LAWRENCE — Lisette Santiago gave up her comfortable bed to sleep on a floor covering herself only with newspapers. Ismarys Martinez abstained from eating chocolate for 30 hours.
Santiago, 17, and Ismarys, 14, were among 15 teenagers and young adults from Spanish Assembly of God at 14 Vine St., who participated in World Vision's 30-hour famine hunger awareness campaign.
"I wanted to know how they felt because you can see the images on TV, but you can't feel what they feel until you experience it for yourself," Ismarys, an eighth-grader at Parthum School, said of children in Haiti left hungry because of January's earthquake.
The experience was no piece of cake for Santiago, a sophomore in the Health and Humanities High School at Lawrence High School.
"The floor was hard, uncomfortable and cold. I kept moving around on the floor and when I was covering myself I thought, 'What would it be like if it was raining?'" Santiago said.
Before embarking on the project, Gloria Machado and her sister, Deborah Gonzalez, youth leaders at the church, showed the group a movie about Ethiopia.
Participants were divided into five teams and each group came up with a name for their tribe, their own language and costumes. They made makeshift shelters out of cardboard boxes set on the church pews. Team members slept under them either on the bare floor or covered themselves with newspapers. During the middle of the night, the heat was turned down a few notches for a more realistic effect of what the homeless feel, Machado said.
Ray Brito, 15, of Andover, along with Jodell Graziani, 22, Joel Colon, 13, and Daniel Martinez, 15, all of Lawrence, said they all felt hunger pains during the two-day fast.
"When I felt hungry, I prayed for someone who was also hungry but was not able to get something to eat," Brito said.
Participants from Assembly of God were among 5,400 teenagers in the Boston area going hungry to help Haiti earthquake survivors. Youths at Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill also participated in the fundraiser.
Youngsters from Assembly of God raised money through pledges and also brought in canned goods, clothing and other items to donate.
As part of the program, they made snack packs for residents of Emmaus House in Haverhill and served lunch for residents of Lazarus House in Lawrence.
This is the fifth year Spanish Assembly of God have taken part in World Vision's 30 Hour Famine, an international effort which raises awareness and money to fight hunger both overseas and in the United States.
"Even though they come from needy families, they have more than other people around the world," Gonzalez said. "It's an experience for them to know what it's like to really have nothing."