Famine Camp 2016: Taking on the World

From 10-11 June 2016, I attended World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine Camp, which was held at Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) and different activity sites around Singapore. This year, the theme was Taking on the World and we took on the role of eco-exiles. We had to experience poverty worsened by climate change and were driven from our homelands as a result. The objective of the camp was to fast for 30 hours and in the process, learn not to waste food but to appreciate it, and to remember poor communities who have to go for much longer without food. We also focussed on the values of empathy, inclusiveness, and peace-building.

During the 30 Hour Famine Camp, we learnt how fortunate we Singaporeans are as compared to people in other parts of the world. I learnt not to give up, not to make fun of people from other countries and learnt about the plight of the rural-urban migrants. I realised that we are just lucky to be born and to live in Singapore where there is no real war or natural disasters. Neither do we suffer from famine nor drought. We have a strong government that manages our resources well and makes the country very strong and independent.

In this camp, we were only allowed to drink liquids such as plain water and soya bean milk. The games were interesting and were designed to make us go through hardship to challenge us to not give up easily. In one of the main highlights of the programme, my group simulated a situation where we had to grow our own vegetables to make a living as a family of farmers. After a few hours of this activity, we were told that there was a drought brought on by climate change, and so we had to migrate to the city located in the north of Singapore as we could no longer farm in our homeland. Then we had to trek for over two hours to the city area and, along the way, we went through various activity stations which simulated the many obstacles and temptations which rural-urban migrants have to overcome, such as being exploited for vice activities like drug peddling.

At the end of Day 1, we made our way back to ACS (Barker) for a final round of reflections after we watched a video called Make It StopThe video made me feel sad about the children in the poor countries around the world who don’t even have a chance to experience the simple joys of childhood and who are forced into child labour. In Singapore, we have the luxury of choosing our jobs, but people in the underdeveloped countries cannot choose their jobs. Despite the fact that the location we slept at was simple and spartan, it was very cool and breezy and we slept well that night. We were grateful for that.

On Day 2 of the camp, we reached the city. Campers worked through different community service activities in the shoes of rural-urban migrants who had to earn money by taking on lowly-paid jobs due to their lack of skills. Some of the jobs were cleaning of hawker centre toilets, washing of cars, collecting recyclable materials from the HDB blocks  such as newspapers and cardboard. My family’s job was to clean the hawker centre toilets. When I heard of the job assigned to us, I was very disappointed because I was expecting an easier job of collecting newspapers and cardboard. After we had finished cleaning the toilets, however, one of the lessons that inspired me was not to look down on the poor but to respect them for their honest hard work in keeping our country clean. Without them, I cannot imagine what Singapore would be like.

I don’t regret attending this educational camp as I learnt a lot from the experience which I can apply to my daily life. For example, the next time I see the neighbourhood cleaners in my estate, I intend to greet them ‘Good Morning’ as a sign of respect.

Written By: 
Deborah Tay, 14, St Hilda’s Secondary School