Donations, ethics, and the 40 Hour Famine

12 August 2016

Written by: Katherine McLeod

The 40 hour famine is about raising money, but how far is too far when deciding what to give up?

With the 40 Hour Famine approaching on August 19-21, thousands of Australians are preparing to give up an item of their choice, in order to raise funds to help fight poverty and hunger worldwide.

Since its inception in 1975, World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine has been able to raise over $200 million with funds going towards those in need.

The event has helped to reduce malnutrition in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and East Timor. Funds raised have been used to improve the health of children, increase access to child health and nutrition services and to train women in business skills.

Originally participants went without food for 40 hours but those with medical conditions who are unable to give up food are encouraged to participate by giving up another item.

World Vision says that they are supportive of participants giving up whatever they feel they can.

Despite food remaining the number one choice, other popular choices are choosing to go without technology, talking or even the use of a particular limb.

Melbourne University student, Ben O’Brien, is preparing to complete the 40 Hour Famine for the first time, and had some trouble deciding what to go without.

“I’ve chosen to give up my phone for the famine. It’s the thing I probably rely on the most in my day-to-day life, and the thing I know that I’ll struggle the most without,” he tells upstart.

“I feel sort of guilty though, giving it up. I couldn’t go without food for that long, and I know that the whole idea is to experience what it’s like to have nothing.”

“A phone’s a luxury that heaps of people just don’t have, but it seems kind of small when there are people going without food and clean water out there,” he says.

Student Amy Grey, has participated before and has experienced how difficult it is to go without food.

“I’ve done the 40 hour famine a few times before, and I’ve done food twice. It’s a lot harder than people realise,” she tells upstart.

“I wasn’t hungry much, I just felt tired and very weak. I have also given up furniture, and the use of technology.”

While going without furniture, food and even technology can be seen to be in the spirit of a famine, some things that have been given up seem a little far-fetched.

Sasha Mills, 21, says she attempted to complete the challenge when she was younger. Only instead of giving up food, she decided to give up something that she thought was more important.

“When I was in year ten, I decided to give up makeup. I thought I was doing something worthwhile, but now that I look back it seems kind of rude,” she tells upstart.

“I’m glad that I could raise money, but going without something superficial isn’t really in the spirit of what the famine is supposed to be without.”

“If I was going to participate again I would go without food or furniture. I don’t think that anyone can get an idea of poverty for only doing 40 hours, but it seems a lot less insulting than giving up something that isn’t a necessity in the first place,” she says.

Some involvements were not well thought out, such as student Dylan Thomas’ decision to participate in 2015.

“I gave up books once. It was just before exams and I thought that I could tell the coordinators that I was doing the famine, and that it would be okay. It turns out that I still had to do my exams, minus studying. It didn’t really go too well at all,” he says.

Others have found different ways to raise money.

In 2015, a group of students in Auckland from Selwyn College chose to raise funds by walking the 40 km distance from Auckland to Whangaparoa, after an almost nine hour walk through near torrential rain.

In 1989, 40 Melbourne students rode the trains of the Melbourne Metropolitan Rail system for the full 40 hours, even going as far as to sleep in the carriages.

This year, World Vision has advertised that the focus for 2016 is on participants sharing the experience with their friends and challenging each other to show their strength by going without their biggest weakness.

Katherine-McleodWeb_thumbKatherine McLeod is a third year journalism student at La Trobe University and a staff writer for upstart. Twitter: @kattt_mcleod