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Teens fast to raise awareness, funds

Megan and James Robertson and Ben St. Jean are among the teens who will be camping out at Trail’s First Presbyterian Church this weekend to participate in the 30 Hour Famine.

Trail teens will go hungry this weekend to fight global poverty and hunger.

A group of eight youth and two leaders belonging to the First Presbyterian Church are ditching their regular lifestyles to see what it would be like to live in a “third-world country” where food is scarce.

The Trail church will again be involved in the 30 Hour Famine, where those involved go without food for 30 hours.

“I think we have very affluent people who don’t know what it’s like, “ said Rev. Meridyth Robertson from the Presbyterian Church. “We’re so used to saying, ‘Oh, I’m starving,’ when we don’t really know what it’s like to be starving.”

The group will start their fast at 11 a.m. Saturday, show up at the church with their sleepover gear at 7 p.m. and go without food until 5 p.m. Sunday.

The kids will drink plenty of water and juice and the church will have white rice on hand, should a teen become ill and need to eat. No cell phones will be permitted and iPods will only be used at bedtime.

“For me the hardest part is not waking up hungry, it’s going to bed hungry,” said volunteer leader Keri Stephens, who last took part in the famine about six years ago when she was in high school.

For some of the teens who’ve fasted before, including the minister’s children Megan and James, the challenge is beat with some strategy.

“It’s fun but after 24 hours without food you kind of feel it,” said Megan, recalling last year’s event. “Going up a hill after 24 hours with no food was the dumbest thing we ever did.”

This will be the third year the 15-year-old has taken the challenge, which she said is easier in a group setting.

“You’re not alone, other people are doing it with you, so you’re not pressured into wanting to eat,” she said. “You really understand, that even after 30 hours, you don’t know what it feels like to starve.”

This will be the second year her brother James, 13, has taken part in the event, which he said gives him the opportunity to “feel how they feel.”

Meanwhile, their friend Ben St. Jean, 14, has never fasted before.

“I just want to try it and see what it’s like to feel hungry and to raise money for the cause.”

Sticking to the church’s fundraising theme of raising funds for wells in Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa, pledges for the local 30-hour famine will go toward bringing safe drinking water to third-world communities.

The Trail church raised about $1,300 last year and plan on doing about the same this year.

This is the sixth year the local First Presbyterian has joined the challenge, which Robertson said helps raise awareness in the community and also expands on hunger-related Bible studies kids in the congregation learn.

To pass time, the teens will watch movies, play games and participate in educational activities that fit with the theme.

“We don’t want it to just be a fun experience, we also want them to have a moment to reflect and think about what does this really mean and how it changes their views,” said Robertson.

To further understand what it’s like to be a teen living in third-world poverty, the group will participate in hands-on activities.

Teens will wrap towels around their heads to add cushion to when they attempt to balance a basket on top of their noggins while walking, much like some women and children do when transporting goods in villages. They’ll also carry heavy buckets of water, trying not to spill, and see what it’s like to clean a sock in dirty water.

The event that takes place in 21 countries started in 1971 and is now the world’s largest youth event to fight poverty and hunger and last year, more than 500,000 teens raised more than $30 million.