Starting this Sunday, New Zealanders from around the country are taking part in FebFast, an annual fundraising campaign that challenges participants to experience the month of February without alcohol.
The campaign, which is in its fifth year, provides a valuable opportunity to reflect on the role alcohol plays in our lives. At the same time participants will raise funds to support Rape Prevention Education (RPE) to deliver more youth-focussed sexual violence prevention initiatives.
"After the excesses of the silly season, FebFast is an opportunity to get back into a healthy lifestyle," says Ross Bell, Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, the organisation behind FebFast. "People who have completed the FebFast challenge tell us that they feel revitalized, lose weight and save money."
Participants also stand in solidarity with those New Zealanders affected by problem drinking and sexual violence. "FebFasters can be proud because they’re supporting not one, but two good causes. We need to reflect on both our drinking and sexual violence cultures and FebFast gives us the chance to do that," says Mr Bell.
"The Roast Busters case shocked us and brought the issue of sexual violence into the spotlight," says Dr Kim McGregor, Executive Director of RPE. "About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime."
Funds raised will enable RPE to educate more young people about respectful relationships. "Part of the problem is that young people aren’t getting enough good information about sexual consent," says Dr McGregor. "FebFast offers New Zealanders an opportunity to be part of the solution."
In addition to forgoing alcohol, people from all around the country will be creating and sharing delicious non-alcoholic drink recipes, hosting parties, and showing more generally that good times can happen without booze.
Excitement for the event is building, with many participants citing the health benefits as a reason to sign up. FebFaster Tess, from Tauranga, says "I think giving my body a rest from alcohol is great and if I can raise some money for charity at the same time, I'm happy." Richard from Dunedin says "My main goal is to see what removing alcohol does to the body, weight- and calories- wise."
Others are taking time to talk about boozy Kiwi culture. "When we are embedded in a culture that celebrates and encourages drinking, it can become easy to lose sight of the harm caused," says Chelsea, a Wellington-based FebFaster.
Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation: 04 802 6360
Stephen Blyth, Communications Advisor, NZ Drug Foundation: 04 802 6363
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