Raise record funds, real awareness for world hunger
While participating in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine is nothing new for many schools, the drive and creativity that students from several Ontario Christian high schools showed in planning and carrying out this year’s event is noteworthy, say school staff.
As is usually the case, the student council or another group of students organized the event at each school. However, they typically have the support of one or several adults. Not so at Hamilton District Christian High School (HDCHS) where students took on the entire responsibility of coordinating the Famine this year.
“It was a tremendous accomplishment for a group of students,” says Harry Meester, director of recruitment and advancement.
MADPIG (Making A Difference Political Involvement Group), a student group that heads up various social justice initiatives, decided they wanted to run the Famine at their school even though staff couldn’t support them.
Meghan van Hoeve, one of the key student organizers, says the Famine is a great way to get youth involved in making a difference as well as to help them learn more about world poverty and hunger.
At London District Christian Secondary School (LDCSS) the Famine was held for the first time ever this year.
Kristi Van Duyvendyk of the LDCSS student’s council, who came up with the idea of organizing the event at her school, says she “wanted to do something different that would challenge the way people think.
“I wanted to also make it an awareness evening, where we can truly experience and try to understand hunger and such,” says Van Duyvendyk, noting the emphasis can often be primarily on fun and games.
Van Duyvendyk and her co-organizers planned activities to bring home the reality of hunger and poverty. At one point they had students sitting in a circle, a lit candle in front of each of them. Over time, the leaders snuffed out each candle one by one, symbolizing another person’s death by starvation.
“They were drawing a connection; this is how quickly people in other countries die of hunger,” says Ena Weverink, a student council advisor, who participated in the event. “It was a very good experience for everyone involved.”
The Redeemer Christian High School student council also wanted to get back to focusing on the reason for the 30-Hour Famine, according to Mary Joustra, administrative assistant.
They opened a prayer room where people could pray for those helped through World Vision. They also invited a representative from World Vision to speak to the students.
“We had a speaker come in and talk about how we grumble and complain a lot but in reality we have an awful lot to be thankful for, even education, even if kids don’t see it as a blessing,” says Joustra. “These kids we’re raising money for often can’t even go to school.”
Redeemer also made waves this year by raising a record amount for the school, about $18,000.
At Chatham Christian Schools the students volunteered in their local community during their Famine event. They raked leaves and helped a church and mission organization do some spring cleaning – all on empty stomachs.
Lauren Saunders, one of the student council members and organizer of the event, was excited to see how many students got involved in the event this year.
“It’s one of the best years we’ve had in at least four or five years,” she says, noting the school tripled what it raised last year, bringing in about $5,000 in pledges.
She attributes the greater interest and involvement to better preparation and more awareness prior to the event.
Other schools topped what they had raised in previous years as well. Quinte Christian High School brought in over $11,000, several thousand more than the previous year.
Smithville District Christian High School’s fundraising amount, about $4,500, was noteworthy considering the event had to be organized quickly this year because of a number of other activities taking place around the same time, says school staff-member Linda Booy-Korvemaker.
At least four other Christian high schools participated as well, including Toronto District Christian High School, Woodland Christian High School, Beacon Christian Schools Secondary School, and Maranatha Christian Academy, each raising funds in the thousands.
The incentive and innovation of these students this year is perhaps particularly meaningful in light of World Vision’s announcement last week that it will be cutting aid to 1.5 million people this year due to soaring food costs, according to a CBC report.
World Vision Canada president Dave Toycen told CBC News that the rising cost of oil and fertilizer, more fields being used to produce corn for ethanol, drought in Australia and changing food consumption patterns have all contributed to the current crisis.
One of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, World Vision provides food aid in 35 countries. The organization is calling on governments to collectively contribute $500 million to cover a shortfall in the United Nation’s World Food Programme, one of World Vision’s largest sources of food aid.