Day of fasting held to support world’s poor

McGill/News/SSMU by

Twenty McGill students went hungry for a day at Macdonald campus in an effort to raise money for impoverished countries. The McGill chapter of Engineers Without Borders held 24 hour famine to educate the community on world poverty and to help send two McGill students to work with NGOs overseas.

"This has never been one of our larger fundraisers before. Generally, what we try to do is get money from faculty and from sources outside of school," said Chapter Co-President Debra Cohen, who was one of the junior fellows sent to Ghana last summer. "The events we do have on campus are generally geared more towards education and less on fundraising."

The students who will be volunteering over the summer will take part in a variety of projects.

"We do a lot of different projects in a lot of different domains, like water projects and a lot of agricultural and farming projects in a sustainable way," said Vice-President Media Patrick Janukavicius. "For example, we have gone and built wells, but we use local material that they have available, and we'll make sure that some of the locals know how to repair this well in case anything ever breaks."

Cohen added that the community receiving the volunteer will usually pay for a portion of the project, giving them a sense of ownership and motivation to maintain it and keep it sustainable in their community.

Participants were supportive of the cause and the fact that a portion of the money they raised would be going to the volunteers' plane tickets and administration fees, as opposed to going directly to poverty stricken countries.

"I actually approve that it's going to volunteers, because I know that if you try to go with other organizations it can be expensive," said Sheree Spencer, U0 Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "This way, we know that our money is going to people who will help contribute and cause a change, whereas with giving aid to Africa, there's a lot of barriers because of political regime and you don't know if the people are getting the money or not."

Laura Mislan, U2 Chemical Engineering, agreed.

"It's a means to an end, because you're paying for a mind to get to where it needs to be," she said. "It's a learning experience for the people who go and it's also a big bonus to have somebody who's knowledgeable and has the ambition to work, because that's half the battle; it's getting somebody to initiate change, you can't just pay for it to happen, you need somebody behind it directing it," she said.

The EWB executives tried their best to keep the students' minds off of food by organizing various activities such as a scavenger hunt, educational presentations, movies and games. A new community service component was also added this year; on Saturday morning, students helped with the fall cleanup at the EcoMuseum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue before breaking their fast with a lunch prepared by Happy Belly, a group that prepares vegan meals at Mac.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout, but would have liked to see more students from faculties outside of Engineering.

"It's a major stigma about the group," said Janukavicius. "The reason why it's called EWB is because the two co-founders were both engineers, but it's really open to everyone and a lot of people can be scared if they're not engineers."

Cohen stressed that the group's connection to engineering is more ideological than technical.

"There really is not a lot of technical engineer work that EWB does, a lot of it is just communicating and working with other people," she said. "The engineering mindset is that there's a lot of analytical and technical thinking that is bred through the engineering curriculum, but it's not specific to engineers."