Why do you Famine?


Last year, I spent five months working in South Africa leading an after-school youth program for youth infected with/affected by HIV/AIDS. Every day at the program, a Xhosa (the tribe in the area) woman would cook a meal for the leaders and students. In Xhosa culture, it’s extremely rude to turn down food, and my co-volunteer and I would often times forget we were going to be fed, so we’d eat beforehand. We would be so full, and then had to finish all they gave us (hard life, huh?). Our problem was that we had TOO MUCH food to eat, and our biggest struggle was to remember NOT to eat.

One of the girls with whom I had especially grown close didn’t come to the program for three days in a row. I was slightly worried that maybe the program I had been leading had gotten boring or irrelevant. All I could focus on was myself and what I was doing to hurt things. After three days, the girl came back to the program, but once it was over, she walked straight past me and towards the community mother who cooked the food. I saw her whispering to her, and then she walked off with the leftovers from that day, which wasn’t much because many of us had gotten seconds, but some food. A few weeks later that same girl shared with me what was really happening at her house: Both of her parents were dying from AIDS, so they were not working. Thus they had no money. She could not go to school or the after-school program because she was forced to stay at home and take care of her younger siblings. Finally, after three days of not eating, her family was incredibly hungry, and she resorted to asking for the leftovers from the program to split between them all. I also learned that, for almost all the kids in the program, this meal was THE ONLY meal they were getting. On weekends, when the program was not in session, they did not get food. And here, this was just an afternoon snack for me and my friend that we felt like we were being forced to eat. There were also many riots going on in the townships, and sometimes it was unsafe for me to go in and help lead the program. On those days, the NGO had to make the call to not run the programs. Another day they went hungry.

I remember getting back to my friends at college, and one night we had to wait almost 2 hours to get seated at a restaurant. My friends were complaining like no other, and I just couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. Yes, we had to wait, but you know what? WE WERE GOING TO EAT. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to seem like “that girl,” but maybe I should have. Let’s all remember why we participate in the 30 Hour Famine. It’s not just to see if we can do it. It’s to feel only a tiny bit of what millions of people in the world are feeling every day.

Even though these kids showed up in the same clothes every day and had very little food, God is with them and doing big things.  They always would ask if they could sing gospel songs & pray at the end of the day (it wasn’t even a Christian organization). Pretty darn cool. So, as you participate in the 30 Hour Famine, please remember that this is more than just an event. It is REALITY for MILLIONS.

Catherine is an intern at World Vision on the Social Media team this summer. She is from Houston, Texas, but goes to school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville where she is majoring in globalization and development.