Students hungry to help

Niki Bowers, 16, left, and Kelsey Hale, 17, work on making posters Thursday at Kingswood Methodist Church for the 30-hour fast fundraiser geared toward helping the poor of the world. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

There will be no pizza or hot dogs, no burgers or shakes — for 30 hours this weekend for 40 local teens. Not one morsel of food will pass their lips. They are fasting not in protest, but instead to seek understanding as part of a fund-raiser geared toward assisting downtrodden people throughout the world.

Kingswood United Methodist Church Youth Minister Josh McAllister is the event organizer. He believes experiencing hunger firsthand helps students develop empathy for impoverished and suffering people in other countries.

“This program really develops a different perspective in our students without taking them out of the country,” McAllister said. “The students increase their world view. They’ll begin to speak about the poor and oppressed a little bit more.”

Following dismissal from school, they will spend 30 hours together as a group. Much of Saturday will be spent doing service work in the community, including cleaning a lot for Habitat for Humanity and painting a room at a local ministry according to McCallister.

The day will be punctuated with study, prayer and reflection. As hunger pangs tug at them, the students will study a focus country to help reinforce the message. This year’s focus country will be Zambia.

The 30-hour fast is part of an international student movement, sponsored by World Vision, a Christian relief and development organization.

According to a press release from the organization, $11.6 million was raised nationwide in 2005. The release stated the funds were used to combat famine, conflict and natural disasters in areas such as Niger, Central America and Pakistan.

Kelsey Hale, 17, has participated since the program’s inception three years ago.

“I thought it was incredible. It was really cool. It gave you a way to directly help someone in a foreign country,” she said, adding that fasting to raise money for hungry victims puts a real face on the issue.

“I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t understand that it’s so widespread and it’s a really big deal. (After participating in the fast) I had a realization that there are kids everywhere, and they are starving, and they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It makes me so thankful that I have food coming for my next meal,” she said.

Hale admits that the hunger can be difficult initially, but she said it subsides as she forces herself to focus on the needy.

“I just think about the kids in the Third World countries that are hungry all the time and I know that I’m going to get a meal,” she said.

Emily Dropps, a Clovis High School sophomore, will also be joining the fast, with the full support of her mother.

“It is a hard thing for these guys, but they know they’re helping children,” said MaryAnn Dropps. “After the first year, (Emily) was like, ‘Mom, I never realized what I have, what I take for granted.’”

Upon completion of the fast, the students will be treated to a feast by the congregation at the church.

MaryAnn Dropps said the members recognize that after more than a day of fasting, the teens are probably not interested in salads and vegetables.

“It’s teenage friendly food,” she said.