Continuing the Famine in College with Famine for One

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

Abby Lewis, Student at UCLA

abby lewisMany people can look back and pinpoint the moment when their life changed. For many, that moment includes high school graduation or wedding bells or the cries of a newborn child. For many, that moment occurs well into adulthood. For many, that moment is joyous and celebrated.

My “moment” occurred four years ago. I was crying hysterically in the back of a van in the hills of Burundi. I was 16 years old.

I first went hungry six years ago. My youth group was doing the 30 Hour Famine, and I signed up by default. I had participated in all my youth group’s events and this was going to be February’s event. I raised the obligatory $30 and came to the event ready for a fun weekend with my friends. However, I soon learned that my fun weekend with friends was going to be more challenging than I thought. Just a few hours after arriving, my stomach started growling and there was no food in sight. I hadn’t eaten in eight hours and I was ready to do just about anything for a big bowl of pasta. Finally it was time for bed. I grabbed my sleeping bag and was headed up the stairs to the youth room couches when I was called back down. A room was opened and our “shelters” were piled up in a corner for us to grab. That night I “slept” in a cardboard box. Throughout the next day, I was tired and sore from sleeping on the cold floor. I kept fixating on how hungry I was and that in turn, made me feel hungrier. I found myself wondering why I was going hungry at all.

It all made sense to me after we made a visual representation of why we went hungry for the weekend. We put our handprints on paper representing the number of children who died each day from preventable causes, like hunger and malnutrition. We had been learning statistics all weekend, but I had probably been too focused on my own hunger to hear about others’. However, after imprinting 5,800 handprints on a length of paper that wrapped around the entire sanctuary of my church, I paid attention. Each handprint with five fingers represented five children under the age of five who would die THAT DAY. 29,000 children under 5 died of preventable causes such as hunger or malnutrition during the short time I went without food.

It shocked me, and I immediately felt the need to do something. That’s when I realized the reason why I was going hungry. It was to create awareness about the enormous issue of world hunger that was largely unknown to most of the members of my community. After breaking my fast (with a big bowl of pasta), I felt energized to do something. Within the week, I told everyone who would listen about my experience and what was going on worldwide and raised another $150. This was the birth of my passion to end world hunger and it only grew from there.

Two years later, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Burundi on the 30 Hour Famine Study Tour, which is designed to show student fundraisers like me how the funds are being allocated abroad. While there, I saw how the money raised by teenagers in the US and elsewhere is used for food, healthcare, education, clean water, and community development projects in struggling communities abroad. I witnessed unimaginable poverty and suffering alongside indescribable happiness and resiliency. I saw up close and personal stories of triumph and success stemming from the money that was raised by young people like me.

As we piled into the van to leave one of the communities, I laid my head in my lap and sobbed. I wanted so passionately to make things better for these communities. In this moment, my life changed. I knew that I would never again have the opportunity to be ignorant to the plights of those around the world that suffer everyday from such simple things like hunger. I knew that I wanted to devote my life to helping people who are suffering under the snare of poverty. I knew that I had found the passion that would define my life.

Going hungry changes you while changing the lives of others. My first Famine experience raised awareness about the 29,000 children under 5 who died from preventable causes like malnutrition each day of that year. That number has dropped to 18,000 in recent years due to efforts like 30 Hour Famine and individuals of all ages taking part in the fight to end world hunger. I have seen the progress firsthand and my sincerest wish is that our generation lives to see the day when no child dies from hunger.

As a college student, I want to continue being actively involved in making a difference. And that’s where Famine for One comes in. I can change the lives of others by participating in World Vision’s newest program, Famine for One. I’ll fast, raise awareness, and raise money to make a difference in the lives of children who suffer from hunger. If you’re a youth worker leading 30 Hour Famine, the new Famine for One is a fantastic opportunity for your college-age students, especially those who did the Famine as teenagers, to continue involvement!

Learn more about Famine for One here, and pass this link along to all your past Famine participants.

Abby is a student at UCLA studying International Development. She has raised over $10,000 to help fight hunger through World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine youth program and has traveled with World Vision to Burundi. She now speaks at conferences, churches, and schools on behalf of World Vision to help spread the word about the fight to end world hunger and encourage engagement.