A group of 21 local youths are going without food for 30 hours this weekend to raise money for, and awareness of, people around the world who starve on a regular basis, though not by choice.
The Oxford youths, ranging from ages 11 to 19, are members of a youth group at which participates in several charitable events, especially those that help people who are poor and/or hungry. This weekend, the group has joined 150,000 of their peers worldwide in an event called 30 Hour Famine. The youths go 30 hours without food and learn what it takes to overcome hunger, according to the event’s website. Through pledges from members of their respective communities, participants raise money to help feed hungry children and families around the world and “refuse to be told they can’t make a difference,” the 30 Hour Famine website states.
“I hope people see what we’re doing and see that kids can make a difference,” said Sydney Borkowski, 12. “If you see a problem and think it’s too big and you say, ‘Oh, someone else will fix it,’ you can’t think that way because you can do whatever you set your mind to.”
The youth group members set out to raise a significant amount of money to benefit the 30 Hour Famine charity, which is organized by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. The Oxford youths had raised $3,081 as of Saturday (the group is still collecting; see how to donate below). The 30 Hour Famine website states “every $30 raised by your group can help feed and care for a child for a month,” meaning at least 102 children will be fed for a month based on money the Oxford group has raised thus far.
‘It Takes Willpower’
At 6:30 Friday night, the participants - who were about six hours into their famine at that point – made jokes about being hungry and how they didn’t know they if they would make it the full 30 hours. However, they knew their suffering would be worth it in the end.
“Even though it’s going to be hard for us, I feel like we’re doing the right thing because when you think about it, most of us eat more in a day than some people do in a month,” said 11-year-old Dana Cote, who also attends Great Oak Middle School. “Then we throw away all of the left over food when we could be giving it to people in need.”
Chris Wentz, an Oxford High School graduate, said he’s completed a similar famine-type event with the Boy Scouts and that he was proud of himself when it was over.
His sister, Katelyn Wentz, who is also participating in the 30 Hour Famine, said “it takes a lot of will power to go without food for this long.”
The Christ Church Quaker Farms youth group’s adult organizers, some of whom are also participating in the famine, are trying to keep the students focused on their goal by explaining the bigger picture.
“A lot of the focus is on serving God,” said Jackie McDonnell, youth group coordinator. “God says serve the hungry, and when you feed the hungry, you are serving God.”
Other lessons the organizers are teaching include those that put their lives into perspective. For example, McDonnell said, the youths watched a film Friday night that showed how difficult life is for people in Third World Countries. Whereas Oxford children and teens may complain about small things such as how their blankets are getting thin or whether they should “be able to ride shotgun in the car,” there are children their age who “have to walk 10 miles to get water for the day,” McDonnell said.
The youths had a chance to see that perspective first hand during a recent youth group experience. Adult organizers invited youth group members to a dinner in the church hall. When they arrived, the group members were told whether they were eating as if they were in first, second or third world countries. The First World country eaters got a full meal complete with meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc., whereas the Third World eaters got a ration of rice with no silverware.
“It was a real eye opener,” McDonnell said, adding that the youths eventually shared their food with each other because they were given that option.
The adult organizers hope this weekend’s event will give students even more perspective. Don Peck said it is one thing to read and to hear about a person being hungry, “but to actually experience it is going to be a powerful and eye-opening experience.”
Parent Georgiana Glasow said she believes this weekend's events will be great for her teenage daughter, Camille, who attends Oxford High School.
"I'm thrilled she's taking part in something where she can think of others and not just her own 16-year-old self," Georgiana Glasow said.
Helping Those Less Fortunate
The youth group was formed in September to “give kids a place where they can feel comfortable being Christians and practicing their faith…in a place where it doesn’t have to be such a personal experience, and they can share it with others,” McDonnell said.
The youth group has done some amazing philanthropic work in its short tenure. Group members have volunteered in an urban community in Cole County, Penn., where they helped people in an old cole mining community who had seen the demise of the mining industry and many had fallen into poverty. The youths painted, cleaned houses, did yard work, went to nursing homes and just helped in any way they could. This summer, they plan to do something similar in Newport, Tenn., where 29 percent of the community lives below the poverty line.
The group has also sponsored an impoverished child through World Vision, which is how it learned of the 30 Hour Famine.
‘It Makes You Wonder Why’
The famine will wrap up around 6:30 tonight. But don’t expect the youths to celebrate by indulging in a steak and potatoes dinner, an endless pasta feast or even McDonald’s burgers and fries. No, they will continue their education in Third World living.
The team will be served a makeshift “re-vive meal,” which is often given to malnourished people in the poorest parts of the world to fill their bodies with necessary nutrients and calories. The meal, which sounds less than appetizing, consists of peanut butter, dried milk, oil and a little sugar.
Then, tomorrow morning, the youths will deliver a sermon during a church service in which they will discuss their experience.
Between now and then, the youths, who are staying at the church hall for much of this weekend, will complete odd jobs around the church building, such as painting and cleaning. All the while, they will keep in mind why they are voluntarily going hungry.
“We have all of this food in our country that we don’t eat, yet there are people around the world who are going hungry every day,” said Sydney Borkowski, the 12-year-old Oxford girl. “It makes you wonder why.”
About 30 Hour Famine From Its Website
This is your chance to join other groups of students all over the world in learning the truth about hunger, poverty, and injustice — then overcome it all with love.
Worldwide, 925 million people are hungry. Every day, as many as 11,000 children under age 5 die due to hunger-related causes. That’s one kid every 8 seconds.
The Famine gives your group a chance to do something about it — to rise up and serve the hungry.
How to Help
To donate to the Christ Church Quaker Farms youth group’s fundraising effort to help impoverished people around the globe, click here.