Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 2004
Fasting feeds a man for a lifetime
Vegreville teens raise $1,900 for Development and Peace projects
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Balancing a cup filled with water while walking across a wobbly gymnasium bench was one of several activities enjoyed by 28 students at St. Mary's School in Vegreville.
But the reason for the exercises was deadly serious.
The Grade 7 to 12 students were participating in the fifth annual Think Fast event March 19-20 put on in schools by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace to help students reflect on Third World situations and to experience some of the deprivation endured by the poor who live there.
In the midst of a 25-hour fast, high school teacher and chaplain Mark Kobelski paced the eager participants through rubber saucer minefields to a dangerous water well set up on a large table.
The exercise simulated some of the perils starving and thirsty people in the Third World must overcome merely to obtain clean water.
"The students are proud to know they are doing something to help," Kobelski said. "By doing this, they realize the value of water and by going door-to-door to get donations, they are thinking about the values of others."
Great return on the dollars
The students raised $1,900 this year, an awesome amount when you consider $12 will feed a family in Rwanda for one week while they work towards self-sufficiency; $24 will buy sleeping mats for four refugees escaping war or disaster; $36 will allow three members of a community in Chiapas, Mexico, to attend a workshop on organic farming; $207 will bring a dozen women together to organize self-help projects in brick making, tailoring and sugar cane planting in Kenya.
"I believe the motto for Development and Peace is 'If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day; but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.'
"All of their projects they have to apply because they want to teach and train local people to take responsibility to become self-sufficient so that it is a lasting thing.
"This is where the money goes," Kobelski said.
Each year, the CCODP spends at least 72 per cent of its general funds for programs in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, with an additional 14.6 per cent allocated to education.
Since 1967, Development and Peace has helped people improve their living and working conditions in 70 countries around the world. It has provided $360 million for human rights, community development and humanitarian aid.
"I have read research which suggests water in this millennium will be what oil and gas was in the last century," Kobelski said.
"Do we want water as a commodity? This is a point I'm trying to get across to the students."
Ten million people in South Africa have lost their water service because they could not pay the bill charged by private companies who have gained control over water supplies.
Globally, two million people die a year from water-related diseases due to a lack of clean water.
For Grade 12 student Jonathon Wilson, this was his fifth Think Fast event. The seniors' centre volunteer and lung association canvasser has come to realize this serves a great purpose.
"Besides the fun and joking around, there is the motivating factor that I get to help these people. It is all for a good cause," Wilson said.
"Personally, it makes me feel I am serving a purpose. Helping the people makes me feel better about myself."
Wilson said he has realized that Think Fast is much more than reading cards containing situation scenarios and answering trivia questions. He has come to understand the bleakness others must suffer.
"Instead of playing a scene that someone is robbing me of my water, there is actually someone with a knife robbing someone of his water. I try to picture it really happening. It is important to see those messages."
Think Fast helps them think
Grade 7 classmates Amber Thiel and Brittany Lotoski enjoyed their first Think Fast.
They found the fasting difficult but they did gain a respect for the plight of poorer, developing nations.
"We are pretty lucky," Theil said. "We have learned how valuable clean water is. It is important to tell people in other countries to help."
Lotoski admitted she feels she is not doing enough to help. But she knows that by thinking globally and acting locally, she is doing all she can.
"It feels really good to know that I am helping," she said. "I know that the money I raised might help a child my own age."