Students gather at a THINKfast fundraiser at Toronto’s St. Joseph’s College School for girls in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of Development and Peace

THINKfast raises funds and awareness for a quarter century

  • February 1, 2013

25-hour fast and fundraiser for youth has spread THINKfast from Ontario to across the country.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops’ development agency, runs the 25-hour fasting and fundraising event. Educators in Ontario who wanted to reach out to youth in a dynamic way first created the program, infusing the workshop with interactive activities and games to connect with the younger audience.
Though the program targets youth ages 16 to 35, it mainly focuses on high schools, raising about $250,000 annually for programs in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

“It is and has established itself as really the first point of entry for young people into learning about Catholic social teachings and about living as a Catholic citizen in our daily lives,” said Shelley Burgoyne, youth programs officer with D&P. Catholic social teaching includes “everything from how we vote to what food we buy and how that can be guided by the principles of our faith.”

And over this past quarter century, the program has remained popular with high school students by complementing what they’re already learning in class. Students are learning about how the world works with subjects like politics and economics, said Burgoyne.

“THINKfast gives them a real opportunity to delve into some of these issues a little bit more deeply, but also in a way that’s really interactive and gives them a chance to feel some of the feelings of being on the other side.”

The other side Burgoyne speaks of is places like Burundi where THINKfast funds organizations like the Kamenge Youth Centre. In a region that has suffered from civil war, the centre is a safe haven where youth of different ethnicities are encouraged to see past their differences.

“It’s making real change in the lives of not just one individual youth, but an entire community. So that’s the sort of project and program that our money focuses on,” she said.

Participants change after the fast, said Burgoyne, who was so deeply impacted after her first THINKfast 16 years ago in Grade 9 that she ended up working for D&P.

“It really woke me up and because it’s such an involved activity, it tends to have that impact. It lights a fire. And the feedback that we receive from both the participants and the organizers is so overwhelmingly positive,” said Burgoyne.
THINKfast is aiming to be more ecologically friendly while making the activity easier for organizers. Everything has been moved to an online database, whereas in the past kits full of printed materials would be mailed out to organizers. The database will be improved ovr the next few years.

“Organizers or youth themselves can go to the web site and find resources, not just for doing a THINKfast event, but if they’ve got a workshop that they really need a really exciting game or something that teaches about issues like bottled water or impacts of mining,” Burgoyne said.

Youth are also encouraged to use the web site for suggesting new games and activities.

“It’s been a major goal for us to reach out to youth and include them in the membership in not just a token way, but to make them really part of the movement,” said Burgoyne.

D&P has two youth seats on its national council, one for an Anglophone and the other for a Francophone.

Burgoyne says that in the future, THINKfast will continue to integrate new technology. But the THINKfast agenda also includes updating the program’s database, spreading the word about THINKfast and using online fundraising as an effective way for participants to reach family and friends across the country.


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