Beurling Academy (the school I teach at), has a strong tradition of Service in Action initiatives. Every year, our two largest activities are the CIBC Run For The Cure (normally held in early October) and World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine. This year, I’ve decided to blog the adventure of hosting more than 80 students overnight in their high school as part of the event.

I’ve affectionately called it: The BA Hunger Games.

May the odds be forever in your favour. I volunteer my food as tribute. – Cantbee Everfull

7:20 AM

While scarfing down a few slices of toast, I mentally prepare myself for my day at school. Even though I may do this daily, today is special: April 24 marks the annual Beurling Academy 30 Hour Famine. A popular activity  with our students, it isn’t uncommon for our small school located in a difficult socio-economic community to easily raise upwards of $6000 each year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to match (or surpass) last year’s achievement…

8:50 AM

Phew! I’m finally taking a break from the “controlled” chaos this morning. As per tradition, all students at Beurling Academy are treated to breakfast prior to the start of the famine. This “last supper” provides students the chance to check in with organizers, submit any last-minute documentation, sign a waiver (which includes the rules and regulatory policies set for the event), and deposit their “overnight” belongings for safe keeping. In addition, we’ve also arranged for the rest of the student body to participate in a “dress down day” where, for $2, students can ditch their school uniform for regular clothing. All proceeds are being added to our 30 Hour Famine total. We’re up to $2500 already…

1:37 PM

Lunchtime. I’m already beginning to feel the hunger pangs. To be honest, it feels more like the temptation experienced by Jesus when he traveled the desert for 40 days & 40 nights. For anyone who knows me, they know that I really enjoy my food. And, despite being an adult who can more easily control their hunger than adolescents can, just knowing that I can’t eat food that is readily accessible is like telling a teen they can have their smartphone but can’t turn it on. So far, the kids seem to be alright – mind you, they are not used to going without food, and this being around the time when they usually have lunch will undoubtedly be difficult for some. The 30 Hour Famine is an excellent exercise in self-control and empathy for children worldwide who go without food on a daily basis. With a little luck, most of the students participating today will leave tomorrow at 2 pm with a deeper understanding of just how lucky they really are.

2:23 PM

$4600, and counting…

4:45 PM

With most of the students gone for the weekend, the Famine participants gather for their first event as a concerted group. Teacher supervisors explain & expand upon the itinerary for the evening. It’s evident that the privilege extended to this year’s group is not lost upon them – everyone fully understands the sanctity of the group and the focus of our being there.

5:30 PM

Annually, Beurling is honored to be visited by ambassadors from World Vision. Chrissa & Bret impressed upon the children the importance of what they were doing. During their presentation, they lighted small candles in front of each of the students, and every 5 minutes or so, they would extinguish 8-10 candles. The students quickly realized that each candle that went dark represented a child who dies of hunger & malnutrition in the third-world.  As students sat there open-mouthed and silent, the grumbling in their stomachs suddenly didn’t seem all that bad anymore.

9:10 PM

Canadiens just scored. 3-1 vs. Ottawa in the NHL Playoffs. 10 minutes to go in the 3rd period.

Things are in full swing here at Beurling Academy’s 30 Hour Famine. In addition to live NHL action we also have numerous other activities to help our students keep their minds off the growing hunger in their bellies:

  • Open Gym (floor hockey, basketball, dodgeball, badminton)
  • Console Rooms (PS4/PS3/Wii)
  • Netflix Nook
  • Social Central (open computer labs, library, & student lounges)

Looks like it’s a veritable adolescent paradise. All we need is some pizza…

11:01 PM

Habs lose 3-1. Oh well. Game 6 in Ottawa Thursday.

The troops are fading fast. Some are really starting to feel the adverse effects of not having eaten for over 12 hours. Combine that with a lack of hydration and the excitement of bring at school overnight and some might say things are ripe for a fictional student uprising. Fortunately, we make sure to provide the students with a little sustenance around the adolescent witching hour.

