Donegal GAA great has pledged to do a monthly twenty-four hour fast to make a difference to some of the world’s poorest children.
Former Donegal star Brendan Devenney has never been afraid of a challenge and will give up food for one day every month, donating the money he saves to sponsor a little girl in Togo, West Africa, through the children’s rights charity Plan International.
Plan International fight for the rights of children, especially girls, who live in the poorest regions of the world.
“Being a dad myself I feel very lucky and privileged and I wanted to do something to give a bit back. Childhood is so important for a person’s growth and opportunity later in life. Sadly, there are millions of children across the world who don’t have opportunities that most kids get here in Ireland.” Devenney said.
“A few months ago I decided to fast for a day and donate the €22 I would normally spend on food to charity and hopefully make a difference to even just one of those children.”
“I did some research and chose Plan International because they support both girls and boys, but have a strong focus on girl’s rights. Girls are more likely to live in poverty, be denied access to school, forced into early marriage and to go hungry, simply because they are young and female.”
Devenney now sponsors an eight-year old girl in Atakpamé which is the most marginalised province in Togo, with a population around 200,000, almost 60% are younger than 25. Around half of children there drop out of school due to early pregnancy, child trafficking and poverty. Plan International have been working in Togo for over thirty years, and work with communities, schools and the government to create a more equal world where girls get the same opportunities as boys.
Three months into the challenge, Brendan is finding the fasting tough but rewarding.
“At the start it was hard, not just the hunger but fitting it around a busy lifestyle. I gradually built the time I fasted up from six hours, to nine, to eventually completing a twenty-four hour fast. I chose a Friday to do it because you’re naturally in a good mood – timing is very important.”
“If I find myself reaching for the biscuit tin I remember the little girl I’m sponsoring and it keeps me motivated. To know that my small sacrifice provides school books, clean water, and food on the table for a young girl and her family is a powerful motivator.”
Brendan is encouraging all people to get involved, however it’s not suitable for pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions, so always check with your doctor first.
“I’d encourage anyone to take up the challenge and start slowly building it up. You don’t have to fast to make a difference - you could cut out your guilty pleasure once a month, without too much sacrifice to yourself. Giving up a Friday night takeaway would cover the cost [of sponsorship] and you’ll really make a difference.”
Devenney has been encouraged by messages of support from family, friends and the public on social media. So much so he is planning to introduce a second day’s fast so he can sponsor another child.
“It’s hugely rewarding to have that connection with another child, and I’ve lost a couple of pounds since I started so it’s win-win!” he said.
For more information on Plan International and how to sponsor a child visit www.plan.ie or call 1800 829 829.