The Covid-19 lockdown had an unexpected spin-off for an annual 40-hour-famine fundraiser organised by students at Horowhenua College, who learnt a valuable lesson about the power of online marketing.

In last year's famine fundraising effort students managed to raise $1000, through manually canvassing family and friends for sponsorship.

This year they blew that figure out of the water, raising $6500, largely because they were forced to fundraise online to avoid handling cash during the lockdown period.

That amount had them ranked in the top 10 schools in New Zealand - no mean feat. They had originally set a target of $2500, which was eclipsed within the first week.

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Head students Carter Maddock and Jamie Harper helped drive their school's 40-hour-famine effort this year. When Covid-19 hit, they decided to set up an online fundraising platform and were amazed at its success.

Carter Maddock and Jamie Harper.
Carter Maddock and Jamie Harper.

"It was so effective," she said. Maddock herself topped the list by raising $750.

Harper said $250 could buy a herd of 20 goats and be enough to sustain a family, or the same amount could be used to install a water filtration system to ensure healthy drinking water.

The rules around 40-hour-famine fundraising had relaxed in recent times. These days you can choose to either go without food, or a basic commodity or service.

Maddock chose to go without food, although she was allowed barley suger lollies and water, while Harper went without furniture, eating, studying and sleeping on the floor.

They were joined by 31 other students at the school. All money raised went towards a World Vision Malawi relief fund to help combat the impacts of drought, flooding, and food and housing shortages.

The pair encouraged next year's students to follow suit and use online media and platforms to help boost their fundraising efforts.

Horowhenua College principal Grant Congden said the students had done an amazing job.

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"And in the Covid-19 environment it's important to acknowledge the generosity of the community which is appreciated," he said.