Youth advocates lead 30-hour fast for the poor

Students at the 30 Hour Famine Camp participating in a simulation exercise where they took on the roles of countries and traded resources for their country’s survival.

IMAGINE FASTING FROM 6 pm tonight until 12 midnight tomorrow – that’s 30 straight hours, and that’s how long about 1,000 youths, aged 14 to 18, did without food and drink at the World Vision Singapore’s 30 Hour Famine Camp at Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) held in mid-June.

The purpose? To raise awareness of hunger and famine caused by poverty and unequal distribution of food. More than half of the world’s children live on less than US$1 (S$1.30) a day – that’s barely enough to buy a soft drink here in Singapore, not to mention solid food.

Ms Foo Pek Hong, World Vision’s CEO, said: “The world is not just changing very fast, different parts are also becoming more inter-dependent on each other. We want to encourage our young people to be better equipped with the knowledge and awareness, not just to look out for their own well-being, but for others too.”

This year’s Famine Camp sought to groom youth advocates to be the
champions for the poor and vulnerable in their communities, in particular children. To date, a group of youth ambassadors has already pledged their support to transform lives through volunteering, sponsoring children or as leaders and educators to their peers.

World Vision is committed to community transformation and sustainable development, which volunteer Xu Jiakun discovered after going on a Community Involvement trip to Vietnam with them in 2008. He was so inspired that he made a long-term commitment to World Vision as a Youth Ambassador and sponsor for a child in Thailand, whom he visited in 2010.

Jiakun, who is about to enter Duke University as a freshman, said: “We communicated with the children in different ways including performing for them. I believe their self-confidence is boosted through knowing that people from around the world care for them.”

Beatrice Lee-Chong had always wanted to be an advocate for under-privileged children, and she found this opportunity in World Vision. Currently a tertiary student, she has committed a portion of her monthly allowance to sponsor a child in Zambia.

“It is very meaningful that what I give goes not just to my sponsored child, but his family and community too. As students, we’ve the potential to offer so much more in terms of not just money, but time as well,” said Beatrice.

Both Jiakun and Beatrice shared their message to reach out to the poor during the Famine Camp, by volunteering alongside 120 other youths and young adults as group leaders and facilitators. By taking on frontline positions to influence their younger peers, they are responding to the call in Psalms 82:3 to “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed”.

Jiakun shared that there is a fine line between compassion and “compassion with action”. “You can feel for the children and communities or you can feel for them and commit to doing something about it,” he said.

As cliché as it sounds, it is the effort and thought that counts. Beatrice strongly encourages youths to rally together and speak up for the voiceless. She said: “We have a voice and we have a say. They don’t. We have to tell ourselves that ‘a positive difference can and will start with me’.”

JOIN * World Vision Singapore’s Youth Ambassador Programme, and get the opportunity to unveil real issues, meet inspiring people, and create lasting and impactful change. To apply or to find out more, visit sg/YouthAmbassador.

Beatrice Lee-Chong (in white) with her group at the 30 Hour Famine Camp. She is an active advocate, volunteer and child sponsor.
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Michelle Tan is the Assistant Manager (Media & Communications) of World Vision International.