Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

‘30-hour Famine’ brings home lessons of global need for area teens

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the March 18, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

What does it feel like to go hungry? Two youth groups in the Spokane Diocese, one in Cheney and the other in the Spokane Valley, know the answer to that question. The teens went without food for 30 hours recently. They spent the time learning about the lives of the poor. And if only for a short while, they acquired some sense of what it means to live without something most Americans take for granted: food.

The St. Rose of Lima high school youth group and the St. Mary youth group in the Spokane Valley, working separately, each went without food in the 30 Hour Famine program. They watched informational videos and spent time learning about hunger in the rest of the world, including the personal experience of going hungry.

The 30-Hour Famine is sponsored by World Vision International, an organization that works to alleviate world poverty. More than one million teens in over 21 countries throughout the world take part in the Famine.

The St. Rose students held their fast Feb. 21-22 at the Newman Center, near the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney. One of the videos they watched was titled When Did I See You Hungry? It depicted scenes of the lives of poor people in all parts of the world, including the United States.

One particularly heart-rending scene showed the people who search through garbage dumps for food and items to sell. This is a very dangerous undertaking; people and their children are often injured by broken glass or sharp metal as they dig through the discarded materials. The scavengers also risk serious infection and disease in the rotting mountains of garbage.

The teens also planned meals with certain amounts of money for certain size families, and then went over to a nearby grocery store to shop. “It turned out to be basically a rice and beans meal,” said Barbara Wodynski, director of Religious Education for St. Rose.

To learn the scope of hunger in the world, the students counted out 29,000 beans. This is the number of children who die from hunger or hunger-related disease each day.

The Cheney teens also spent “a lot of time in prayer,” said Wodynski. “They really appreciated that.” One popular feature was a prayer labyrinth which “the kids really loved.”

Wodynski said the group came to realize that they needed to do more than just “hand out food” to the less fortunate. “They realized they needed to go beyond pity to compassion,” she said, “and get to know them. They also realized they needed to stand with them.” Some of the teens plan to go more regularly to organizations that help provide food for low-income people.

The St. Mary group fasted Feb. 27-28 at their parish center. Each young person brought a small donation which the group pooled and then they walked to the store to buy some groceries which were then donated as part of social service work.

The next day, the young people were divided into three groups. They packed up their groceries to go to St. Margaret Shelter, the Ronald McDonald House and Crosswalk to help prepare food and visit with residents and clients.

St. Margaret Shelter ministers to homeless women and their children; Ronald McDonald house provides temporary housing for families with hospitalized children. Crosswalk is dedicated to the needs of teens living on the streets.

The St. Mary group then went to River Park Square and spent an hour looking at prices and watching people shop. This particular activity was an eye-opener for many of the teens, who learned how much is actually spent on consumer items such as jeans.

The teens reflected on their experience and shared their reactions with youth minister Eric Thomason.

Marissa Bertel: “I saw that you could buy (and people did) an $80 pair of pants, which doesn’t seem fair. That could feed a family in Ethiopia for a month, but instead they just die.”

Katie Weller: “The more that we watched (the education videos) along with small group discussions and not eating made everything hit home a little more. It was a great experience and one that everyone should do to know what other people go through every day.”

Aleisha Chan: “I spend money without thinking about it. There are so many others that have no money to spend!”

The teens realized how much they take their own blessings for granted, especially the food that is available to them any time they’re hungry. Said Nick Studebaker: “The stats of death and sickness are staggering. My emptiness will be filled. For some, their void will not.”

The Cheney youth group raised $385 from their Famine pledges. The St. Mary group was still collecting pledges at press time.

A similar experience is coming up April 4-7, with the Plunge-In, a diocesan-sponsored event that brings young people to places like the House of Charity and St. Ann Children and Family Home to work and learn about the lives of the poor. For more information, contact Scott Cooper at the Parish Social Ministries’ office, (509) 358-4273 or Paul Mach in the Parish Services office, (509) 358-7314.

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