30 Hour Famine lets youth wage war on hunger

Mike Fisher

OTTAWA — One child dies every three seconds from preventable causes like hunger and disease. Nearly nine million children under the age of five die each year.

These are the kinds of statistics that are expected to prompt more than 100,000 people — including celebrities like Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators — to take part in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine this year.

International participants raise money to fight poverty and injustice worldwide and go without food for 30 hours. They experience what an empty stomach feels like first-hand and learn about poverty and hunger from guest speakers and the World Vision 30 Hour Famine website.

This year’s event will take place April 16.

“Being a part of World Vision, I got to experience first-hand how they help people help themselves,” said Fisher. “I had the unique opportunity to help out and make a difference.”

A global event, the 30 Hour Famine began in Canada in 1971 with a group of Calgary teens who held a fast after seeing TV images of famine in Africa. The annual event now includes youth in 21 countries annually.

This year, World Vision hopes to raise $5 million across Canada.

Funds raised will support efforts to eradicate hunger, disease and injustice around the world, providing assistance to countries like Brazil, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, India, Peru and Thailand. Funds from this year’s campaign will also support programs in Haiti, as well as programs aimed at reducing sexual violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Alexis O’Neil is a past participant and is now the event’s regional representative for eastern Ontario.

“I have been doing the famine every year since high school and now I organize it for students in my hometown of Ottawa,” said O’Neil.

“I feel strongly that we need to think ourselves as citizens of the world and not just Canada. Often times we hear about the issues of poverty, hunger and injustice and this is a great opportunity to ask questions about it and open up a dialogue,” she said.

“During the famine, we do activities such as scavenger hunts, we watch movies, play dodge ball and do other activities that get the students to think why other people around the world are living below the poverty line.”

World Vision spokesman T.J. Grant said young Canadians have proven they can make a difference in the world.

“For 39 years, Canadian youth have shown their commitment to eradicating child hunger and malnutrition by participating in the World Vision 30 Hour Famine,” said Grant.

“Canadian teens understand that preventing child hunger and malnutrition is a priority and is an issue that we need to address now. Youth are making it their personal goal to do something and are motivating their friends, families and communities to get involved in this national campaign.”

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