SMUS students have access to a wide variety of extracurricular opportunities that interest them. We offer more than 100 fun and rewarding clubs or councils that provide students of all ages with leadership experience, skill development and a chance to contribute to life on campus and in our greater community. The SMUS Review is currently highlighting these extracurricular activities and the passionate students who get involved.
Today, Grade 11 student Jasper Johnston writes about his personal experience with the 30 Hour Famine Club at SMUS, tying the recent famine event at the school with a service trip he took last spring to Recife, Brazil with World Vision.
by Jasper Johnston, Grade 11
Soldiers marched in the streets, the murder rate spiked and stores were looted across the steamy Brazilian city, where temperatures hovered at 35 degrees, bolstered by the humid Amazonian air.
As chaos reigned in Recife, I remained hidden away in one of the city’s main soccer stadiums alongside 200 World Vision youth ambassadors.
Recife’s police strike had come without warning and at the worst time for us. With the city on the verge of anarchy, the national army had finally intervened to clamp down on illegal activities, leaving our group stranded far from our campsite.
All I could think was: “How on earth did I get here?”
As with anything in life, you can never quite know what to expect.
Given my interest in soccer and development issues, I was naturally intrigued by an opportunity to travel to Brazil for the World Vision Cup, where youth from around the world would gather to play soccer and speak out against the violence and inequalities they face in their communities. With the help of my teacher, Mrs. Davel (who has been running the 30 Hour Famine at SMUS for years), I applied for it.
Finally, after weeks of anticipation, I received unexpected news: I had been selected to join the Canadian Delegation going to Recife. Though I was anxious at the thought of having to miss a busy week of school and flying by myself for the first time, I was determined and excited to go on what promised to be a life changing trip.
Little did I know what adventures lay ahead.
Our home for the week was a rural campsite, 90 minutes outside of the city. The campsite was a mosaic of cultures and languages, with people from six continents in attendance: Ethiopia, Canada, Haiti, Australia, Germany, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Ecuador, South Korea, Bolivia, Mongolia and, of course, Brazil.
Perhaps the biggest impact the trip had on me was the connections I made with the other people there, despite some language barriers. In fact, all events and discussions took five times as long, as everything was translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Mongolian, French and English.
Every day, World Vision works to combat hunger, protect children’s rights and bring education to people who might not receive it otherwise. By doing our part, and contributing to World Vision through the annual 30 Hour Famine, SMUS has helped to improve the lives of countless youth around the world. One friend I made, Emmanuel, was an 18-year-old from Ethiopia. It was especially cool to hang out with him because he had once been a World Vision foster child, and it gave me the unique chance to learn about how World Vision operates in villages around the world.
For the first three days of the event, we had insightful discussions during which we learned about people’s backgrounds and views on poverty in their countries.
After the discussions, we started the soccer portion of the conference. Although I was thinking that the humanitarian aspect of the World Vision Cup would be the main event, I was surprised by how serious everyone was about the soccer. Mongolia had over 2,000 youth attend soccer tryouts for the event! I was somewhat intimidated, to say the least.
I was put on a team with five Bolivians (who spoke no English) and one of my cabin mates, Bjorn, from Germany (who spoke English). Despite the language barrier, we had a great time, and got to know each other well. Of course, this was the whole purpose of the event: soccer is a global language that can bridge cultural and language gaps.
On the day of the soccer tournament we were bused into the city, where we played in a large stadium. Our team played in the first match against an Australian and South Korean team. That game was tight for a while, but we ended up winning 10-1, booking ourselves a place in the quarterfinals. Though our team eventually went on to lose (to the eventual champion team from Brazil) in a shootout in the semi-finals, it was fun to be a part of this. The soccer tournament was an incredible experience, as it helped to break down barriers between nations, and gave me the chance to represent SMUS and Canada on a global stage.
In the midst of the tournament, our Canadian organizer, Lon, informed us of some political developments in the region: many public workers, including police, emergency services and public transportation, had gone on strike, leaving the city in disarray. The military was even called in to help quell the looting that was occurring in the streets. It would be another five days until I would learn that during this time, my parents back in Victoria had seen the chaos in Recife on the front page of CNN and had actually contacted the Canadian Embassy to ensure we were safe.
These riots in the streets were directly linked to the problems we had come together to discuss.
Tensions had been building for months across Brazil, as the country prepared to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Many people were upset that, while they lived in poverty due to underpaying jobs, decaying infrastructure and a lack of strong social programs, their country was pouring billions of dollars into building new soccer stadiums. After months of minor displays of protest, the tensions finally came to a head when the police in Recife went on strike, leaving the protests to morph into all-out riots in the streets.
When we finally were able to get into our buses and head back to our campsite, we watched from our windows and saw shanty towns strewn like barnacles across lush hills and soldiers marshaling citizens in the streets. These are some of the realities that people face on a daily basis in various regions of Brazil, and in lesser developed countries around the world.
As the trip drew to a close, we traveled to Recife for a press conference during which we presented our “Letter of Recife” to the media, the United Nations and a Brazilian politician who was there on behalf of the president. Our recommendations focused on how to better the lives of youth worldwide, through improved healthcare, nutrition, education and more.
Looking back one year later on my experience in Brazil, I am thankful for the amazing opportunity that I was given, and am glad that I now have the chance to share my experience with others.
Last month, our school took part in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine once again, and had one of our best participation rates ever. This year, more than 40 students took part in the event by giving up food or technology for 30 hours, raising more than $1,000, and spreading awareness of the global cause around the community.
At SMUS, we are fortunate to be able to receive a world-class education, which we often take for granted. By raising money and awareness for World Vision, we help to solve issues like those that were discussed in Brazil: giving other children the chance to obtain a proper education, and the opportunity to escape the clutches of poverty. Every day, World Vision works to combat hunger, protect children’s rights and bring education to people who might not receive it otherwise. By doing our part, and contributing to World Vision, SMUS has helped to improve the lives of countless youth around the world.
It is the 30 Hour Famine Club’s hope that this tradition will continue next year and that we will have even more participants and activities. By working together, and each doing our part, we can help to create meaningful change in the world.