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Teens get a taste of hunger, homelessness

May 22, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Julianne Baker, 13, left, and her friend, Brooklyn Welch, 14, use duct tape to secure their cardboard roof to their cardboard walls Friday night at Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT -- Julianne Baker didn't eat Friday night.

She didn't sit in front of a computer or go to the movies with her friends.

Instead, she slept in a cardboard box.

It was a far cry from the 13-year-old's warm, comfortable bedroom.

And that was precisely the point.

About 20 teenagers got a taste of hunger and homelessness Friday and Saturday by participating in a 30-hour famine.

In addition to going without food, the group spent the night curled up in boxes set up near the Springfield Farm barn at Byron Memorial Park.

The event was a fundraiser for World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to helping children reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty.

Gregory Martin, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, said the event is a way to educate youths about what it's like to live in poverty while raising money to help make a difference.

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Through sponsors and pledges, Martin said the group hoped to raise about $2,000.

Participants were members of Zion Lutheran Church and Williamsport United Methodist Church, Martin said.

In addition to going without food for 30 hours and sleeping outdoors, the youths completed a community service project by cleaning up the stream that runs through Byron Memorial Park.

Stepheney Himes, 14, a member of Zion Lutheran Church, said this is the second year she participated in the 30-hour famine.

"About 25,000 kids die every day because of a lack of food or water," she said. "This type of event helps raise awareness of what is happening around the world."

Stepheney said she didn't mind sleeping in a box, "although it was pretty cramped and some of the sides fell off during the night."

But she considers herself lucky.

"The weather was nice," she said. "When you're homeless, you're dealing with living outdoors when the weather is really bad."

Stepheney said many of her friends made donations to the cause "but, unfortunately, I think a lot of young people are in their own little world and don't think about starvation and dying."

Nikki Schlapo, 12, a member of Zion Lutheran Church, said she has participated in the 30-hour famine for several years.

"This is how millions of young people around the world live every day," she said. "They're poor, hungry and homeless."

Nikki said going without food since Friday afternoon wasn't too difficult.

"I tried to keep busy," she said.

She also reminded herself of a video she watched the first year she participated in the famine, which showed people tying rocks around their stomachs to make them feel full.

"That image really stayed with me," she said.

Nikki said her friends have been supportive of her participation in the event by making donations.

Another friend, who couldn't make it to the event, fasted at her house, she said.

Martin said the group would break their famine at 6 p.m. on Saturday with a covered dish supper provided by parents and church members.

"After all of this, I think I'll feel guilty eating," Nikki said.

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