Children at Pukenui School have long supported World Vision's annual 40 Hour famine, and are preparing to do so again this week.

For 12 year olds Chelsea Rae and Ataahua Harris, both in their last year of primary school, it will not be a new experience. Both have supported the cause since they were in Year 4, and once again they are busy looking for sponsors within their community.

They each hope to raise at least $100 as their contribution to making life a little easier for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.

When it began in 1975 the Famine required participants to go without food, although they were allowed to suck on barley sugars, but these days they can also choose to go without technology, furniture, blankets or talking.


Chelsea said she would spend the 40 hours, starting at 8pm on Friday (ending noon on Sunday) without technology, food or furniture — she planned to sleep on the floor — while Ataahua would be living with what she could stuff into a bag — a tent, clothes, a sleeping bag, a blanket and pillow, fruit, rice and barley sugars.

They and a number of fellow Pukenui pupils are among close to 2000 students at 15 Northland schools who have signed up for this year's Famine, and 90,000 young New Zealanders who will raise funds for more than 800,000 South Sudanese, more than 60 per cent of them children, who have fled to Uganda to escape conflict.

Actor Julian Dennison, who is championing this year's effort as Famine Ambassador, said he had recently travelled to Uganda with World Vision, where he met young refugees and saw the impact that fleeing war-torn South Sudan had had on them. He also saw exactly how Kiwi kids could help.

"So many of the South Sudanese refugees I met fled their homes without their parents, and some with no family at all," he said.

"They all have so much responsibility, at such a young age, and are having to adjust to a new reality, yet despite the hardships they have and are facing I was met with big smiles and so much hope for their futures.

"I feel so privileged to have this platform as the 2019 40 Hour Famine Ambassador, because I know that each and every single Kiwi involved will help to create change for the hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda."

The money raised this year would help provide essentials for refugees from the moment they crossed the border into Uganda, including food, clean water, foster care and household items, and to form peace clubs.

Anyone who has yet to sign up to join the 40 Hour Famine can still do so at


Last year's Famine in New Zealand raised $1.8 million for South Sudanese refugees. Years of civil war had reduced the country to one of the poorest in the world, more than four million people being forced from their homes, including 2.3 million who sought refuge in other countries. Six million people still in South Sudan do not have enough to eat.

Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world.