Why I’ll be encouraging teens to participate in this year’s World Vision Australia 40 Hour Famine….
International Youth Day, August 12, allows an opportunity to focus on our youth and their role in society. No one would ever disagree about the teens of today experiencing a completely different world from the one most of us knew growing up. Yes … the internet has brought teens Snapchat and sexting; but let’s not forget it has also brought socially aware teens into a global world with around-the-clock coverage of many issues.
Mind-blowing … exciting … and a new citizenship!
World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine – a fundraising event now 42 years young – has long been popular with young people and indeed as a high schooler I remember collecting sponsorship dollars and going without food for 40 hours. Many of us did.
Admittedly we were probably naive and participated because many friends were, rather than to lend support to the humanitarian cause that my middle-class peers and I actually knew too little about. I mean we’d heard of World Vision at school, but really understood little about their work and its immense scope.
For us as teens, being hungry for 40 hours was a challenge, though doable. But being hungry always and forever was something beyond our experience and it was not until our 80s pop heroes formed Band Aid to “feed the world at Christmas time” and Bob Geldolf threw himself into the world-changing Live Aid event, that my generation realized how grueling life was for others across the world, particularly in Africa.
Children in Africa were starving. The TV news shared confronting and heartbreaking images of fly blown children clambering for handfuls of rice and gulps of water. All the while I, in my comfortable existence, began to give thanks for fresh food, shelter, clothing and education. Things too easy for a teenager to take for granted until it’s understood others are going without.
This had a profound impact upon my life and I realised that being blessed carries the responsibility to give a little something back. Now as a teacher of youth and a parent with teens of my own, young people always hear from me how lucky and privileged they really are. Truly are. I remind them often of all they have and can access.
Yes, I’m very aware many adults see millennials as the me-generation and doubt the ability of today’s kids to see beyond the screen of their i-gadget. Indeed, there are cases where this generalisation is validated by the behaviours and attitudes of some young people … the minority. Years of experience shows me there are many, many young people amongst this generation of teens are who are willing and vocal advocates for a better standard of living for those less fortunate. And the 40 Hour Famine is such an effective way for young people to stand together and give back to others.
In 2017, World Vision Australia’s 40 Hour Famine shines the light on a humanitarian issue much closer to home – the global refugee crisis. The majority of Australian teens would be very aware of the politics surrounding this issue but are they aware that worldwide approximately 35 million children have been displaced from their homes and have fled seeking safety? And that each minute of each day 24 people run from their homelands and the only culture they’ve ever known to risk their lives in search of a safe and peaceful life… and that more than half this number are children?
This year I urge you to encourage the compassionate teens in your life to live out of their backpack for 40 hours. Participating will help to raise funds for refugee and displaced children. Participating will also provide our nation’s lucky youth with an appreciation of their blessings and opportunity to make a difference.