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Fasting to fight famine


Thirty hours without food.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like much. I mean, if a person sleeps for eight hours a day, that leaves only 22 waking hours to go hungry.

Take a nap one day and sleep in, and that number drops below 20.

So when Jordan Roy, president of the Fort High student executive council, approached me looking for community members to take part in World Vision’s annual 30-Hour Famine, I thought, “Why not? After all, the money goes towards feeding starving children.”

And it’s only 30 hours without food.

I joined the ranks of about 50 other students who participated in the “famine” this year at 5 p.m. Friday at the high school. We had all started fasting at 12:30 p.m. that day five o’clock was when we had to meet at the high school to spend the remaining 25-and-a-half hours trying not to think about food.

Roy had asked all the students to stay in the high school the entire time in order to hold each other accountable for the full 30 hours of the “famine.” Those with jobs were allowed to leave for their shift but reported back to the school once it had ended.

A mini-community was set up in the small gym of the high school, where people rolled out tents and sleeping bags for the long haul.

Being a non-student and a reporter, (and the fact I snore like a chainsaw with a bad fuel mix), Roy told me I didn’t have to spend the night in the gym.

So far, I was doing pretty well. No hunger pangs, no light-headedness, no insatiable craving for dinner. Yup, as long as I had my two-litre bottle of Diet Coke with me, I was going to be okay.

“That has caffeine,” someone noted. “You can’t drink that.”

Apparently caffeine is construed as a stimulant, which gives you extra “oomph” and so is strictly forbidden under World Vision’s rules for the famine.

At least, that’s what Lisa Pruys told me and she should know. This was her fourth go through the 30-hour famine in three years, the last time being April 3-4 with a few of her friends in Devlin.

“I like getting involved in this type of thing,” she said. “The more money you raise, the more money goes to Third World countries.”

She assured me that in the “famines” she’s done with smaller groups, only a few people get hungry--and even then only in the last few hours.

“The more you dwell on it, the worse it gets,” Pruys said, telling me it should be easy.

Her confidence was reassuring--even with the loss of my Diet Coke. But I don’t think I was the one who needed the confidence booster right then.

“Don’t get hungry,” I heard one girl say to her companion as they turned past the high school’s vending machine, which I noticed remained plugged in.

“Just keep walking ahead and don’t even think about those things,” she continued.

Ah, the masses begin to weaken.

After replacing my Diet Coke with diet ginger ale, I checked out the rest of the high school to see what else one could do there during the “famine.”

One room was filled with Nintendo 64s and Sony Playstations. On the stage in the J.A. Mathieu Auditorium was a big-screen TV and VCR, with about a hundred movies stacked beside it.

In the cafeteria was a slew of board games. Fort High principal Terry Ellwood, SEC vice-president John Cox, Brian Cogsworth, and I spent two hours around a Monopoly board as I bankrupted each and every one of them with Boardwalk and Park Place.

Over in another corner, a group of ambitious grade nine and 10 students tried to start up a game of “Clue.” But 10 minutes into the game, a fight erupted over the correct rules.

The game eventually broke up, everyone leaving with disgusted looks on their faces.

My first hunger pangs didn’t begin until 12:25 p.m. Saturday on my way back to town from taking pictures at Emo Spring Fever Days. All of a sudden, I felt bloated and my stomach muscles cramped for a good five minutes, then stopped.

When I reported back to the high school later that afternoon, I discovered I wasn’t the only one having problems.

“I feel empty,” noted Ria Cuthbertson, who seemed to have lost a lot of spunk since the ordeal started. “I’ve got a headache, I’m tired, I’m whiny. I didn’t expect to be so tired.

“I need food!” she said, laughing.

“I’m hungry, wicked tired,” echoed Tom Rose. “[The hardest thing is] not cheating because there’s that one candy-thing upstairs.”

Mass exhaustion also seemed to plague a lot of students. Several girls had fallen asleep on the crash-mat set up in the small gym. And while many swore they weren’t feeling any hunger or side effects from the “famine,” they did note their classmates were getting really tired--and very irritable.

But teacher Jason Kabel seemed to be doing fairly well, shooting hoops while many of his students had resigned to counting sheep.

“I’m doing surprisingly well,” he said. “I have the beginnings of some hunger pains but I thought I’d have them much earlier. I think I’ll be all right.”

So did I--until around 5 p.m. With just 90 minutes to go, even the book I was reading to pass the time looked tasty. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t end my fast right at 6:30 p.m. since I was working the door at the Fort Frances Little Theatre production of “On Golden Pond” until seven.

Couldn’t, that is, unless I made something for me ahead of time.

Perhaps the hardest thing I have done--or will ever do--was making the three roast beef sandwiches, layered with tomatoes and Swiss cheese, for my dinner more than an hour before I could eat them, knowing that even licking the tomato seeds off my fingers would be considered a no-no.

CFOB news director Jennifer Avis said she was feeling about the same as her fast drew to a close. She and colleague Suzanne Thomson had signed up for the famine after I issued a “challenge” to them, starting at 1 p.m. Friday.

“From 6-7 p.m. [Saturday] was the worst because I was constantly watching the clock,” Avis said. “I was exhausted Saturday night and had a splitting headache. You figure there are people who go through this day in and day out.

“It does make you open your eyes,” she added.

I managed to get through the “famine” without any headaches or nausea but I’ve never felt that hungry before in my life. Even after my sandwiches bit the dust at 6:30 p.m., they were followed by a kick-butt huge Caesar salad at seven--plus another couple of sandwiches later that night.

The high school is still collecting pledges but if the students meet their $100 a person goal, they should have raised several thousand dollars to fight world hunger.

As for me, I raised $186.10. Avis smugly told me she and Thomson raised about $250 between the two of them, insinuating that they beat me at my challenge.

Well, if you take $250 and divide it by two, you get $125. That means I raised $61.10 more than each of them individually.

I won’t be so crass as to gloat but feel free to draw your own conclusions from those statistics.

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