The hunger relief organization World Vision begins its annual 30 Hour Famine (30HF) youth-orientated program to raise funds and awareness this weekend. The Christian-based group plans to leverage the source where most young people get their information nowadays – social media.
"When it comes to where teens are getting the majority of their information, they are on the peer-to-peer platforms so much that they are hearing about social justice and causes through Facebook and through Twitter much more than they are hearing from other sources, even their parents," Leah Swindon, national director of World Vision's 30HF, told The Christian Post.
"It's not that the parents don't care it's that they are hearing about it more [through social media]," Swindon said.
According to a new World Vision study, conducted online earlier this month by Harris Interactive on behalf of World Vision, more than half of teens (56%) say social media sites (Facebook, Twitter) have made them more aware of the needs of others. Officials say this is a large increase from 2011, when just over 4 in 10 (44%) said their use of social media made them more aware. More than 2 in 3 teens (68%) say that, when it comes to helping those in need, adults don't do enough to set a positive example for teens, according to the study.
From now until April, some 200,000 teens will go hungry as part of 30HF to raise funds and hunger awareness. Since 1992, 30HF has raised more than $150 million to fight world hunger. This is the first time 30HF funds are being designated to fight hunger here in the United States. According to the survey, most teens feel it is primarily the responsibility of churches or other religious organizations (76%) to help address hunger in the local community, with as many as 2 in 3 teens (66%) also indicating that the responsibility lies with them.
This coming weekend, World Vision will be doing a "homepage takeover," said Swindon, "so that our social media feeds will go live across the homepage so that our kids can post everything they are doing with the 30 Hour Famine and the things they are experiencing at that time."
World Vision is finding through its analytics studies of youth and online media that the organization's 30HR Facebook page is being viewed by people in the age range of late 30s' and early 40s' as well.
Not only youth leaders and youth pastors are keeping track of the project, but so are parents, said Swindon.
"What's really interesting is that if we leverage social media the right way we can help bring parents back into the conversation that their students are having," she explained. "We are really trying to have a holistic approach. If an approach is going to last a long time we feel very strongly that they need to get that reinforcement from home."
While many will do 30HF this weekend, others participate on April 26, 27. Teens go without food for 30 hours to get a taste of what the world's poorest children face, organizers said. Prior to the event, teens raise funds by explaining that $1 can help feed and care for a child a day. Teens consume only water and juice as they participate in local community service projects at food banks and homeless shelters. Last year 30HF raised $9.8 million to fight hunger. This year's goal: $10.5 million.
"Tonight, 870 million people worldwide will go to bed hungry. Nearly 19,000 children die each day from hunger and preventable diseases. Chronic poverty, affecting half the people on earth, is the cause," World Visions states. "Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Funds raised this year for 30HF will be sent to 10 countries including Haiti, Burundi and the U.S. Some 30HF funds also address poverty here in the U.S."
Swindon said that World Vision's work, along with help from other organizations, has brought the number of children dying each day down. Twenty-one years ago, when World Vision's program began, the number of deaths among children from hunger and disease was at 40,000 per day based on official statistics, she said.