By Tom Stockwell |

It’s hard to believe, but in beautiful St. Helena – surrounded by its luscious vineyards, breathtaking views and wealthy homes — 22 students and seven adults chose to experience starvation during a program held at Grace Episcopal Church called “The 30-Hour Famine.”

During those 30 hours they were only provided juice and water while they slept in cardboard huts and discussed the challenges that too many of their fellow youth in other countries experience day to day: the challenge of getting enough to eat.

World Vision — a Christian humanitarian organization — created the 30-Hour Famine program to give students a chance to help overcome hunger by going without food so others don’t have to. The program began in 1971 in Alberta, Canada, when a group of students encouraged others to fast for 30 hours to raise money and awareness about global hunger. The success of that program spread, and in 1992 the idea came to the United States. According to World Vision, the program raised $240,000 in that first year.

Grace Church has since held eight such events in past years, and – according to Erika Trez, Grace’s Youth Coordinator — this year Grace and the St. Helena Catholic Church have joined forces to participate with a program goal of raising $9,000. The students themselves have decided that the proceeds of the 30-Hour Famine event will be sent to World Vision this year. Last year’s event sent its proceeds to the What If? Foundation to help the people of Haiti.

The 22 St. Helena students were divided into five “tribes” – each representing a group of people in a country where hunger is a daily occurrence. This year the tribes represented ethnic groups in the country of Ethiopia, and included the Gumuz, the Afar, the Amhara, the Tigray, and the Oromia peoples. Then, on Friday night they started their fast. They slept in cardboard boxes, to get the experience that the homeless might have living on the street. Led by Trez, the students also participated and competed as teams in six relay-style games. By Saturday morning, the teams were tired and hungry, but inspired.

Jay Hipolito, who teaches at the St. Helena Catholic School, said the experience was extremely important to his students. “It gives them the perspective of what it’s like to go without,” he said, and he said he hoped his school would participate again next year.

For Kayla Kruz, 15, the realization that so many people are going hungry was a sobering experience. “We have so much here. It’s difficult to imagine what it is like in countries where they have so little.” Jenifer Sanchez, 13, agreed. “It was hard to sleep. When you’re hungry, all you can think about is the hunger.”

On Saturday morning the teams set out in the neighborhoods of St. Helena door-to-door, canvassing for food and donations, each team pulling a small wagon in the hopes of gathering food donations that will go to the St. Helena Food Pantry. By the end of the morning they had collected over 800 food items and $887 in cash donations. Trez said that the fundraising will continue on an individual basis, with each student hoping to collect toward the goal of raising $9,000.

After the 30-Hour Famine the teams broke up and returned to their sponsoring churches for a mass and a meal to break the fast. It was a meal that was welcomed by all.

According to World Vision, the 30-Hour Famine program has raised more than $120 million in the 20 years it’s run in the U.S. But, perhaps more important to the students in St. Helena, it’s a program that touches their lives with an experience that is unforgettable.

“I’ve seen a tremendous desire of this generation of youth to serve,” said Trez. “It’s inspiring them to reach out beyond their comfort zone and to try to really make a difference.”

For information on how to contribute to the 30-Hour Famine program, call Trez at 694-9926. To learn more about the 30-Hour Famine program itself, visit

Source: Napa Valley Register

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