NORWALK—Saturday morning’s 18 degree temperatures did little to cool the enthusiasm of 200 young people who took part in the 12th annual 30 Hour Famine.
The group stood on the steps of the First Congregational Church on the Green to kickoff 30 hours of not only raising awareness of hunger but also of experiencing it.
Organized by St. Philip Roman Catholic Church, in support of World Vision an international Christian organization that works to feed the hungry in more than 100 countries, young people from seven towns, 34 schools, and 17 churches prepared to fast for 30 hours and participated in a program of events related to alleviating hunger both worldwide and locally.
“This is the fourth year I’ve participated and from the first time I was really inspired,” said Norwalk High School senior Catherine Robinson. “My eyes have really been opened to what’s happening in terms of the problem of hunger.”
As Kali Dimarco, director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at St. Philip Church led the participants in chants of “30 days, 30 hours, 30 people,” the contingent of young people prepared for the next 30 hours of fasting, group activities, service projects around town, musical programs and prayer. Students will attend a 10 a.m. mass on Sunday morning to break the fast, followed by a breakfast in the St. Philip school hall.
“For 30 hours we fast, we tell 30 people what we are doing, and we fundraise for 30 days leading up to this,” said Julia Jennings from Stamford’s Holy Spirit School.
Carrying signs with messages that read: “80 Percent of humanity lives on $10 a day,” the contingent famine participants marched down East Wall Street to Main Street to North Avenue on their way to St. Philip Church on Saturday morning in a walk to honor the Night Walkers of Uganda-children who travel on foot from their villages.
“We walk for people who cannot be heard,” said Dimarco.
“I think it’s amazing to see young people taking a stand against hunger,” said Mayor Harry Rilling who was at the church to lend his support to the Famine Participants. “It’s wonderful that they are increasing awareness of not only the problem of hunger throughout the world, but also making people aware that there are hungry kids right in their own communities.”
Dimarco said that they have come a long way from the first 30 Hour Famine in 2004. It was titled, “Fed-Up,” and consisted of 29 participants, raised $3,000 for World Vision, $1,000 for Manna House and saved eight children. The 2014 event, “Tell Everyone” consisted of 128 high school participants, and 38 younger students, raising $32,741 for World Vision, $7,962 for Manna House, $5,000 for Catholic Relief Services and $2,550 for Hope for Ariang, totaling $48,253 and saving 134 children.
“There are 2,288 groups around the country who are doing this today, and so far we are the top fundraiser,” said Kali Dimarco. “Our pledges so far have topped $24,000 and our goal this year is to raise $48,000.”
At a key service project, more than 80 of the Famine participants sporting hair nets and gloves, gathered at St. Thomas Parish Hall to pack 20,000 rice and soy meals to be sent to the West African country of Burkina Faso in support of a partnership between Catholic Relief Services and Stop Hunger Now.
“One in eight people in the world are starving,” Marc Vermouth of Catholic Relief Services told the assembled students. “These meals will be going to orphanages, medical clinics, and women’s shelters. Last year you all packed 10,000 meals for them-give yourselves a hand for doubling that this year.”
In addition to raising awareness for the problem of hunger, Dale Williams, the Founder and Director of Midnight Run, an organization dedicated to providing relief to New York City’s homeless population was the keynote speaker on Saturday morning at St. Philip Church. Midnight Run is a volunteer organization dedicated to finding common ground between the housed and the homeless. In over 1,000 relief missions per year, Midnight Run volunteers from churches, synagogues, schools and other civic groups distribute food, clothing, blankets and personal care items to the homeless poor on the streets of New York City.
Danielle Miller, a student at J.M. Wright Technical School was joining some friends on Saturday as a first time participant.
“I love to spread goodness in any way I can,” Miller said. “I’m doing this with my friends and what better way to do something to help people than doing it with your friends?”
The St. Philip Famine team urge adults in the community to donate to the campaign. To make a donation, send a check payable to either “World Vision” or “Manna House” addressed to “Famine” at St. Philip Church, Fr. Conlon Place, Norwalk CT, 06851. More information and online donations can be found at www.stphilipnorwalk.weebly.com.