I volunteered this weekend to take part in a 30 Hour Famine for World Vision Hunger Relief. Kids in 7th through 12th grade could participate by asking for donations and raising money, and then fasting from noon on Friday until 6pm on Saturday. I knew very little about the program except that it sounded like a great thing to be a part of….
I had volunteered to man the registration table, which meant that I checked kids in, provided any last minute details for parents, confiscated cell phones, directed traffic, obtained permission slips, and tried to keep the 7th and 8th grade boys from beating on each other in the name of fun. (Boys are crazy…FYI)
After that, we watched a video from World Vision about hunger relief and the horrible starvation going on in the world. We were in a huge room and there were hundreds of small votive candles burning while we watched the video. When the vid stated that a child somewhere in the world dies every 3 seconds from starvation, two of the senior high girls began blowing out the candles one by one. If I hadn’t still been trying to corral jr. high boys, I would have been crying buckets. Maybe they are an okay distraction sometimes, huh?
Following the vid, we had 2 guest speakers. One 18 year old girl who goes by the name Tati, and a woman who wrote a poem about poverty in the Twin Cities called “My Name Is Not Those People.” Her poem is featured in many publications and text books. Tati grew up in a home filled with violence, was raped for a gang initiation, was molested by family members, and became homeless at age 15. She now attends an alternative arts school, lives on her own in a transitional housing apartment, does slam poetry, spoken word, and may be featured in an upcoming MTV special. She’s an amazing girl and has a very special energy. I told her as much later in the evening and she said “yeah…I know I’m a little hyper”, to which I replied “No, your energy, girl. You are inspirational with your positive spirit and your drive to succeed.” It was the first time I saw even a glimmer of shyness, as she looked away for just a second and quietly said “thank you.”
As the evening began to draw to a close and we got the kids ready for lights out, I headed home at around midnight.
9 a.m. on Saturday came quickly and I had to be back at church to pick up a group of kids with our “assignments” for the day. We didn’t know what we’d be doing, but we knew it would involve hunger, and we knew we still weren’t eating. Believe me…I was dreaming of cheese omeletes, not service projects.
Our first “mission” was to take 8 kids to a grocery store with $180 cash and purchase enough food to make 245 bag lunches. We had specific orders like the lunches needed to include at least 2 oz of meat and/or cheese, fruit, dessert, and water. We also had to buy the paper bags and ziplock bags with our budget. The kids did a great job of picking things out and bargain shopping. I was impressed. Then we brought all our goods to a homeless shelter where we assembled everything with the help of “Mo”, one of the employees there. She was fantastic and at one point, knowing we were fasting, she grabbed a sammie we had just assembled and took a huge bite. When the kids reacted to it, she explained that it is how many homeless feel when they look through the windows of restaurants and see us all enjoying our lunches….except they don’t know when they are going to have their next meal…we knew we’d be eating at 6. The kids loved her and there were hugs all around when it was time to go…but Mo had one more surprise for us. She made a quick call on her cell and then asked the kids “would you be willing to bring some of these sandwiches to some of my clients?” We ended up visiting an apartment complex of transitional houseing for women and children. We buzzed in, and then visited the apartment #s that Mo had written down for us, introducing ourselves and basically delivering lunch to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have any. It really hit home with the kids….
Mission accomplished, we headed back to church for our next assignment; Feed My Starving Children. It was around 2pm when we arrived at the next location, where we were handed aprons and hair nets and given our instructions. In 2 hours we were to assemble as many bags of soy, rice, and veggies (all dehydrated) as we could, which would be shipped to Haiti (recently given 4th world status, by the way). By this time, we were with the larger group again, and there were about 65 of us. Some of the boys volunteered to box the bags, and run them on pallets out to a warehouse where they would be stacked for shipment. We got to work…my duty was to use a heat sealer to seal each bag and make sure there was not one single grain of rice by the seal, or rodents on the ships would tear into all our carefully packaged foods. The assembly lines we set up were busy little hives, and we ended up packaging almost 1800 packages of food. Enough food to feed 33 people for a year! Then we all met in the warehouse where we said a quick blessing over our shipment, enclosed a large posterboard of “art” for the village, and away it went.
By the time we got back to church, even the boys were wiped out! I had a headache and wanted nothing more to go home and go to bed….but it was only 5pm. ONE hour until we could break our fast…at which time all of us adults were going to serve pasta to the kids….
By the time I got home, I was so happy to see D.Jones and little Buddha…but I was also changed. I try to regularly keep in mind how lucky we are to have the things we have….a nice house, a safe place to live, food, heat, clothes, etc., but these two days put it all in a new perspective. I cannot imagine those mothers all around the world who listen to their babes cry out in hunger and cannot do anything for them. I can picture the moms in Haiti who regularly feed their children a mixture of mud, flour and salt to stave off hunger for just another few hours. The man who runs Feed My Starving Children told me that last summer a mother brought her 3 year old daughter to their emergency medical tent because her belly was so distended. The doctors found EIGHT pounds of rock and mud in her gut from the desperation to get something in there to stop the hunger pains. I couldn’t help but shed a tear for her and for all the other parents and children who are affected by this….
I was so proud of these kids who worked diligently through our little 30 hour famine. I saw how tired and hungry they were…especially by Saturday afternoon. But we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing 6pm was looming closer and closer. So many people never see an end to their hunger. They should. There has got to be enough in this world for everyone, but what’s the answer? At least these fantastic kids I spent my day and 1/2 with made some impact, however small.