Meet Riley, 8th Grade 30 Hour Famine Leader

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Riley a long time ago.

By Ross Carper

Meet Riley. She’s an 8th grader at Cheney Middle School near Spokane, Washington. She’s getting ready for her second year doing the 30 Hour Famine. Last year, she was one of the top fundraisers at her youth group (SHIFT_jrhi at First Pres Spokane). This year, don’t bet against Riley making even more of an impact (you can support her here). In fact, she’s stepping up as a student leader, helping make the Famine season a success. Here are some more facts about Riley, in her own words:

Riley is a big fan of…

“Being active, hanging out with friends, crushing my older sister Zab at ping pong after Sunday school, and reading (Harry Potter is my fave).” [not from Riley: she is also a big fan of making sassy comments to her youth group leaders.]

Her favorite parts of Scripture are… 

“Esther. It’s a story from a time when women weren’t given as much respect or many leadership roles, and yet she still had a big impact on a lot of people. I also love Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ and John 8:12: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Her plans for the future are… 

“I don’t really know. I want to help people, but I’m not sure what that will mean. I feel like it would be really cool to travel and serve and see different places. I’m really looking forward to the Easter Project, the spring break trip our high school group makes to serve in Tijuana, Mexico. Beyond that, I’m not too sure. But that’s fine for now.”

Q: I know that during your childhood, your family spent six years living in Thailand. Did you have any experiences there that helped you understand hunger or poverty in a deeper way than you would have otherwise?

“That experience helped me be more open to cultural differences. My best friends were Thai/British/Australian, and really from all over the place (I went to an international school). Our family had a nanny who lived in a refugee camp for people who fled from the violence in Burma, and she took us to visit there when I was 9 or 10. The people staying there had food to eat, and the living conditions were okay, but it definitely was not easy at all. It opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone has the comforts some of us take for granted. It was really hot, and there weren’t enough fans, for example, and a lot of people were sleeping in one room on the floor, and stuff like that. And I realized there are many places in the world where conditions are far worse, without food and water.

“I remember some friends of ours were from an organization called the Free Burma Rangers. Their mission is to bring help, hope and love to people of all faiths and ethnicities in the war zones of Burma. Even though I was just a kid, their mission has stuck with me. They would bring medical care and try to help those affected by the violence there.”

Q: Was there any culture shock when you moved back to the U.S.?

“At first, and even now, I was always noticing how white and non-diverse my school is, and people often don’t care about things going on that are so far away. They can’t imagine life outside their own experience, and that is hard to see.”

Q: Last year was your first time doing the 30 Hour Famine, right? What was your experience like?

“It was really cool for me to experience what other people go through each day, even though it is on a much smaller scale for us. And I raised nearly 600 bucks! The main things I did was sending out the SHIFT_jrhi Famine support letters to my family and friends letting them know about 30 Hour Famine and what our group was doing, and also my friend Meg and I walked around our neighborhood for a couple hours asking if people wanted to help out. It was pretty easy to make a big impact for kids who are facing real challenges.”

Q: What fires you up the most when it comes to motivation for the 30 Hour Famine?

“Making a difference in kids’ lives in places where there is a real threat of death is what motivates me the most. If we can do something that is actually part of preventing kids from dying, that is definitely the biggest motivation I can think of. Just because someone was born in a place without as many resources, they should never be at risk like that.”

Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing the Famine?

“It’s a really cool experience, and even of you just raise a little bit of money, it can affect a child’s life. It’s a great cause, it’s super fun, and you don’t really even get too hungry because you’re busy serving, playing, singing, and stuff like that.”

Q: How has actively serving the poor become a bigger part of your faith? 

“My whole family and I go to City Gate one Saturday every month, and that has become a regular and fun experience for us (City Gate is a local meal ministry for homeless and low-income residents in downtown Spokane). And I always look forward to the local service overnighters and other mission stuff we do at SHIFT_jrhi. I feel kind of closer to God when we do those things, and it just feels good to get the focus off of myself and just be about others for a while.”