Hundreds of teenagers across North Carolina spent parts of last weekend hungry and cold, all to better understand how children live in other parts of the world.
The weekend marked the 20th year of World Vision's 30-Hour Famine, a nationwide event where teens fast for 30 hours and raise money to help world hunger. In Charlotte, 35 people from New Apostolic Church on Mount Holly-Huntersville Road were one participating group.
The group stopped eating at noon on Friday, and they met at the church at 6 p.m. to begin a series of events to observe the fast and learn more about world hunger, said Luke Ronkowski, the church's co-youth pastor, with his wife Sharon.
New Apostolic Church decided to use the money it raised to help children in Haiti. Friends and families of the teenagers sponsor the youth for the weekend.
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Ronkowski said the teens didn't complain about being hungry, even when they began the evening at a movie theater .
"We had already been fasting for eight to 10 hours, and you're smelling popcorn and your stomach's turning," Ronkowski said. "But we got past all of that."
At bedtime, 20 of the youths built a cardboard city outside the church with plans to sleep outside. Temperatures dropped to 40 degrees as youth huddled in their boxes to keep warm.
"It showed them how luxurious we have it compared to (children in Haiti)," Ronkowski said.
The next morning, the teenagers went door-to-door in nearby neighborhoods, asking residents if they would donate a few cans of food to Second Harvest Food Bank.
"It really felt like I had a hand in helping the world hunger cause," Sanela Jojic, 21, a junior at UNC Charlotte, wrote. "Most people were more than happy to contribute cans for Second Harvest Food Bank..."
Ronkowski said most people were happy to donate two or three cans of food. The church also planned activities for the youth to help them better understand conditions in other countries. In one, the group filled a sock with dirt and put it in a bucket of water, then dropped the soaking sock in a pitcher.
"That's what (many people) drink overseas," Ronkowski said. "We got to see first hand that they don't have filtered water like we do."
The youth group broke its fast by sharing a loaf of bread and talking about things they were thankful for.
"Many were thankful for the food they have," Ronkowski said. "It was a great experience for everyone."
Ronkowski expects the group to raise about $2,100. He said $30 will feed a child in Haiti for a month.
Michele Tvedt, national manager of the 30-Hour Famine, said North Carolina traditionally is in the top 10 money raising states for the event; last year the state ranked seventh. Youth nationwide raise between $250,000 and $300,000 each year from 30-Hour Famine events.
Tvedt said students often end a 30-Hour Famine with a sense of awe. The event teaches students where the money they raise goes and what it feels like to be hungry.
"Their eyes are being opened up to what's happening in the world around them," she said. "I think so many students have so much passion and energy to change the world, and they just don't know what the need is."