Late French immersion students at Harwood are all smiles after taking part in the school’s 12-hour famine

Late French immersion students at Harwood are all smiles after taking part in the school’s 12-hour famine

Famine results in Harwood smiles

By giving up a few meals for the day, students at Vernon's Harwood elementary school did a world of good, both locally and internationally.

By giving up a few meals for the day, students at Harwood elementary school did a world of good, both locally and internationally.

Grade 6 and 7 students in the late French immersion (LFI) program took part in a 12-hour famine June 8, raising $2,184 to be divided equally between the Vernon food bank and Operation Smile.

Teacher and vice-principal Rita Tedesco said students had to raise a minimum of $25 each, collecting pledges from family members and friends and spreading awareness about hunger.

“Part of our curriculum is to study global citizenship, so we looked at countries around the world and in comparing ours to others, they see that we are very fortunate as a nation,” said Tedesco. “But we also see that we need to help folks in our own community and through this project, we can experience for a short time what it feels like to be without.”

The entire Grade 6 class and nine Grade 7 LFI students were permitted to have water and juice but no food during the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This is the seventh year for the fundraiser at Harwood, although in past years, students have taken part in a 24-hour famine.

Students must decide on the charities that will receive the funds, researching and making a case for their favourite.

“They have to research a variety of charities that are Canadian-based but help out around the world, and once they’ve completed their research, they present it to their classmates, we have a class discussion and decide where the money will go,” said Tedesco. “We do a 50/50 split because it’s a way of recognizing that there are problems around the world, but to completely ignore our own community would be wrong.”

Tedesco said she was impressed with the initiative shown by her students, many of whom made posters, brochures and anything else they could think of to ensure “their” charity was selected.

“They can become quite invested in this,” she said. “And when we do the famine itself, we talk about what it’s like to feel hungry. Around 6 or 7 p.m., students really start to feel it and I ask them to imagine what it would be like to live with hunger every day.”

Activities are organized to help take students’ mind off their growling stomachs, such as playground activities and Xbox, all of which are also designed to demonstrate how difficult it is to perform physical tasks on an empty stomach.

For Grade 6 student Richard Harrison, his hypoglycemia meant the 12-hour famine was particularly challenging and he looked forward to enjoying a light meal afterwards.

“I was upset and a broken-down wretch at the end,” he said, adding that he was happy to tuck into his bowl of cereal and glass of orange juice as soon as he arrived home.

Grade 6 students Megan Loland and Elise Parsonage came up with the idea of fundraising for Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity working in more than 60 countries that provides safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

“My dad told me about Operation Smile and I looked it up on the computer and it touched our hearts because they do so much to help kids,” said Megan.

Since 1982, Operation Smile — through the help of medical volunteers — has provided more than two million patient evaluations and more than 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. In some places these children are shunned and in many cases, their parents can’t afford to give them the surgeries they need to live a normal life.

And, while the girls were thrilled to be able to help their charity, both admit they were also happy when the famine ended and they were able to eat: quesadillas for Megan, and a large slice of cake for Elise.

Tedesco adds that the LFI program at Harwood, which begins in Grade 6, still has space available for September. For more information, contact the school at 250-542-5385.