On the menu: one cup of rice.

The look on the student’s faces when they hear (over the PA system) that rice is available for those who need it, is kinda like what I would imagine it would be if they received a new iPhone 6 for Christmas. I’m always amazed how gleefully they skip down the hallway to line up for a cupful of rice. I’m doubly amazed at how non-argumentative they are to get such a small helping too. All are thankful for the meal, many offering thanks while conveying how lucky they are to live in a country where food is so readily available.

12:15 AM

So, this happened. Our annual 30 Hour Famine obstacle Course. Always a crowd favorite:

1:36 AM

After everyone has had the chance to recover from this year’s obstacle race, students are once again gathered together to take part in another of Beurling’s 30 Hour Famine traditions – the Scavenger Hunt. Just like The Amazing Race, student teams of 2 are issued envelopes with a clue inside pointing them to the first route marker. If deciphered correctly, they locate their next envelope with their next clue, and so on. The team with the best time after finding all 15 clues is crowned the champs. This year, a group of students whose Community Project was to help with the organization of Beurling’s 30 Hour Famine, also designed the Obstacle Course & the Scavenger Hunt. They certainly did not disappoint.  Not only were the puzzles and clues difficult, they also made thinking on an almost empty stomach that much more grueling. Teams raced around the building, frantically searching for envelopes, often backtracking more than once, their fatigued minds playing tricks on them. The winning team finished in an impressive 25 minutes, but not after what seemed like over an hour of frenzied hunting action.

3:37 AM

Going to try to get some sleep. Wish me luck….

7:06 AM

As a teenager, after a late night out, it would not be uncommon to sleep in well past 10 AM on a Saturday. As adults, however, our internal clocks are wired to wake up at the same time every day. This morning was no different. Hungry, extremely groggy, and covered with a weird film that was a combination of sweat, dirt, and school, I awoke to the bright rays of sunshine streaming into my sleeping arrangements from the night before – the couch in the Staff Room.

As I emerged like a bear from a long winter’s nap, a strange realization washed over me – I had actually slept 4 hours while a group of 80+ teenagers were camped out overnight in our school. Moreover, things were quiet. Peacefully quiet. Roaming the halls, the silence I was greeted by rivaled only that encountered during Finals. In fact, the only evidence that the 30 Hour Famine occurred at all was the fact that there were large sleeping bag cocoons filled with snoring teenagers scattered all over the place. Our students are awesome.

10:00 AM

The home stretch. Awake or not, all students are called into the cafeteria for a little B-I-N-G-O. The mood is light – not much movement or brain power is needed for this activity, as it’s more of a distraction than anything else.

1:53 PM

Things are wrapping up. Students are given their final marching orders: cleanup. Parents are arriving to pick up their children. Some reunions are more emotional than others. Most have already proclaimed what type of fast food they’ll be using to break their fast with. Hopefully, they won’t overdo it, as reintroducing real foods to someone who has fasted for 30 hours is a very delicate process. Trust me, I should know!


Another successful 30 Hour Famine at Beurling Academy! The 2015 edition featured the most participants we’ve ever had (83), raising a new record total for the school & World Vision ($6200). All students are accounted for and have been returned safely to their parents. A few children feel a bit faint or nauseous, but that will be cured soon.

I’m always amazed at the determination and perseverance of our students. Not everyone is cut out to deprive themselves of food for 30 hours. Furthermore, many people may call the teacher chaperones who attended this event crazy for subjecting themselves to an overnight shift which leaves them sleep-deprived and famished. Consequently, without the dedication of said teachers, such an event would never have taken place. Our students look to us as leaders and examples of what it means to participate in activities which support Service in Action. More than that, I feel it lends itself to a lesson in character education – by seeing something through to the end, no matter how hard or difficult it is – so that, when it’s completed, you feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and happiness in the fact that you’ve done something good for others.

‘Til the next post.