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Students fast in solidarity

Melissa Flanagan | Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In a display of solidarity, many Notre Dame students will forego food, cell phones and other items they rely on today for the University’s second annual 24 Hour Fast for Haiti.

Sponsored by Friends of the Orphans (FOTO) and the Center for Social Concerns, the event invites students to give up food or objects they depend on from 6 p.m. this evening until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Seniors Noelle Hilmer and Sam Russ initiated the fast last year after an earthquake struck Haiti in January of 2010. Hilmer said they intended for the fast to display solidarity with the millions of displaced people who had difficulty finding food.

“This year we are not only fasting in solidarity again, but we are hopefully remembering that there is still a long road to recovery for the Haitians and we must not forget them,” she said.

The fast begins this evening in Geddes Hall Chapel with a 6 p.m. prayer service reflecting on the meaning of fasting. It ends with 5 p.m. Mass tomorrow in Dillon Hall Chapel, followed by an Italian dinner in the Coleman-Morse Center.

“Throughout the 24 hours, participants will receive ‘spiritual meals’ – a midnight snack, morning meal and afternoon food for thought,” Hilmer said. “All are reflections based on quotes, prayers and inspirational excerpts that three different fast participants have been asked to write out.”

In addition to displaying support, participants are encouraged to request donations to benefit the Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH) orphanage in Haiti. If students choose not to fast, they are encouraged to support their peers with prayers or donations.

FOTO sends students to an NPH orphanage in Honduras over school breaks. Senior Caitlin Nichols traveled to the NPH orphanage in Honduras this year.

“While I was there I was able to see how donations are used and what a great organization it is,” she said. “By donating to this Fast for Haiti you are guaranteed that your money will be put to good use.”

Hilmer said the event highlights ongoing struggles in Haiti. While people are eager to assist a country immediately after disaster strikes, it is in the coming months when media coverage dies down that the country truly needs aid, she said.

“By fasting, students recognize that there is still much to be done in Haiti and they have not forgotten that,” Hilmer said. “By requesting support through a donation letter, they are asking others not to forget our Haiti brothers and sisters either.”

Nichols said the fast has special meaning during the week leading up to Easter.

“By spending a day fasting, especially during Holy Week, we are reminded of those who have less than us,” she said. “Living in solidarity with others is a great way to raise awareness about their living circumstances.”