Child soldiers are on the minds of over 70 Pope John Paul II C.S.S students, and they are giving up an entire weekend to prove it.
Students will go without food for 24 hours in support of this year’s selected social justice issue.
The event behind the cause is called Starve-a-Thon, hosted annually by the school’s Executive Leadership Council for well over a decade.
Leroy Gonsalves Prabhu, current vice-president of the ELC, stresses the importance of this year’s harrowing theme.
“It’s estimated that 200- to 300,000 children are serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in current armed conflicts,” Prabhu says.
Participants in the fundraiser are required to come with a minimum of $30 through pledges, says Prabhu of the event scheduled for Feb. 29 to March 1.
Students will be allowed beverages, and will keep busy with an array of games including a scavenger hunt, karaoke, and even a dance.
“We try and fill it with as many activities as we can so that it’s fun and not about feeling hungry, although the hunger is there to remind them of what their doing and how it feels in other parts of the world,” Prabhu says.
Council president Alicia Fernandes says she is definitely feeling the pressure of being the one running the show, and is worried about potential problems.
“I know that people try to sneak in liquor and other various types of drugs,” Fernandes says.
However, many teachers volunteer for the event to ensure things run smoothly. One such teacher is Rene Jansen.
“We get a lineup of kids who want to give up their weekend, go out and do the work of finding sponsors, and not eat for 24 hours,” Jansen says. “To think about that is so great and as a teacher that’s why I’ve never missed it.”
There have never been any major issues, Jansen says. This is because strict planning goes into the event with every hour accounted for, as well as certain guidelines that are set in place.
“We make sure we’ve got the boys’ rooms and the girls’ rooms, and we have someone all night long in between the two,” says Jansen, chuckling over this necessary arrangement.
At the very end students enjoy a pizza party along with a reflection session, and this year the council wants a guest speaker from the charitable organization War Child.
“We show a power point presentation and we just discuss what’s going on around the world and how what we’re doing can really try to help,” Prabhu says.
But do the students take away anything besides a gut full of cheese and bad indigestion?
“Every year they feel more connected to not only each other but the theme that we give them. It really hits home,” Fernandes says.
“What’s cool is you get those kids here and when you walk through the halls of your high school in your slippers at midnight it’s never the same,” Jansen says. “And the good kids get to feel like this is their home, their place.”