, Newburyport, MA

March 29, 2013

'I try to do what I can'

Youth, adults band together to raise poverty awareness

By Jim Sullivan

---- — Newburyport High School junior Ben Hanke is preparing to go 30 hours without food. But it’s no big deal for Hanke — he’s done it twice before.

“You don’t feel the hunger too much,” Hanke said, “because you’re focusing on other people.”

As part of the Hope Community Church’s 30-hour fast, the only sustenance Hanke will be putting in his body starting next Friday morning will be juice. Previously a youth-oriented event, the fast will be extended to adults this year and will be only one of many events the church will be running next weekend.

“We would love to have people from Newburyport and the surrounding area come join us in this,” associate pastor Brent Fugate said of his church’s first Poverty Awareness Weekend.

A multi-pronged program, the Poverty Awareness Weekend is open to all and aims to increase understanding of hunger around the world. The juice fast will kick off the events.

“I never (experienced) poverty in such a human way,” said Hanke. “And just the statistics of it — one in three people, worldwide is going hungry. Not necessarily starving, but they’re not getting adequate food. That just blew me away. That we can have so much excess, and yet ignore others people’s needs because they’re not close to home.”

The fast starts in the morning and can be an interesting ice-breaker, according to Triton High School junior Connor Faucher.

“Sometimes people will ask me why I’m not eating, and I just kind of explain,” Faucher said. “It can be difficult to not eat because everybody else is eating. But if you think about people who are in Kenya, for example, who go days without food, it’s (eye-opening).”

Faucher sings and plays ukulele for the church’s Praise Band along with Hanke, who is on drums. He takes a philosophical approach to enduring the fast.

“When you’re used to eating a lot, it can be kind of weird,” Faucher added. “But if you keep the focus on God and keep the focus on serving, it makes it a lot easier.”

“I have a little bit more empathy, day-to-day,” Hanke said. “When I see homeless people in the streets, I think about donating to a food shelter. I try to do what I can.”

The middle of the fast will feature a youth event beginning at 6 p.m. Friday that includes a concert by the band Fighting the Influence. The young parishioners will spend Saturday morning performing community-based projects.

Adults can take part in the juice fast or a pair of service projects on Saturday as well. Participants will travel to North Andover to help repackage medical equipment to be shipped to Third -World countries, and to Haverhill to work on a benefit for the homeless.

On Sunday, guest speaker Cindy Bauer, president of Kupenda for the Children, a nonprofit organization for special needs children in Kenya, will be speaking at both the morning services. Also, on Sunday, a shoe drive, “Shoes for Water,” will begin. Community members are asked to donate used shoes in good condition to be sent to mission groups for distribution. The money raised from the shoe sales is then used to build wells.

IF YOU GO What: Poverty Awareness Weekend When: April 5 to April 7 Where: Hope Community Church, 11 Hale St., Newburyport