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Youth group endures 'famine' to raise hunger awareness

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A lot of creativity and work went into creating cardboard shelters intended to mimic the plight of the homeless as part of the 30 Hour Famine. Few things are more important to teenagers than food.

So when they’re forced to go more than a day without a meal, it tends to have a clarifying effect. And when it comes to 30 Hour Famine, a fundraising program created by international nonprofit group World Vision to benefit impoverished African countries, that’s precisely the point.

The connection between World Vision and Wilsonville can be found at the corner of Southwest Stafford and Boeckman roads inside the Community of Hope Lutheran Church. There, a middle school youth group headed up by Ted Bottemiller recently wrapped up its third ‘Famine,’ which culminated over the weekend with a two-day effort to raise money and collect food for the Wilsonville Food Bank.

“It’s just kind of fun,” said Sam Bottemiller, a youth group member. “You can do it with your friends. I’ve done it before, and the first five hours you’re really hungry, but the rest is just kind of a numbing effect; you don’t even realize it anymore.”

By going without food for 30 hours, participants get a small taste of what the world’s poorest children and families face every day. Along the way, participants raise funds knowing every $30 they collect will help feed and care for a child for a month.

Community of Hope youth group members also went door to door on Saturday and Sunday, collecting food for the Wilsonville Food Bank. They also assembled “Blessing Bags,” which are filled with food and personal care items as well as a note of encouragement. The bags were sold at the church for people to keep in their cars and give to homeless people they might see on the road.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A reality check is how one youth group member described the 30 Hour Famine fundraising effort, in which participants go 30 hours without food while also collecting food and money for those in need. “You have granola bars, things of Band-aids, wet wipes, toothbrushes,” Ted Bottemiller said. “We’ll pack those and sell them at cost at the church the next few weeks. People put them in their car and when they see someone who looks like they’re in need, rather than driving by and possibly giving them money, they can give them a blessing bag. The kids will be writing a message of hope to include.”

Finally, to re-create at least a sliver of the plight of the poor and hungry, youth group members built cardboard houses to spend the night in. In the past, ‘Famine’ participants slept outdoors in their cardboard shelter. This year, however, the blustery forecast led to the merciful decision to deploy shelters indoors.

“We build the cardboard huts with the cardboard we get and we sleep in the hut that we’ve built,” said Sam Bottemiller. “We did it two years ago and built them outside and slept in those. That wasn’t so fun. I slept next to my youth pastor’s feet. It was cold but you know when you’re that tired and that hungry you fall asleep pretty easy.”

On Saturday, the two-dozen or so youth group members dined at Carl’s Jr. in the morning before visiting a world hunger museum maintained by international nonprofit group Medical Teams International.

Featuring facts about poverty and hunger in vivid displays, the museum is a powerful teaching piece.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A lot of creativity and work went into creating cardboard shelters intended to mimic the plight of the homeless as part of the 30 Hour Famine. “There’s a light that flashes and it says every time this flashes a kid in a third world country dies,” said Sam Bottemiller. “You go through separate rooms, there are terrible places in Mexico, another room has a giant wall, it’s a tsunami, it’s a wave, they’re under the wave, to show how it overflowed everything.”

“It has cool facts in each room,” said youth group member Justin Walker. “I remember in the Mexican City dump room, there’s things all over the floor.”

After that, the youth group embarked on the main leg of their fundraising effort.

“We break into tribes, and the games pit tribes against each other,” said Ted Bottemiller. “They’ll each go to a separate neighborhood and there will be a contests to see who can gather the most items.”

Teams of youths went door-to-door in the Merrifield, Morey’s Landing, Hazlewood, Meadows and Villebois neighborhoods, looking for donations of food or money for World Vision. Despite the off-and-on rain showers, their efforts were largely successful, resulting in more than $3,500 being raised by that afternoon.

That left them only $500 short of an initial goal of raising $4,000 — and they still had yet to ask the Community of Hope congregation for its help.

At that point, though, the next day’s work was the last thing on kids’ minds. They were too busy by late afternoon warding off the growing hunger pangs and building their shelters for the night.

And given enough time, they may have simply kept building. Three, four and five-room structures emerged in a church meeting room where youth group members spent the night. Some featured decorative archways for entry while others were more utilitarian. A night spent on a hard floor, though, eventually took away a lot of the pleasure, even if the shared adventure carried with it quite a bit of fun.

“It’s kind of a reality check,” Sam Bottemiller said. “You realize there are a whole bunch of people out there who need things more than you do.”

“That’s true,” Walker agreed.

“For my involvement, it’s been so life changing,” Ted Bottemiller said. “The awareness factor is huge.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Community of Hope Church youth group members construct cardboard shelters as part of the 30 Hour Famine, a fundraising effort to benefit the poor, even those close to home.



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