It’s six o’clock. After a day of classes, practice and all the other activities you’re so dedicated to, you’re hungry. What do you do? Probably head to the dining hall, making sure to complain how there is nothing to eat. Or maybe you’ll walk down to Spring Street and complain about how early everything in Williamstown closes before you treat yourself to Pappa Charlie’s. Or you can just stay hungry.
On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25-26, over 100 students will participate in a “30 Hour Famine” to raise money and awareness of world hunger. Allison Herling ’01 and Jackie Stein ’00 organized the event based on the fast sponsored by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid organization. The Williams fast will occur simultaneously with a global 30 Hour Famine.
Students participating in the famine have raised money through sponsorship. In addition, Herling, Stein and other participants publicized the project with an all-campus email and at a table in Baxter mailroom and have received donations as a result. Of the money raised, 75 percent will go to the World Vision organization, where it will serve three purposes.
Some will go toward the global 30 Hour Famine fund, which provides disaster relief and agricultural recovery aid to countries such as North Korea, Rwanda and Tanzania. Another portion will go to World Vision’s Rwanda Project, intended to aid the readjustment of the African nation’s refugees and displaced children. And a third portion of the World Vision donation will go towards general disaster relief.
“There are millions of orphans in Africa as a result of the AIDS epidemic, and one of World Vision’s projects involves building homes for them and paying for useable skill education. The goal is sustainable aid – using money to teach people to help themselves, rather than just handing it out,” says Stein.
The other 25 percent of the contributions will go to smaller banks that participate in microlending programs. These allow impoverished people to get small loans by placing them in groups of five instead of requiring collateral. Members of the group support one another to help start businesses. These efforts are especially geared toward helping women become more self-sufficient.
“We wanted everyone participating, sponsors and fasters, to have input as to where we donated the money. We did a lot of research on the web. It’s important to check how much money goes to actual projects and how much goes into the bureaucracy of the organization. World Vision has a pretty good ratio for a non-governmental organization. We tried to avoid governmental organizations, which often have strings attached to aid. Money sometimes doesn’t get to the people who need it most,” Stein notes.
The most important goal of the 30 Hour Famine is not raising money, however, but increasing awareness. Posters offering facts about world hunger have been placed around campus, and Stein hopes to get across the idea that people can do something. “It’s that whole idea of a thousand-mile journey starts with one step – getting people to think that way is really our goal,” she says.
The fasters can drink water or juice over the 30 hours. “There aren’t really any strict rules,” says Stein. “There are people who go for days and weeks without eating, and to feel hungry will help to raise our own awareness. It will be a great experience.”
Participants will end the fast on Saturday evening with a communal meal in Baxter to reflect on their experiences together. The Chaplain’s office has offered to pay for students who run out of meals by Saturday so that all of the participants can eat together.
Over 600,000 people across the United States will be fasting this Friday and Saturday; globally the fasters number over a million. Stein remarks, “It’s a nice thought that we’re joining a global effort. It’s a demonstration of power. You might think, there’s just one of me, but look how many ones there are.”