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Middle and high school students fast to slow spread of hunger

On the morning of Feb. 25, nine young area residents awoke at Lansdowne United Methodist Church with nothing filling their stomachs.

Instead of making breakfast, they made signs that read "No Hunger Zone" and "Stop Hunger Before It Stops You."

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The group, members of the Lansdowne and Halethorpe-Relay United Methodist churches, had last eaten at lunchtime the day before.

On Saturday morning, they ignored their hunger pangs for nine more hours and concentrated on helping the hungry in their community and abroad.

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"I wanted to make a change in my community, which starts with getting involved," said Jessica Lester, 14, a freshman at Lansdowne High School. "I decided to do the 30 Hour Famine to help (fight) poverty and to help prevent hunger."

The Rev. Claire Fiedler, pastor at Halethorpe-Relay United Methodist Church and an organizer of the event, said the youths from her church raised $415, primarily by seeking people to sponsor them.

The youths from Lansdowne United Methodist Church raised $489 by Feb. 26, but Laurie Slack, an organizer from the church, said she was confident the total would top $500.

Slack said that World Vision has companies that have pledged to match donations, which means the combined local effort of raising $904 will turn into $3,616.

World Vision is a 62-year-old Christian humanitarian organization that organized the 30 Hour Famine.

According to its website, World Vision provides aid to people in nearly 100 countries.

"Part of it is to raise an awareness of hunger worldwide as well as locally," said Fiedler, who noted they have done the famine for the past six years. "By doing a 30-hour famine they begin to experience on a very minute level what hunger is."

The students met at the church Friday to watch videos about hunger and play some ice-breaking games, slept over and woke up at 9 a.m. for more games and a discussion about hunger, Fiedler said.

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The group also learned about the symptoms of starvation, such as fatigue.

Subsisting solely on juice and water, the group spent afternoon Feb. 25 requesting food donations from shoppers outside the Giant grocery store at 4622 Wilkens Avenue.

The 1.5 shopping carts of food they collected, Slack said, was donated to Southwest Emergency Services, where the students performed volunteer work later that afternoon.

Though the participants get 30 service hours for participating in the fast, Slack said the group members don't use that as the reason for participating.

"They take it to heart when they see how many kids die," Slack said. "(This event) is something they actually look forward to."

By 11 a.m., Conner Wooford, a 14-year-old Lansdowne resident, said he craved tacos and pizza but was happy to abstain for six more hours.

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"It's a good experience," Conner said about why he decided to do the famine for the second year in a row. "It's fun and you help others around the world."

Anasia Hamlett, of Baltimorewent to a school dance Feb. 24, where she faced

a table full of cupcakes and other goodies.

Despite the temptation, Hamlett abstained.

"It was very hard," said Anasia, who celebrated her 13th birthday on Feb. 26. "I think it's just important to help people, especially people who have this problem."

Matt Austin, 17, of Ellicott City, has participated in the famine for the past six years and expects to come back next year.

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"We get to learn about how we are pretty much ahead of the entire world," he said, noting the experience provides a perspective about those in other countries have such severe needs. "Even though we kind of struggle with the economy, we're not as bad as them at all."

In addition to the ban on food, wasn't bad enough, the group also gave up cell phones and other technology.

"They wanted us to experience more because over in Kenya, Zambia and Bolivia they don't have cell phones," said Kaitlin Boyer, 13, of Arbutus. "It's not worse (than not eating), but it's close to it."

At 5:30 p.m., the group broke its fast with a pizza feast provided by Betty Cain, a member of Lansdowne United Methodist Church.

"It's a good experience, because when you're around the normal world, you don't realize what other people are going through," Kaitlin said. "You're helping someone who can't have what you have."


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