02/19/2014 05:12 EST | Updated 04/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Staying Alive: Celebrating Canadian Youth Movements

Everywhere you look, a group of some kind is trying to start a movement. A quick Google search will generate a veritable grocery list of call-to-action events. Some have staying power, while others quickly fizzle. There's a big difference between a fad -- a cool new idea that grabs a large number of people for a short while, but ultimately contributes nothing to creating the change it calls for -- and a movement that has staying power and makes real change.

Canadian youth are experts in starting such movements. Just look at Anti-Bullying Day (a.k.a. Pink Shirt Day) created by high school students David Shepherd and Travis Price of Nova Scotia. It's now celebrated across the country, as students remember to be kind to one another.

Another movement with real staying power was kick-started way back in 1971 by a Calgary teenager, Ruth Roberts. More than 40 years later, it's still going strong -- not only in Canada, but globally. This annual fundraiser to help children around the world through World Vision has become a world-wide movement. Here at home, it's been a rite of passage for many Canadian students over the years, as they evolve into socially aware adults.

Ruth started this movement after seeing horrific images of Ethiopian children on television in the early 1970s. She decided to help do something about it, and enlisted the help of her friends. In the era of sit-ins and love-ins, the group held a 'starve-in', and got sponsors to donate for every hour they went without food. Ruth and her friends raised $600 for World Vision that year, the equivalent of almost $3,500 today. Their starve-in would later be renamed the 30 Hour Famine.

Since 1989, almost $75 million has been raised by Famine participants, and more than 650,000 youth have done the Famine in Canada alone. It's now a regular event in 21 countries. The response has been quite amazing, both in terms of the number of youth engaged in the fight against world hunger, and the amount of revenue generated. Here are some examples:

• Youth in New Zealand have raised more than $60 million over the years.

• Youth in the U.S. have raised $168 million.

• Youth in Hong Kong have raised more than $322 million.

And it's about far more than dollars. Youth fundraising through the 30 Hour Famine is helping families around the world to give their children better lives, through things like:

• Tools and seeds for farmers as well as agricultural training to set them up for success

• Improved access to clean water

• Malnutrition centres for when food crises occur

High school and post-secondary students across Canada are currently gearing up for the 43rd annual 30 Hour Famine, to take place from April 25-26. It's a great way for youth to get involved and make a real difference for kids around the world. Youth who are interested in participating can sign up and find more information at

Watch a video of modern-day Canadian youth telling Famine founder Ruth Roberts what a difference the movement has made.

By Sarah Bartley, World Vision Canada


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