Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
For the 24th year, First United Methodist Church (FUMC) was once again host to the 30-Hour Famine. This global event began in 1971 in Calgary, Alberta Canada by Ruth Roberts. Roberts was just 17 years old when she and several friends staged an event in her basement to see what it was like to be hungry and raise money and awareness for children suffering from hunger. Almost 50 years later, this event is still being held in 21 countries. This year, 64 youth from FUMC took part in the event.
Beginning on Friday, March 7, FUMC youth gathered at the church to begin their 30-hour fast. Aside from fasting, the group participated in several events. One such event was a simulation about what it was like to be homeless and hungry. Gathering in groups of six to eight, these youth were given roles to play out with the help of some community volunteers, such as MANNA, Daybreak Rotary and the Noon Rotary.
One group was to simulate what it was like to be homeless. In yet another simulation, a group of youth pretended that they were a family of four who did not have enough money to make ends meet. Braxton Mira-Knippel was the mother of two children in the simulation. His family received a $950 disability check every month. Braxton said that he was able to stretch his money in order to pay rent of $300 and to buy food for the kids. In today’s world, in reality, $950 would not be sufficient to care for a family of three.
Caden Tyler, 16, participated in the famine for the first time. He also was in a simulation about being poor. “It is hard being in poverty and being poor.”
Caden had other duties at this event that included a service project.
“We had to destroy some old steps leading to the cemetery at church. We took hammers and crowbars to smash the steps in order to make way to build new ones,” he said.
Gracie Riddle experienced the famine for the first time. Gracie is in 6th grade and was also in a poverty simulation. She was given the role of being a mother of two. Although she worked at a part time job she was not able to meet her monthly bills because she had no health insurance. One of her children was sick and in need of medicine. She struggled to stay afloat due to the lack of medical insurance and the high cost of the medicine her child needed.
“This was a good experience. I found out that many needs are not met. It gave me a different perspective,” said Gracie.
Sixth grader Jessica Keefer was also taking part in the famine for the first time. Jessica was in a simulation in a family in which the husband robbed a bank because they did not have enough money to feed everyone. He did not get caught by the police in this particular simulation, so they wound up being able to eat for some time with the stolen money. She was not sure what they were going to do when that money ran out. Jessica remarked, “This was eye opening, to find out how many children have no food or no home.”
In these simulations many youth found out how easy it was to turn to crime in a time of desperation. People who would not ever think of committing a crime often feel there is no other choice, if they were going to be able to keep their family from being hungry or homeless. Statistics show that one in every nine people in the world don’t have enough to eat; 94 percent of these people live in developing countries. And for the first time in decades, the percentage of hungry people is rising. In 2017, there were 6 million more hungry people than the year before. In 30 hours, just over one day, more than 7,000 kids will die of hunger-related causes.
After the morning simulations were over the groups left the church to go out into the community to raise money and awareness. After spending about two hours standing on the street corners waving signs and asking for donations, they moved on to help other community agencies with their needs. One agency, REACH of Macon County, was in need of some new dog beds. When clients come to stay at the residential facility that REACH provides, residents often bring their pets. The group who went to REACH were in charge of making new beds for the pets. Several groups headed out to Mountain View Intermediate School and Cartoogechaye Elementary to help paint, clear some shrubs, and mulch. Still some other groups cleaned up the soccer fields, did some community service at Full Circle Recovery and assisted with the FUMC Bazaar donation pick-ups.
The younger children were not left out of participating in the famine. Although they were too young for the 30-hour fast, they did volunteer at CareNet to help bag food for their school backpack program. The group was given instruction on how to bag the food in order for it to easily fit inside a student’s backpack so it can go unnoticed. The group worked diligently filling over 450 bags to distribute to Macon County Schools.
In total, this event helped collect more than 5,900 cans of food and so far, around $4,900. More than 70 adult volunteers helped make this event a success.