul Turner ’90, a missions partner with Global Ministries (Disciples of Christ) in Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I knew that they mined for minerals used in our cell phones, but I didn’t know that it caused this kind of conflict,” Chavez-Brown said.

Travis, Starr, Shindledecker, and Chavez-Brown turned off their phones at 11 a.m. and placed them in a crate. They said several others in the cafeteria did the same.

The honors students said that it’s not often that they go long without their phones, citing class and testing as exceptions. Travis said a bet with her dad led her to turn off her cell phone for an entire weekend this summer.

Toward the end of their fast, they reflected on the time they spent with their phones turned off.

Cell Out for Congo 2“I realized how easy it was,” Shindledecker said. “An hour [without a cell phone] is nothing to compared to what they are dealing with in Congo.”

Chavez-Brown said it was an opportunity to just interact with people and to “value face-to-face communication.”

Travis said she hope students will think twice about regularly replacing their phones.

The 18-year-old freshmen said they’ve had between two and four phones in their lifetimes.

“Just because there is a new phone doesn’t mean you need the newest phone,” Starr said.

The digital fast at Bethany coincided with Breaking the Silence Congo Week (Oct. 13-20). The advocacy organization Friends of the Congo says the week aims to raise global consciousness about the situation in the Congo and advocate for peace, justice and human dignity in partnership with the Congolese people.

Bethany joined nearly 200 global colleges, universities, and other organizations participating in Congo Week, according to


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.