Christina Kruszewski, leader of Thinkfast for four years, is passionate about social justice.
Every year in Lent, a group of students at J.H. Picard School goes hungry for a day to show solidarity with the poor of the developing world and to raise funds for development.
The action, called Thinkfast, is a 25-hour fast that brings together most of the school to explore the causes of poverty and social injustice. It also inspires students to learn how they can make a difference in their community and the world.
All the money raised through the annual event goes to support the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, an organization that supports development projects throughout the developing world.
According to Sara Michel, regional animator for Development and Peace, J.H. Picard School's Thinkfast is among the best in Alberta.
Last year 45 students participated in the event, raising $2,865. More than 60 have already registered for this year's Thinkfast, which will start at 10 a.m. March 16 and conclude the following morning with breakfast and Mass.
The secret to having a successful Thinkfast is to have a good organizing team and to show enthusiasm, say members of the organizing team.
"We have a really great team of student organizers," said Grade 12 student Christina Kruszewski, who has been leading the Thinkfast for at least four years.
"We have a head team made up of Grade 12 (students) and then we have some kids from Grade 10 who help out so they can learn what they need to do for the next year when the Grade 12s graduate."
Kruszewski got hooked on social justice issues in Grade 8 when her class "learned a lot about social justice" and did a famine in support of World Vision.
The school later switched to Development and Peace when they learned the Catholic organization "was putting a higher percentage of the money into helping people and less money into administration."
Student Megan Beneteau, also Grade 12, first took part in a Thinkfast when she was in Grade 8. "It really touched me so I have continued to do it and for the past couple of years I have helped to organize it."
"For me and the other organizers, the Thinkfast means a lot," Beneteau continued. "We have become very attached to it so we are able to show other people the importance of doing it. It's easier to make people want to participate in something when it means something to you."
Participants are asked to go without food for 25 hours and only drink water or juice. To raise funds, they seek donations from their families, relatives, friends and others. Some go door to door.
"We'll start the Thinkfast off with a Mass just so we can get blessed and we'll receive Communion so that we can have the spirit of Jesus carry us through our fast," explained Kruszewski.
During the day, participants will attend classes as usual. After school, they attend presentations, hear speakers, participate in social justice activities and enjoy a coffee house and concert in the cafeteria. Organizers charge $5 per person for the concert with the proceeds going to D&P. One social justice activity to be had is mimicking a day in the life of a youth in Africa.
"We will be talking to people at various points through the day telling them: 'If you were IN AFRICA THIS IS WHAT YOU WOULD BE DOING AT THIS TIME,'" BENETEAU EXPLAINED.
"The point is to show how much different the lifestyle of young people in Africa is compared to ours. While we are in class today, learning, they may be walking for miles for water."
Last year across Alberta schools there were 40 Thinkfasts, double the number of the previous year. That figure is expected to double again this year.
Michel attended last year's event and found it well organized. "It was a very large and very engaged group and the organizers were always extremely active, extremely on top of things."
Kruszewski said the entire school is behind the Thinkfast.
"They are really sympathetic to what we are doing. It's fantastic. It's a great environment."